Christmas has come and gone…I got myself a present. My very first Gibson Les Paul!
No idea what to call it. Think I’ll wait until I get another 1 or 2 to decide, more on that later. This is a Les Paul 2016 Traditional T. Believe it or not the T stands for Traditional. The alternative is a LP 2016 Standard. Traditional Traditional, what are gibson thinking? The finish is an Ice Tea Sunburst and in different light you can see different levels to the flames which ill show later.
I picked this LP as it is true to the late 50’s Les Paul’s where it has weight relief in the form of 9 hole (earlier LP’s had no weight relief and weigh a god damn tonne, newer ones have limited/full on chambering where they rout out huge amounts of wood. In fact the Gibson Memphis LP’s are damn near completely hollow usually with F holes. Weight relief will effect the tone, dramatically, as you are cutting out chunks of wood so there is less substance to oscillate when the strings are struck. You tend to get a lot more sustain from the wood being there so I prefer them heavier. However the early 50’s LP’s were so damn heavy that after a while of use, your shoulder will ache. To be honest I even have that with my one.
The top is 2 pieces of Maple stuck to a single thick piece of Mahogany. The neck is set in (glued into the body) with a single piece of Mahogany and a Rosewood Fingerboard. The inlays are acrylic with cream inlays around the whole body and neck. One way to spot a fake LP is looking at whether the Inlays cover the sides of the frets.
What I really want this to look like is a 59 LP which will require changing a few things. For examples the knobs are more like the earlier ones Gibson used, I prefer the bell shaped ones as they feel more ergonomic. Also the Jack plate is made of metal, originally they were nylon I believe but ill keep this as its a bit more sturdy.
Also the Pickup covers are Chrome as well as the bridge pieces. The original Covers were made from nickel, which if these were, would be quite easy to relic using some chemicals. Instead ill just replace these keeping them incase I ever decide to re-use them. Also I have top wrapped the strings. There are multiple purposes for this, most notably it will stop the bridge from caving over backward if the strings are resting against the back of it from the tail. Also it arguably improves the tone and loosens the tension of the strings making them feel ‘slinkier.’ Also it looks awesome. A trick I learned from Mike Hickey (Joe Bonnamassa’s Guitar Tech) for top wrapping which you can see in the image below is cutting the balls off a dead set of strings, running them down each new string which will offset them by a few mil to to pull the winding further back into the tail piece. That’ll stop you catching your hand on the sharp ends and stop the strings snapping from the tension. The other thing to note however is the angle at which the strings are from the Stop Bar to the Tunomatic bridge; if its too shallow then you will get buzzing. Once you adjust the height of the Tunomatic bridge for playing action, then adjust the stop bar to fix any unwanted buzzes.
The Machineheads are in fact the vintage 50’s style tuners that Gibson used. The Tektoid nut has been nicely rounded off which is a really great touch to the headstock.I originally wanted a gold top and there was one on Dawsons where I got this, but it was more money and not really what I wanted. It was a Standard so had the later machine heads and cost £300 more than this. Once Christmas and New Years had gone by, both Guitars dropped by £300 also so I grabbed this up as they only had 3 left, on a 12 month interest free finance at £1399. Its a lot of money but breaks down nicely to around £116 a month and is a worthy investment.
I also bought a strap and some strap locks; the trick with these, in some cases, is to use the screws already holding the strap eyelets in place, not the ones provided in the pack. The reason being the hole will already be the right size for the screws, using new ones may crack the finish or be too small causing the straps to pull out. However, over tightening the old ones may cause them not to grab so if the screws provided are slightly bigger then they might be better.
One thing that i found irritating was the disk around the toggle switch that says Rhythm and Treble was slightly the wrong way around. Also the angle of the toggle switch, so I took the cover off the back, taped the disk in the right position with black insulation tape and held the switch in the right play. Then I used players to tighten the switch in place but it damaged the metal ring slightly. Not massively obvious but a bit annoying.
The strings that were on it were 10’s so I got it out the box and played them for about an hour and replaced them with 11’s. From the get go this Guitar really stood out against the others in my limited collection. Its incredibly loud and going from the LP to the Firebird is a drop in intensity and volume. The LP just roars! Opening up the backplate it has ceramic Capacitors which still give you that gentle curve when adjusting volume or tone, not a drastic one. There is also a plate that the electronics are connected to that acts as the grounding which i found interesting (as opposed to soldering to the top of the pots.
I wanted the tone in the bridge to be a bit heavier, the covers on the pickups can negate noise and protect the pickup but also dampen the sound somewhat. So the idea was to take it off. I took the pickup off and you can see in the cavity just how the top piece is about 15mm thick in the centre! The cover is held in place by the two bits of solder either side of the pickup which are dense and were difficult to melt. I kept a soldering iron on them and used a stanley blade to cut through as quickly as possible trying not to heat the pickup and the coiled wire at all. Too much heat may cause things to move within the pickup which may cause damage. Once the solder is cleared you can just lift the cover off. The Pickups are also covered in a coat of wax after they are wrapped to hold everything in place, some of which was coated over the top of the pickups once they were bear so i used an old credit card to carefully scrape it away so it looks nice and clean.
The finished product with my preferred knobs. I saw a video from Stu Mac on youtube where they had a bridge pickup from an old Telecaster that wasn’t working very well, its output was incredibly low. As they opened it up they thought it may have been rust from a single pole piece that had spread but instead it seemed to be a dink in the coil possibly from a pick sliding through the side. They had to remove all of the wire and re-wire the pickup which is a long painstaking process so I’m extremely conscious not to do a similar thing.