Sunday, 2 November 2008

Gibson Les Paul Recording Guitar Rebuild

A few years ago I was approached by a fellow who had a Gibson Les Paul Recording Guitar which was a variation of the established model. Back in the early 1970s, Gibson began experimenting with new models such as the "Les Paul Recording." This model is often eschewed by guitar purists: considered too full of "gadgetry." The "Recording" featured low-impedance pickups, many switches and buttons, and a highly specialized cable for impedance-matching to the amplifier.

The instrument I received had a badly damaged finish. At one time someone had modified the instrument by removing the low impedance pickups and replaced them with traditional humbuckers. This entailed filling the original pickup cavities and re-routing new ones appropriate for the humbuckers.

As the instrument had no value in the condition that it was in, I proceeded to make it both playable and ascetically pleasing.

Below are a few of the steps in the progression of the rebuild.

(SelectedPhotos Follow Below)

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Stripping old finish off of the Guitar body using a 3-M environmentally safe paint stripper

Note Black Binding on previously black guitar
(Radius Fretboard Sanding Block in Foreground)

Sanding guitar body with random orbit sander

Leveling & Sanding fingerboard (Frets Removed)

Body spray painted with gloss black water based Hydrocote brand finish. Clearcoat Hydrocote sprayed as topcoat. Finish is "rubbed out" using a variety of abrasives from 'Micromesh' cloth to powdered abrasives such as Pumice and Rottenstone in water or paraffin oil. Final gloss is achieved with Meguier brand automotive finish compounds.

Making sure hardware fits. Caution! A nice tight fit may be reduced in size due to the thickness of the finish used.

Reverse of body (left) and laminated neck blank of an unrelated project.

New White binding attached to channel on guitar edge with Acetone based plastic cement.
Binding secured with tape while glue dries.

Rubbed Out Finish on reverse of body with contrasting white binding.

Rubbed out front with new white binding
(Fingerboard protected by masking tape)

Fret removal using soldering iron and pliers.
(Heat softens old glue and lessens wood chipping during removal)

Coiled Bulk Fretwire and Fretwire Bender clamped in vice.

Frets cut to size and ends of frets are "nipped" using special tool.
Nipped ends of frets allow frets to run over binding without passing through them.

Using Band Saw to cut new electronics cavity cover

Copper shielding glued into all electronics cavities to reduce extraneous electronic interference. Alternatively a metal particle paint can be used.
(extra contact cement ensures sticky copper back will adhere)

Checking Neck Angle of Copper Shielded Guitar Body

Assembled Guitar with Gold Hardware.

Potentiometers (Volume & Tone) & Selector Switch with Output Jack on underside of copper shielded control cavity cover.
(Cavity cover made four photos above)

Front of Control Cavity Cover with 'Pot' Shafts Protruding.

Assembled Guitar

Final Guitar as Presented to Owner.

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humankind23 said...


Linda said...

Wow! That's amazing! Nice rebuild, man. Thanks for posting the photos, I really enjoyed seeing the process. All the best!

magdog said...

Awesome work! MInd if I ask where you found the switch plate? I need to replace mine. bandmate stepped on cord and ripped a chunk out of the original.

Yuri said...

For magdog.
The switchplate (or electronics bay) cover was cut from stock material (there is a photo in this post of it being cut on the band saw). The raw material was purchased from Stewart-MacDonald Guitar Supplies in Athens Ohio (
Not sure where you might be able to buy an original - try e-mailing some reputable repair shops.
Cheers, Y.A.

Anonymous said...

Hi Yuri, very nice job, congratulation. My name is Michel, i live in Belgium ( europe ). I just buy a recording les paul in US (ebay)serial 622981, but i have some trouble with my electronics, can you give me some info about schematics ? Do you have some good links for me ? I want to restore it like original.
My adress :
Thanks and best regards