1959 DC Les Paul Junior Build Thread

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  • WezVWezV Frets: 9146
    edited June 21
    rexter said:
    @customkits ;;
    Will do man, I fear this was a really nice bundle to miss. Should have gone for it even though I was broke! Old guy clearing out garage, large and smaller boards, most of them 50mm+ thick all looked build worthy, dry stored for 20+ years All for £140.

    I find that it pays to let people know you are looking, even if they are not interested in guitars.   That has led to 3 or 4 large stashes of mahogany coming my way, usually from old fellas that have been hanging onto a few bits. 


    Although it does sometimes mean I have to gratefully accept some free wood I don't actually want, hence the large slabs if iroko I have ended up with.  I just keep saying yes to it all and eventually some good stuff turns up


    edit: its not worked for braz rosewood yet

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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5275
    edited June 21
    Thanks for the kind words so far everyone, it is much appreciated! By the way, I'm not trying to present this as a 'tutorial' (cause I'm always learning myself) its more of a 'How I do it' thread, if anyone has any tips or hints that they can throw in, I'm always open to new ways of doing things!

    Anyway, onto the next.

    I start with an African Mahogany, quartersawn neck blank and mark out my neck(s) - The blanks I use, depending on size, I can usually get either 2 DC necks or 3 necks, (2 DC and an SC -  Double Cut Necks are longer than Single Cut necks by the way) with some careful cutting:



    The necks are rough cut out on the band saw, I then tidy up the headstock faces with a hand plane:





    I also check my headstock angle is the vintage correct 17 degrees here:



    Next up is the russ rod slot. I use the traditional one way rod (of course!). Now there is lots of conjecture about the truss rod slot in a vintage Gibson neck (.....well, there is on the Gibson anorak forums I read!! ) about it being a curved channel. It's not, it's a straight channel but it is angled over the length of the neck, 13mm at the headstock to 15mm at the heel end. 

    I secure the blank into the truss rod jig I made especially for the job and route a straight, flat bottomed 5mm channel:



    I then offer up the rod in the channel, measure and drill out for the anchor bolt and also measure how far the access route needs to recess into the headstock.

    I used to do this next bit in all manner of ways, clamp the blank in the vice and use a forstner bit in the pillar drill, tried it with a router and a rounded cutter and even gouges but it was never clean enough for my liking so I stumped up the cash to StewMac and bought the proper tool for the job...expensive as it only performs one task...but it does it neatly and it's quite important to the whole build really!

    So the truss rod access gets cut with a handheld drill like so:





    A little tip I picked up from another forum is to score the horizontal line of the stop mark with a razor blade and you get a lovely clean face with no fuzz or tear out:



    Once i'm happy that the rod fits nicely and the nut doesn't foul on the cover - on vintage Juniors, the nut often protruded past the headstock face and made the truss rod cover bulge out! - it's time to cut and plane down some Hard Rock Maple filler strips to hold the truss rod in place in the channel.



    Modern Gibson guitars use a plastic 'condom' around the rod (well, as far as i'm aware they still do?) to stop the glue sticking to it but, in the 50's they didn't so neither do I. Just takes a little more care when gluing the sides of the channel not to get glue all over the rod - hence no pic of this bit!

    But here's the filler strip clamped in snugly against the rod:



    I then clean up any glue squeeze out (hopefully minimal) and leave this to dry overnight.

    More in a couple of days! 
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  • DougDoug Frets: 118
    Excellent! enjoying the progress pic's/info :)
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 9146
    miserneil said:


    Modern Gibson guitars use a plastic 'condom' around the rod (well, as far as i'm aware they still do?) to stop the glue sticking to it but, in the 50's they didn't so neither do I. Just takes a little more care when gluing the sides of the channel not to get glue all over the rod - hence no pic of this bit!
     
    as long as you don;t soak it in glue it will release in use anyway.  Wood glue doesn' stick well to metal.   Although, you know if its got in there because you get unpleasant cracking noises the first time you use the truss rod... worrying if you don;t know what it is, but it is just the glue releasing from the rod
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  • customkitscustomkits Frets: 882
    what size is the stew mac tool,  i use a spot facer which is where i think they got the idea in the first place,  your tool does look nice though lol
    www.danielsguitars.co.uk
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  • paulnb57paulnb57 Frets: 1187
    Enviable skills, really enjoying the process, thanks for sharing
    Stranger from another planet welcome to our hole - Just strap on your guitar and we'll play some rock 'n' roll

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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5275
    WezV said:
    miserneil said:


    Modern Gibson guitars use a plastic 'condom' around the rod (well, as far as i'm aware they still do?) to stop the glue sticking to it but, in the 50's they didn't so neither do I. Just takes a little more care when gluing the sides of the channel not to get glue all over the rod - hence no pic of this bit!
     
    as long as you don;t soak it in glue it will release in use anyway.  Wood glue doesn' stick well to metal.   Although, you know if its got in there because you get unpleasant cracking noises the first time you use the truss rod... worrying if you don;t know what it is, but it is just the glue releasing from the rod
    Ha! Yes, on my very first build this is exactly what happened, I tightened the rod to make sure it was working properly and heard a big ‘CRACK!!’....I thought I’d split the neck! Most disconcerting! :)
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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5275
    edited June 28
    After leaving the truss rod fillets over night, the next job is to plane them down flat to the neck:



    Next up is the fretboard. I use Indian Rosewood. One thing I really love to see is a rough billet of Rosewood planed down and, with a bit of oil, revealing a lovely grain pattern!

    So I start with some rough sawn blanks:



    These are then trued up and thicknessed to about 6mm.

    I then mark out the frets, I use the vintage Gibson scale length of 24.625 and start cutting the fret slots. I don't have a mitre box, I use a Japanese fret saw and a set square and after some careful sawing we have a nicely slotted fretboard:







    Once the slots are completed, I line up the centre lines and glue the full width of the board to the neck blank (i'll explain why in a minute) and leave it overnight:


    (And treat myself to a cup of tea....)

    Next day the clamps come off and I draw around the '59 DC Neck template with a white pencil, ready to rough cut it on the band saw:





    The neck is then taken to the band saw and I cut as close to the line as my nerves will allow!

    Which gives me this:



    I re-attach the neck template with double sided tape and clean up the edges on the router. This is always a nerve-wracking part cause one false move and 2 days work is down the drain. Carefully does it and we have a nice, clean neck shape, about .5mm oversize so I can bring it down to proper width when sanding:



    The reason I like to glue the whole width fingerboard to the neck blank and then cut it out is so that I get no gaps. Some people like to cut, shape & radius the neck and fingerboard separately before gluing to two together, which works great but it wasn't clean enough for me and my OCD(!), I got a couple of tiny gaps. The pictures of the dot inlays below are from when I tried this way but I returned to glueing the whole thing. This way is perhaps slightly more 'dangerous' in that one slip in the final routing stage could ruin the whole neck but I love the tight, clean glue line between neck and fingerboard it gives me:



    Next, I radius the board. Now I know of a lot of guys who have built a jig for this and use a belt sander or router to do it but I always thought "Na, bit of elbow grease is all it needs, a jig is just lazy".......I am now perfectly happy to admit I was totally wrong and and moron and these guys have it down...what a PITA!!! ;-)

    So the neck goes in the vice, I load up the 12" radius beam with 80 grit sandpaper and sand....and sand...and sand...and check....and sand...and check....and sand....and brew up....and check....and look up radius jig plans on google...and sand....



    FWIW, since this pic was taken, I have invested in a much longer, aluminium radius block which takes some of the work out of it but i'm DEFINITELY looking into a radius jig....

    Once I have the board radiused, I go up through the grits to remove any scratches and we are left with this:



    Perfect 12" radius:

     

    Next up are the dots. I use 1/4" NOS celluloid dots as per the originals and I get them from Dave Johnson (previously of Historic Makeovers).

      

    I mark out the positions.....then check I haven't lost any!





    The 1/4" holes are then drilled, dots seated and sanded flat with 240grit paper on the radius beam:



    And cleaned up:





    Next, the side dots are marked out, drilled, inserted, and flattened off:



    And then we are ready for carving.....

    More soon!


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  • joeyowenjoeyowen Frets: 3225
    Simply amazing work
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 9146
    On radiusing boards, if you have a long enough block tryclampung the block to your bench and pushing the neck along it instead of holding the block on top...always seems quicker
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  • designerseye88designerseye88 Frets: 281
    Blimey Neil these are looking fantastic! 
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  • customkitscustomkits Frets: 882
    You'd love my radius jig neil, as you've found out, it's hard work making more than one and precisely the reason why I've got one and it takes a couple of minutes, it's lovely 
    www.danielsguitars.co.uk
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  • valevale Frets: 1039
    edited June 26
    this is a very cool & very simple jig someone created to bulk build necks with a perfect compound radius. just bolt your fretboard to it & rock back & forth over a belt sander.

    obviously what goes for compound goes for regular. if i was going to build a neck (still a long way from having the confidence) this technique is definitely what i would use. it makes it seem almost idiot proof, which is what i generally seek in advice.

    http://pueyoguitar.free.fr/outils/radiuseur2.jpg

    have to say (again) this is a wonderful thread. definitely appreciate the time & trouble you are taking to document the process so carefully.
    & it also speaks volumes on the state of the state of your art. admirable.
    hofner hussie & hayman harpie. what she said...
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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5275
    edited June 26
    Nice one @WezV i’ll try that on the next one!

    @customkits PM me your plans then!

    @vale Thanks for the link, will check that out. 

    @joeyowen & @designerseye88 Cheers chaps :)
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  • springheadspringhead Frets: 198
    Fantastic work you're doing, I'm thoroughly enjoying following this build.
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  • Very nice.

    Regarding the old celluloid dots, I'd always been led to believe that celluloid degrades badly with age, but those look fine.  Most of the stories I've heard are to do with film stock though, so perhaps it's a different kind of celluloid, or it's just worse when it's thin.  Is it different stuff from celluloid film?
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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5275
    Very nice.

    Regarding the old celluloid dots, I'd always been led to believe that celluloid degrades badly with age, but those look fine.  Most of the stories I've heard are to do with film stock though, so perhaps it's a different kind of celluloid, or it's just worse when it's thin.  Is it different stuff from celluloid film?
    I would imagine Celluloid is Celluloid to be honest and the dots are just a much thicker version of than but you are right in that they can degrade. What happened/s occasionally on some 50's Juniors and Specials is that over time, we're talking 50/60 years of course, the Celluloid can shrink slightly with UV exposure and a dot can fall out.

    I had this happen recently on my 1957 Special:



    Luckily, I saw it happen and was able to glue it back in:



    I always superglue all the dots into the fretboard so they stay firmly in place.
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  • miserneil said:

    I would imagine Celluloid is Celluloid to be honest and the dots are just a much thicker version of than but you are right in that they can degrade. What happened/s occasionally on some 50's Juniors and Specials is that over time, we're talking 50/60 years of course, the Celluloid can shrink slightly with UV exposure and a dot can fall out.
    Not too bad then - you hear stories of old film falling apart or even spontaneously combusting, but shrinking and falling out isn't too scary.

    Thinking about it, ping pong balls are celluloid I think, and I've not heard of those burning anybody's house down :)
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 7379
    Just realised @miserneil I should be seeing your band over the August bank holiday weekend in sunny Upton. If you want to drop this Jr off with me whilst I’m there that’d be fine, I’m assuming the $150 you quoted in the OP would be okay,   but you’ll need to get on with the build smile 
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5275
    Just realised @miserneil I should be seeing your band over the August bank holiday weekend in sunny Upton. If you want to drop this Jr off with me whilst I’m there that’d be fine, I’m assuming the $150 you quoted in the OP would be okay,   but you’ll need to get on with the build smile 
    Eric,

    Absolutely no problem at all, if we take $150 dollars they were in 1959 and add current inflation, that's $4067.67 today but as i'm a generous sort, i'll do you 50% discount if you're paying cash on the day..... ;)

    If you do get to see us at Upton (Sunday, 14:30, High Street Main Stage) please do come and say hello, be great to put a face to the user ID :)
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 7379
    miserneil said:
    Just realised @miserneil I should be seeing your band over the August bank holiday weekend in sunny Upton. If you want to drop this Jr off with me whilst I’m there that’d be fine, I’m assuming the $150 you quoted in the OP would be okay,   but you’ll need to get on with the build smile 
    Eric,

    Absolutely no problem at all, if we take $150 dollars they were in 1959 and add current inflation, that's $4067.67 today but as i'm a generous sort, i'll do you 50% discount if you're paying cash on the day..... ;)

    If you do get to see us at Upton (Sunday, 14:30, High Street Main Stage) please do come and say hello, be great to put a face to the user ID :)
    Hopefully I can do that. I might need to rethink the maths on that Jr though... :anguished: 
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • miserneil said:

    If you do get to see us at Upton
    Forgive the OT post, but is that Upton upon Severn?  I used to have a mate who lived there - used to snigger at the amusingly-named road as I drove past every time I visited...
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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5275
    miserneil said:

    If you do get to see us at Upton
    Forgive the OT post, but is that Upton upon Severn?  I used to have a mate who lived there - used to snigger at the amusingly-named road as I drove past every time I visited...
    Tis indeed....I can only imagine you are referring to Minge Lane?? Apparently that sign needs replacing every 3 months! :)
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 7379
    miserneil said:
    miserneil said:

    If you do get to see us at Upton
    Forgive the OT post, but is that Upton upon Severn?  I used to have a mate who lived there - used to snigger at the amusingly-named road as I drove past every time I visited...
    Tis indeed....I can only imagine you are referring to Minge Lane?? Apparently that sign needs replacing every 3 months! :)
    I shall look out for it during the Sunshine festival ( I’m so rocknroll). 
    Sorry, everyone go back to the guitar build now. 
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5275
    edited June 27
    @EricTheWeary We're playing there too! On the Saturday, Main Stage, before Quo!

    Anyway on to the neck carving. This was the scariest part of my first build, the actual getting started, but once you start to see something that resembles a guitar neck it's a great feeling so it's become my favourite part of the process now.

    I start by bringing the neck blank close to the final depth i'm after on the belt sander. The '59' profile I took my measurements from and base this model on measured 23.5mm at the 1st fret and 24.6mm at the 12th.

    Vintage Gibson necks were all carved on a belt sander. I have a small belt/spindle sander, it was about £170 and has earned its money 10 times over, a VERY handy little piece of kit.

    These pics are just to show how Gibson got the 'flare' on the headstock ears:





    I did carve one neck on the belt and it worked great, almost too well and, as I have some 120 grit paper on it, took the neck down to a 60's profile before I knew what was happening, so these days I like to use hand tools and take my time....I also find it enjoyable!

    So I start by roughly marking out the centre and side facets on the neck:



    At this point I also mark out the heel with a perspex template I made from the original 1959 Junior I had:



    And then clamp it against the bench and start to carve the side facets:



    Both sides done:

    ...and it continues in this fashion, bringing the lines in toward the centre line until I have something resembling round neck profile. I then take some rough sand paper and clean up the carve '
    shoeshine fashion'.

    Next, I take a cabinet scraper and/or Stanley blade (a SUPERB little scraper!) and refine the shoulders to match the '59 neck templates I made from the original guitar (1st pic is of this in progress):



    After much scraping and sanding and checking with the templates, we get very close to the original '59 neck shape:



    I then tidy up the heel...I find this the most awkward part for some reason..



    Next, I like to fret the neck, slots are cleaned, wire radiused, frets hammered in and ends nipped off flush:



    So were are left with a neck and a body, ready to become one!



    I re-establish a centre line on the body and start to par down the neck tenon to fit the mortice. On the DC the neck joins the body and the very end of the fretboard, on the SC it joins at the 16th fret. I like to take my time here, unlike Gibson did, and get a nice snug fit. On the originals, the tenon was a rather sloppy fit and the corners were cut off to aid a quick fit, as can be seen here:



    I'm tempted to try this on my next DC build for "historic accuracy" and to see if it has any bearing on the tone....opinions most welcome!

    I also get my neck angle here, as mentioned before, the general consensus is that there was a 2 degree neck angle on the heel. I use 3 degrees to fully clear the P90 and give plenty of adjustment on the bridge. Once i'm happy with the fit, I mask the body to protect it from squeeze out:



    Glue the pocket...



    Fit the neck and clamp, where it will stay for 24 hours:



    The following day I remove the clamps, check all is ok and move on to the next stage which is to par down the neck heel. I think this is particular to Double Cut juniors because, by their design, when the neck is glued in, you are left with a protruding amount of heel that needs to be parred down with a router:



    Now, it's often said that the round mark on the tenon of a DC Junior is from the clamp used to clamp the neck while gluing. It's not. It's a 'bite' mark from an overhead router.

    The above picture of the '59 heel shows this perfectly. You can also see how quickly this was done as the router has cut into the sides of the body all the way around.

    So the heel gets parred down:



    Then a little tickle with some sandpaper and we arrive here:



    More Soon!
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 7379
    edited June 27
    Yeh, just the Sunshine festival, not the blues one for us ( MrsTheWeary and me). 

    Enjoying watching this take shape,I tend to skip the making sections but as I’ve commented on this one I thought I should look at it properly! 
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • customkitscustomkits Frets: 882
    I'm tempted to do that gap to Neil but not sure i can yet,  doesn't look right to me and you lose the back wall gluing surface

    It's possible one of the reasons the neck broke out fairly easy because that area wasn't glued, just a thought 
    www.danielsguitars.co.uk
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  • miserneilmiserneil Frets: 5275
    I'm tempted to do that gap to Neil but not sure i can yet,  doesn't look right to me and you lose the back wall gluing surface

    It's possible one of the reasons the neck broke out fairly easy because that area wasn't glued, just a thought 
    I'm not sure the neck did break out on Juniors as a rule Darren, they certainly broke off the early (59) Specials as the tenon was compromised by the neck P90 route as you know, but i've not heard of the same happening on the DC junior. Heel cracks perhaps but never the tenon breaking out.

    Depending on the way they did it, there is still enough gluing surface on the butt of the heel against the 'back wall' of the mortise as the bottom of the tenon needs to be chamfered to fit anyway and this touches the back of the mortice.
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  • customkitscustomkits Frets: 882
    miserneil said:
    I'm tempted to do that gap to Neil but not sure i can yet,  doesn't look right to me and you lose the back wall gluing surface

    It's possible one of the reasons the neck broke out fairly easy because that area wasn't glued, just a thought 
    I'm not sure the neck did break out on Juniors as a rule Darren, they certainly broke off the early (59) Specials as the tenon was compromised by the neck P90 route as you know, but i've not heard of the same happening on the DC junior. Heel cracks perhaps but never the tenon breaking out.

    Depending on the way they did it, there is still enough gluing surface on the butt of the heel against the 'back wall' of the mortise as the bottom of the tenon needs to be chamfered to fit anyway and this touches the back of the mortice.
    Sorry yes i meant specials as it's the same joint i just say junior out of habit, I'd still rather have the whole lot glued to the back wall

    I'm cooking up a different dc with 59 neck pickup placement, I'm going for a strat neck pickup though, I'll see how my joint works out
    www.danielsguitars.co.uk
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  • peteripeteri Frets: 928

    Interesting observation on the special neck joint - I compared my 62 Special to a 61 at the recent jam.

    My 62 is an anomaly - there's a chap in America who has found 6-7 in existence (meaning made after they were meant to have been stopped), the theory is they are warrant claims by Gibson - this is borne out by mine having 59 dates on all the hardware (like they just swapped it in the event of a neck break).

    Anyway the point of this post - the 61 (last of the Specials) had the front pickup pulled back to where you would expect it once they realised the neck joint wasn't great. Mine has it even further back - basically closer to where the middle pickup on the strat would be - kind of emphasising 'there's no way we'll touch that tenon on a warranty claim'

    Changes the 'both pickups on' quite considerably

    Sorry for the off-topic!

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