Few of us can afford a vintage Les Paul. So if your tastes run to late 1950s Les Pauls but your budget only stretches to Korean copies, what can you do? Well, you can make your own replica, of course. Over the next few issues we'll be showing you how to turn an LP copy into something resembling a 1950s original. Whether you're brave enough to attempt a total refinish or just interested in some of the relic parts now available to perfect that look, you'll be able to apply our techniques and tricks to anything from a Vintage V100 to a genuine Gibson.
If you want a ‘vintage spec' S-type or T-type, it's easy to buy all the parts and put one together yourself, as we showed with our ‘Blackie' article. However, as far as we're aware, Les Paul kits offering vintage-correct materials simply don't exist. So we decided to make our LP from a donor guitar, and thanks to Mark Fletcher (www.japanguitars.co.uk), we found out what to look for.
Japanese LP replicas of the '80s like Grecos, Tokais and Burnys were extremely accurately detailed, from the narrow headstocks to the sliver of maple visible under the binding in the cutaway. If you know what you're looking for you might even get a solid maple top, fretboard edge binding, a nitrocellulose finish and a fabled long-tenon neck joint.
We were able to find a suitable guitar that had been stripped of all its hardware on a well-known auction website, and it cost around £330 including courier fees, taxes and import duties from the US. It's a 1983 Greco Mint Collection from the first full year of production. According to the seller, the ‘3 0023' serial number and the 1/26 pencil mark in the bridge pickup cavity indicate that it was the 23rd example from a limited run of 26. It was made by the same Fuji Gen Gakki factory that later built guitars for Fender and Gibson. So this guitar is actually a collectable vintage guitar in its own right - but with all that missing hardware and such a badly beaten-up poly finish, it's an ideal candidate for a sympathetic restoration.
Rather than create a replica of a ‘famous name' guitar as we have in the past, I decided to try and make my own dream LP. The plan included a re-finish in a ‘honeyburst' coloured nitrocellulose and a re-fit with relic'd plastic and metal parts, including authentically-made PAF-style pickups. So before the work begins, let's take a more detailed look at the guitar in hand.
1. Les Paul Relic: Part 1 | Introduction