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Blackdog

A Pair Of Gibby Tribute Builds.

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So I am already busy with a couple of new builds.

I recently finished a rebuild of a trashed Gibson ES335. I re-used the neck and most of the hardware and built a new body for it. For this I had the luck to run into a guy in Traverse City, MI who is producing the ES335 laminates like Gibson did in the old days. He sells fully assembled bodies or the parts as a kit. I bought a kit back in January to see how well it would go and was very satisfied with the end results.

As I was finishing the ES335 body, I thought that it would be nice to make a complete scratch build of a guitar I've been wanting to have: a 59-spec'd ES355, mono-wired with a Bigsby TP. Considering that I already have the molds and fixtures for the body assembly, I ordered another ES3x5 body kit, which should be arriving within the next few days.

This meant that now I have to build a neck "Gibson Style", that is: with a simple TR, no CF bars, one piece construction and a mortise/tenon style of joint.

Now that got me thinking… Why not make two Gibson styled necks while I am at it ?

Three years ago, when I built the LP-ish guitar for my son, I prepared and jointed two heavily flamed maple top-sets. I put one apart for my own use, but when I cut the shape of the top or my son's guitar against the mahogany body I happened to cut the top I was keeping for myself by mistake.

That top could be nothing but a LP after that, so back then I even cut a honduras mahogany body to match it and the set got shelved... Now is time to resurrect it.

So the plan is to build two different Gibby Tribute guitars:

- A Les Paul, with a mastergrade maple top, honduras body and neck and a brazilian RW fretboard. Built along the lines of a reissue/replica 59 as much as possible, but with a pair of P90s (simply because I want one).

- An ES-355, built as a good reissue. Body and neck following late 50 specs, materials and construction. Of course an ebony board, multi-ply binding, pearl inlays and gold hardware. This will be wired mono and finished in faded cherry (as it was common in 59). I think of it as the reissue I can not get from Gibson.

I'll try to keep this thread informative and will try to build them like replicas as much as possible, and explain when and why departures are made.

It's a bit of a challenge for me as there are quite a few firsts in the way things will have to be built.

So, this should be fun.

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So I am already busy with a couple of new builds.

I recently finished a rebuild of a trashed Gibson ES335. I re-used the neck and most of the hardware and built a new body for it. For this I had the luck to run into a guy in Traverse City, MI who is producing the ES335 laminates like Gibson did in the old days. He sells fully assembled bodies or the parts as a kit. I bought a kit back in January to see how well it would go and was very satisfied with the end results.

As I was finishing the ES335 body, I thought that it would be nice to make a complete scratch build of a guitar I've been wanting to have: a 59-spec'd ES355, mono-wired with a Bigsby TP. Considering that I already have the molds and fixtures for the body assembly, I ordered another ES3x5 body kit, which should be arriving within the next few days.

This meant that now I have to build a neck "Gibson Style", that is: with a simple TR, no CF bars, one piece construction and a mortise/tenon style of joint.

Now that got me thinking… Why not make two Gibson styled necks while I am at it ?

Three years ago, when I built the LP-ish guitar for my son, I prepared and jointed two heavily flamed maple top-sets. I put one apart for my own use, but when I cut the shape of the top or my son's guitar against the mahogany body I happened to cut the top I was keeping for myself by mistake.

That top could be nothing but a LP after that, so back then I even cut a honduras mahogany body to match it and the set got shelved... Now is time to resurrect it.

So the plan is to build two different Gibby Tribute guitars:

- A Les Paul, with a mastergrade maple top, honduras body and neck and a brazilian RW fretboard. Built along the lines of a reissue/replica 59 as much as possible, but with a pair of P90s (simply because I want one).

- An ES-355, built as a good reissue. Body and neck following late 50 specs, materials and construction. Of course an ebony board, multi-ply binding, pearl inlays and gold hardware. This will be wired mono and finished in faded cherry (as it was common in 59). I think of it as the reissue I can not get from Gibson.

I'll try to keep this thread informative and will try to build them like replicas as much as possible, and explain when and why departures are made.

It's a bit of a challenge for me as there are quite a few firsts in the way things will have to be built.

So, this should be fun.

:D

(hooray)

SR

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OK, let's get started.

The lacquer of the rebuilt 335 was curing and I was bored. That's when I decided to resurrect the old LP build...

I brought it into the workshop and gathered some material around to take some decisions about what to use for the necks and the fretboard.

This is what the body looked like since mid 2008.

IMG_001.jpg

IMG_002.jpg

Just like the one I built for my son, It was patterned after my 2005 Gibson R9. Not exactly vintage correct, but close enough for Rock'n'Roll... :P

The body blank was thicker than needed, around 48mm, and so was the top, at 18mm. The original idea back in 2008 was to make a guitar with a similar carve as my son's, but hollow and with a similarly carved back. With that in mind, the mahogany blank I used for the body was not exactly the lightest. More like the opposite... B)

So the first step was to bring the thickness of the back down to the required size for a normal LP: 1 3/4" or 44mm.

IMG_004.jpg

IMG_005.jpg

For the position of the controls and such I decided to follow John Catto's plan for the 58-60 LPs. I had to adapt a bit because the outline is not exactly the same of the R9. But I made new templates for the wiring channel and the cavities from that plan.

First drilled the pilot holes for the controls and switch, and routed the wiring channel. Then routed the control cavities.

IMG_006.jpg

IMG_007.jpg

For the cavities' covers I opted for the modern (Gibson reissue) sizes and shapes instead of the vintage correct ones. I happen to have a set of covers available, otherwise I would have to cut new ones. I know, the final tone and sustain will suffer because the shape of the covers is wrong, but I'm prepared to live with that. B)

IMG_008.jpg]

Now another small departure from vintage specs.... :D

Like I said, the body blank was on the heavy side. I didn't want to go with chambers with this one...

Over at the TDP forum there's a fantastic Burst build thread by this guy Preeb. He does amazing work and there he built a replica with extensive weight-relief treatment (swiss-cheesing) and he swears that it still sounded like a full bodied LP, and the only effect was the weight reduction.

This one that I had was a perfectly good blank of Honduras, only heavy, why not giving the technique a try ? So I went for the swiss-cheesing, the holes are about an inch deep. The weight was reduced significantly. Still it is not going to be an specially light LP, but should be quite reasonable.

IMG_011.jpg:D

And at this stage I glued the top on.

IMG_013.jpg

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The next day it was time to bring the top down to the proper thickness. The correct thickness for a well bred LP is 5/8" (15.9mm). About 2mm were removed.

IMG_014_top_16mm.jpg]

Now, with the top in place, the control cavities could be deepened to the final value (for this stage), leaving around 1mm of mahogany at the bottom. It's really that thin, that's why this final deepening was done only after gluing the top.

IMG_015_Cavities_final_depth.jpg

There's still a secondary route required inside the control cavity of the originals, but that will come later: after carving the top.

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So now it was time to carve the top.

I know that MexicanBreed likes the more dramatic carving I made for my son's Paula much better than the usual LP top carve...

But for this one I want to go full LP, and to tell the truth the late 50s carving is not that uninteresting after all. Significantly more dramatic than the modern carve. The top starts at 5/8", I think today they get away with 1/2". There are more pronounced recurves and the pickups rest in a plane, not unlike the type of carving I usually do.

Over at the MLP there is no shortage of amazing LP builds, and a user there (ExNihilo) was kind enough to decompose a 50s style carving into a topographic map, and produced a set of templates for newbies like me to use. The different levels are all 1/16" apart from each other.

IMG_016.jpg

So by the time you have routed your way through the 7 templates, you have a huge pile of maple shavings and your top looks like this:

IMG_017.jpg

IMG_018.jpg

The Les Paul top is broken into two angles. First is the neck angle, that ends at the end of the fingerboard, on this plane sits the fretboard. From that point to just front of the bridge there's the pickup angle, this is the plane where the pickups sit.

Now, the beauty of building a clone of something that exists is that everything is already figured out. It is pretty much carved in stone that the neck angle on a 50s LP has to be between 4.2 and 4.4 degrees. I chose 4.3 degrees as a good compromise. The pickup angle is whatever results, which usually is around 1.5 degrees.

Here you can see the basic jig I use to plane the tops to any angle desired, and the top once the two angles have been cut.

IMG_022_thickness_angle_jig.jpg

IMG_023_two_top_angles.jpg

From this point on we are a few hours of orbital sander, scrapers and manual sanding away from a properly carved 50s LP top.....

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nice job till there on the archtop, cleaner than mine "stairs" kekeke

keep looking!

Thanks, Osorio.

This is the first time I use the topographic method for the top carving myself. It looks like a good way to achieve a predictable result for us one-off (or a few-off) builders.

In the old days, at Gibson, they used a copy-carver and a slack-belt sander to shape the tops. That final manual intervention is what gave them a bit of "personality". Not two were exactly identical...

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I always look forward to your builds. Keep up the good work. I know it'll be cool, like always.

Bill

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I couldnt get a hold of that topographic file could I ?

Im trying to put together a Rhino 3D file for a Les paul top & its kinda kickin my ass mapping the contours. But those look fairly spot on.

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I couldnt get a hold of that topographic file could I ?

Im trying to put together a Rhino 3D file for a Les paul top & its kinda kickin my ass mapping the contours. But those look fairly spot on.

Why couldn't you ??

Just get it directly from the source, here.

You'll still have to figure out what the two angles cut from the top will do to the stair-case in the neck area, though...

BTW, there's also a one-page cross section drawing there, you may find that one useful too.

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I always look forward to your builds. Keep up the good work. I know it'll be cool, like always.

Bill

Thanks Bill, appreciated.

Hope you'll have fun with this thread.

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Last chapter we were about to smooth those staircase steps off....

Takes a while. I was led to believe that it was 1/2Hr of orbital sander... Well, it's a bit more. It's not funny how the sander likes to kick and jump when in contact with such a sharply uneven surface !! I resorted to scrapers to remove the hard edges and to do most of the levelling. I don't know, it works better for me. Finally I smoothed things with a cork block and sandpaper, 60, 80, 120 grits.

Scrapers are also a must to work out the recurve.

I don't consider it finished yet, I know myself, I will be retouching the carving for many days to come. Besides the recurve still ends in a flat around the outline of the top. I kept this flat until I'm done with the binding channel. Then I'll blend the recurve while scraping/sanding the binding. But all in all, it's looking better already:

IMG_028.jpg

IMG_025.jpg

IMG_024.jpg

With the top carve pretty much done, like I said before, it was time to finish the control cavity.

The concept is simple: the top gets thicker towards the center of the body, and the cavity needs to be deepened accordingly to more or less follow the curve of the top. We need to keep the thickness down for the threaded part of the pots to fit. The thickness needs to be kept between 4-6mm for normal, CTS type, pots.

I can think of a number of different ways to solve this. Long post potentiometers could also be used. But this is a replica, right ?? So we have to do what we have to do. B)

Back in the day Gibson resolved the issue by further routing the bottom of the cavity at an angle (some well versed sources even say 2 angles B), I'll stick to one, thank you). This is not intrinsically difficult, but requires the use of a very long router bit to get to the bottom of the cavity from a template of some thickness mounted on the back and at an angle !! After that it's no rocket science, and again, the originals were all over the place. So I could afford being a bit sloppy and still remain vintage-correct !! :D (Hey, in some cases vintage correct MEANS sloppy !!) :D

Here you can see the partial template. There's no need for a full one as we do not need to remove any wood close to the edge, and because I could use some light getting in there to have an idea of the damage I was doing... Then you see the final result. Looks like something coming out from Kalamazoo in the late 50s to me... Close enough anyway.

IMG_029.jpg

IMG_030.jpg

IMG_031.jpg

I enlarged the holes to the final size. These were drilled vertically on the originals, no reason to do it differently here (and a lot easier). I tried the pots in place and everything fits nicely. The cavity is finished.

IMG_032.jpg

Hey, hold it right there !! I thought you said it was going to be a P90 Les Paul !! I see humbucker cavities drawn there !!

Sh!t !! I better correct that before I get carried away and f*** it up big time !!

IMG_033.jpg

Better now....

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BTW, I'm getting close to the point I am right now with these builds. This thread will become real-time pretty soon. So enjoy these unusually frequents updates while they last. :D

I prepared the brazilian fretboard for the Les Paul. I picked from the very few pieces I have and chose one that instead of being dark and even (some prefer that on a burst) it looks a bit interesting. I had read that the thickness at the centerline of the original boards was 3/16" (4.76mm), so I thicknessed the board down to 5mm. Close enough I thought. But then I read some more :D , and it seems to be the case that 3/16 was the thickness of the unbound boards (Auch !!). The boards that were to have binding were a bit thicker, apparently 5.25mm (no clue what's the closest in inches). It's done already, I will be short of 0.25mm. No such a big deal I guess... This board looks (and smells) too good to be discarded for a mere 1/4mm (that's less than 1/64" by the way).

IMG_027.jpg

IMG_026.jpg

Today I got hold of the package with the body kit for the ES355. I'm looking forward to getting home to open the box and take pictures !! The non-solidbody part of this thread will start soon !!! B)

Thanks for reading !!

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And yet another update. The 335 body kit is here:

IMG_005.jpg

The inner parts packaged:

IMG_006.jpg

and unpackaged, left is the soft maple centerblock stock, the mahogany kerfed lining and the pre-shaped mahogany tailblock (this is a nice touch, in the previous kit it was just the unshaped stock).

Right is the stock for the kerfed contoured bracings, A-grade spruce, perfectly quartered.

IMG_008.jpg

The plates and rims packaged:

IMG_010.jpg

And unpackaged. It's pretty obvious what is what. The plates are 4 layers of maple, the inner ones are a bit thinner and cross grained. The outer ones are faultless and lightly flamed. Glued together with UF glue, exactly like the 59 plates were made. The rims are similarly built, three layers of maple cross grained. The top has the holes pre-cut on a pin router.

IMG_011.jpg

It seems like last month that I finished building one of these and now it all starts again.... :D

(Wait !! It was last month !!) :D

IMG_012.jpg

I will be showing the molds and fixtures in the next installment.

Cheers.

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I didn't come around to get the molds out of storage yet, but I got busy with the necks instead.

The first issue with G style necks is the steep headstock tilt-back angle combined with a rather long headstock. To make it out of one piece the blank has to be specially thick, around 65mm.

I had this nice blank of honduras that was just thick enough to get the two necks out of it, one from each side. And also perfectly quartered.

Here it is after squaring and truing the sides. It was also trimmed to the desired width. According to several sources, the neck blanks had a width between 2 1/4" and 2 3/16", something between 55 and 57mm. This was done to minimize the waste, obviously. Ears will have to be added to the sides of the headstock, and will be of the correct width too.

IMG_034.jpg

I rough cut the two necks using a couple of basic templates I made. And planed the headstock face using the belt sander.

IMG_035.jpg

IMG_036.jpg

I found a small inconvenience, though. The Les Paul neck blank has a small knot that goes from the fingerboard surface to one of the sides. It's a very thin thing on an otherwise perfectly quartered piece. I wll go on with this blank and check if it moves in any way as I begin removing wood. I will likely rough carve the neck shape before gluing the fretboard, so there's plenty of time. I have the feeling hat it will not cause any stability problems.

IMG_037.jpg

IMG_038.jpg

I attached the template firmly to the blank using double sided tape, and fine shaped the back of the LP neck with the robo sander, but it's not to the final depth anyway, so other than looking a bit better t doesn't add much.

IMG_042.jpg

So next step was to route the truss rod channel.

Back in the late 50s and until 1960, Gibson used a simple compression rod (affectionaly known as a wood crusher). This is a simple 3/16" rod, anchored at the body end of the neck and seating in a straight, albeit slanted, channel. The depth of the truss rod channel needs to be 5/8" (16mm) at the body end and decrease to 1/2" (12.7mm) as it exits on the headstock face.

The best and simplest way of doing it is with a table router with a 3/16" straight bit and a fence, and applying 1/8" (3.2mm) spacers at the headstock end of the neck with double sided tape:

IMG_018.jpg

IMG_015.jpg

But there is another operation I needed to take into account: the truss rod access opening at the headstock.

This is a very characteristic oval cavity that is in fact a 3/4" (19mm) diameter cilindrical cut with an axis parallel to the truss rod channel. However the center of this counterbore is not the same as the center of the truss rod.

To avoid removing too much wood from below the adjustment nut, but still have a wide opening for the wrench to operate properly, the counterbore center is some 3.5mm above the center of the truss rod. Since the tool to do this (spotfacer) uses a 3/16 guide for centering I decided to cut the channel in two operations.

At this stage I routed the channel just deep enough to be used as a guide for the spotfacer 3/16" pilot rod. This means 3.5mm (the centers offset) shallower than the final depth.

IMG_016.jpg

IMG_017.jpg

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No matter how careful one can be, still small accidents happen. In the 355 neck my hand was not firm enough and the routing deviated a bit near the headstock. I will eventually fill this with epoxi.

th_IMG_019.jpg

Now the TR access opening. For a guiding rod I just used the uncut truss rod.

I put some scrap wooden stripts into the channel, rather loosely held with duct tape, to hold the guiding rod bottomed on the channel but not tight enough to impair the normal rotation.

th_IMG_020.jpg

With a hand drill and very carefully, the cavities are cut. According to vintage specs they end about 12" (13mm) before the heastock-neck break point. As a matter of fact you cannot go much further, because the hand drill chuck starts touching the heastock, as it can be seen in the picture.

th_IMG_021.jpgth_IMG_022.jpgth_IMG_023.jpgth_IMG_024.jpg

Then the router bit on the table was adjusted up 3.5mm and the channels were deepened to the final 5/8" - 1/2" depth. Here you can see the rods in place.

th_IMG_025.jpg

Now a wooden strip was thicknessed to 3/16", this will be used to fill the channels on top of the truss rods. Vintage correctness etiquette dictates that it has to be maple.

th_IMG_026.jpgth_IMG_027.jpgth_IMG_028.jpg

Next steps will be cutting the rods to the proper lenght, thread the blank end with a 10-32 cutting die, screw the anchor nut and peen the end of the rod to lock it in place.

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excelent!! super clean .... keep looking to see this 335!

Thanks ! Stay tuned, it will start soon. I just want to advance the necks a bit more before I start with the 355 body.

I would like to get to the point of cutting the tenons. Then, before I start the work on the headstocks and fretboards, I will kick start the 355 body.

Here's a teaser picture of the molds and cauls.

th_IMG_157.jpg

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Allow me to open a small parenthesis here...

I have been trying to decide on what scale lenght to use for slotting the fretboards of these builds…

Gibsons = 24 3/4", right ?

Well, it's not that simple.

According to the StewMac site, by the late 50s Gibson was using a scale that was more like 24.6".

Or was it ?

Careful measurement of some original Gibsons from the late 50s has aparently confirmed that they were indeed using 24.75" as the scale lenght, as advertised, but they were spacing the frets according to the old Rule of 18.

What is this ?

(I love Google !) Late 16th century lutenist Vincenzo Galilei (father of Galileo) was already promoting this method that consists on the following: take the distance between the nut and the saddle (the scale lenght) and divide it into 18, the result is the distance of the first fret measured from the nut. Take now the remaining distance between the fret and the saddle and divide it again into 18, and you get the distance of the next fret measured from the previous. And so forth and so on. Keep dividing into 18 and keep slotting…

The fact is that this method for spacing the frets has been in use for many years until fairly recently. Point in fact, Gibson was still using it as late as 1959 !!

The interesting fact is that by the time you adjust the saddles for a proper intonation on such a Gibson (specially in these days of much lighter strings) you end up with an effective scale of around 24.6".

That's where all the confusion seems to be coming from, then.

I was originally planning to use a "correctly" spaced scale of 24.625" for these builds. So I wanted to see how different the 24.75" R18 scale used by Gibson would be, and it was quite a surprise. I compared the two scales fret by fret and it is not that different.

The problem is that at the point the 24.75" R18 scale is properly intonated (12th fret harmonics vs fretted note), the only fret that is in the exact position is the 12th. The frets below are not that far off (within 1-2 tenths of mm), but the 22nd is a full mm off.

So now the question is, which one should I use ??

We know that a fretted instrument is never going to intonate perfectly but could it be that this unintentional compensation sweetens the intonation of the guitar ? Or maybe just the opposite ?

Should I go vintage-correct or mathematically correct ?

Opinions anybody ?

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Well, since you are already copying a few of Gibson's other lousy practices, why not go all the way?

Just a little good natured kidding there, I'm sure these will be excellent instruments regardless.

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i have not read that particular theory on gibson's scale length before - although obviously its been a topic of much debate for quite a while. have you got a source for the info as i would be interested to see it

last one i did with a 'proper' gibson scale i went for 24 5/8ths and the standard method of calculating the slots. its the closest in feel i have got to pre 60's gibbo's - although it is on a design that came later :D

fb11.jpg

tbh i pretty much came to the conclusion there was not a proper scale length for vintage gibson's . i know it has been 24 9/16ths and has been 24 5/8ths at some points, and there are definitely others which dont seem to fit any logical method exactly so that may be where the rule of 18ths comes in

interesting that you mention the older instruments that used this. always been my understanding that many of these did not have any real bridge compensation... and it may well be the simplified fret calculations automatically added the compensation to the frets so less was needed at the bridge.

very different to previous debates i have had with crusader (for anybody that followed them) about gibson's fretting practices - I still wont believe for one second they worked out each individual fret position or purposely used a combination of scale length before and after the 12th fret. When they made so many mistakes with the design of the electric guitar before 1958 (they got lucky with the juniors in 55, but they still have design flaws that got sorted on later versions) its hard to accept this idea of them doing R&D on different ways of achieving precisely intonated scale lengths. especially since there is almost no point in such a non adjustable feature.

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i have not read that particular theory on gibson's scale length before - although obviously its been a topic of much debate for quite a while. have you got a source for the info as i would be interested to see it

I am mostly perusing information collected from other (better versed) Burst replica build threads. You can look for any such threads in the Luthier's Corner at the MLP Forum. Most of them have discussed the subject a one point or another, and actual measurements on vintage Bursts seem to confirm this fact.

Of special interest are the build threads by user Preeb in the TDPRI forum, lots of info there.

last one i did with a 'proper' gibson scale i went for 24 5/8ths and the standard method of calculating the slots. its the closest in feel i have got to pre 60's gibbo's - although it is on a design that came later :D

fb11.jpg

What a beautiful bird you have there !! I want one !!!

24 5/8 " was my original plan, the R18 scale is not too different from that one. It may be interesting to hear how these fret mis-placings behave in real life.

tbh i pretty much came to the conclusion there was not a proper scale length for vintage gibson's . i know it has been 24 9/16ths and has been 24 5/8ths at some points, and there are definitely others which dont seem to fit any logical method exactly so that may be where the rule of 18ths comes in

interesting that you mention the older instruments that used this. always been my understanding that many of these did not have any real bridge compensation... and it may well be the simplified fret calculations automatically added the compensation to the frets so less was needed at the bridge.

It's a valid guess, we'll have to see... I personally don't think it was significantly more difficult to divide into 17.8 instead (maybe in the 16th century it was, but later ?), that would have rendered an almost perfectly spaced fretboard. They either thought 18 was good enough or it was musically superior in some way to keep using it.

very different to previous debates i have had with crusader (for anybody that followed them) about gibson's fretting practices - I still wont believe for one second they worked out each individual fret position or purposely used a combination of scale length before and after the 12th fret. When they made so many mistakes with the design of the electric guitar before 1958 (they got lucky with the juniors in 55, but they still have design flaws that got sorted on later versions) its hard to accept this idea of them doing R&D on different ways of achieving precisely intonated scale lengths. especially since there is almost no point in such a non adjustable feature.

I did not follow those debates, but I would not think that Gibson gave that much thought to that. Let's not forget that Gibson was a factory. I find it a lot easier to believe that they were just relying on an old proven method that was perfectly known to fretted instrument builders for centuries, than that they were experimenting with strange scale combos to make our life interesting 50 years down the road. That would have not been efficient for a factory environment.

And you're right, they did so many things wrong that they later corrected somehow, that I have the feeling that they were more trial and error than let's spend a year on the drawing board before start cutting wood.

Along the 355 build I will be dropping some collected pieces of information about today's revered classics that will illustrate this even further.

And your vote is ? :D

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