Projects and Musings

A Les Paul...Vegan style!

Once every so often, a customer comes into the workshop with a request you've never had before. The customer had been trying to obtain a Les Paul from the USA that he'd really taken a shine to, but because of the fear over CITES measures that came in earlier this year, Gibson won't sell that model in the EU.

Really, what he was looking for a was a particular look - Red, white binding, Chrome with all chrome parts, no plastic pickup rings, knobs or switches. But the model had a rosewood fretboard - and they aren't exporting too many of those now.

But that wasn't the unusual part.

The customer is Vegan. He would have lived with the idea of animal glue, Mother of Pearl and other animal products if he were buying second hand - but in commissioning a guitar he wanted to have a guitar which conformed to what was a core life philosophy. So challenge accepted!

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So the first difference was the use of Titebond II as a fretboard adhesive. I don't usually use anything but hot hide glue on necks, simply because the glue 'pulls' better with less pressure as it cools, and also it's easier to steam open.

But actually, in almost ten years of doing this I've never made a Les Paul before - and so the whole build has been a steep learning process. I didn't want to use synthetic glue and a single rod Gibson style truss. So I used a biflex and a slight volute to strengthen the headstock.

The medium frets are laid into an ebony Fretboard, bound with white ABS plastic. The ABS is much harder to work with than Celluloid, but still dissolves well in Acetone enough to stick it, and to link two pieces together to cover the extra depth of the cutaway.

Carving the top was done by routing the edge to the correct depth, then carving outward with a number of different curved 'Gouge' chisels. That was a long morning's work! But the result was satisfying. To allow for the flush fit pickup rings, it's not quite a normal Les Paul carve - the rings are flat so therefore so is area between the pickups.

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So this week it's been in the spray booth, and I'm spraying a translucent red - a red dye in Nitro clear coat. It's the trickiest job I've ever done with the gun - usually I rub such finishes, but the red doesn't look the same unless it's sprayed, and I'll always spray these colours in future I think. Then on to top coats, after another long morning scraping back the red lacquer from the binding with a razor blade. There are two ladies in the Gibson factory who I'm told can do a Les Paul binding scrape in 15 minutes. I didn't get close!

But now it's in the spray booth drying - and that's where it's going to be for the next two weeks.

See you then for the next instalment of the Vegan Les Paul build!

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