Notes on a couple of guitars -- October 2004

One of my luthier friends, Jay Gordon, gave me the hulk of an old black offshore Les Paul copy that he had been tricked into buying on e-Bay. There was no fingerboard, there was no hardware, the top was molded plywood instead of solid maple and it looked as though it had been re-drilled to accept an odd size bridge. Who could resist?

In fact, I had been meaning to build an LP of my own for 20 years, so I had some of the parts already (a couple of Seymour Duncan pickups and some Schaller bits) but no first-hand knowledge of these instruments at all -- this was to be my first electric guitar. I ordered a bunch of stuff from Stewart-MacDonald (new pots, switch, fretwire and the standard Gibson fingerboard) and, from Musician's Friend, a Pignose amp and a cute little guitar stand.

Like any lad similarly equipped, I now dream of being a rock star. The way isn't easy for any of us (I discovered just before gluing on the fingerboard that neither the neck nor the body is the standard Les Paul size.) What a mongrel this thing is. I love it.

Two guitars and an oud

My same friend Jay had a bad experience involving one of these stands -- somebody bumped his table at the Folklife show, and knocked a guitar off, stand and all. I figure they're pretty safe on the floor in low-traffic areas. I paid $20 for the first one, but they're now on sale for five bucks, so I bought four more. They go with our furniture.

While I had guitars on my mind, I pulled out the very first one I had built (it's dated July 25, 1980). It had been unstrung for years awaiting any number of repairs. The neck had developed a very slight twist, which didn't seem to interfere much with playing but was an embarrassment. I tried straightening it with heat, but ended up taking off the fingerboard and planing the neck.

I had already moved a fret that had somehow been inaccurately placed (this was from the day before pre-slotted fingerboards!) and replaced a few tiny tiles missing from the rosette (a delicate operation to say the least) and tuned the back to work better with the top. So I re-shaped the neck a bit, scraped off some more varnish (!), glued it back together and began applying French polish. Because of some gaps in the original construction, it still doesn't look perfect. But it sounds and feels a lot better, and I'm enjoying playing it again.

It's now probably time to get back to doing the serious things in life -- like building another oud like that one in the middle of the picture.