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Retop A Les Paul...urban Myth?


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O.K. I know it is dangerous to ever cite Ed Roman as a referance on this site...and my post is not intended to be the starting point of another "Roman bashing" string

That being said......I have always been interested in his claims of being able to "re-top" Les Pauls. I would love to hear from anyone that has actually done it & determine what steps were involved.

I would think that you would have some serious work to do to accomplish this feat, but I wanted to get feedback from those who have done it , or know the process.

Can anyone shed any light on this process?

Dave K

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not done it but assume it would go something like this:

pull neck pull out all the electronics, start passing it through the sander/ planer, or if you have a large enough band saw you could just slice off the top, 'gasp'.

retop it clean the edges up throw it on a cnc or copy carver...

finish it - I would assume you would have to refin the whole guitar.

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Big D:

Thanks for the post

Those were my thoughts as well on the process. I just want to see if anyone has been brave enough to do this. I am curious on how difficult the actual process is from someone that has tried it.

Removing the neck makes me nervous & I want to get feedback from thos who were successful

Anyone out there who has done this? Pix would be great

not done it but assume it would go something like this:

pull neck pull out all the electronics, start passing it through the sander/ planer, or if you have a large enough band saw you could just slice off the top, 'gasp'.

retop it clean the edges up throw it on a cnc or copy carver...

finish it - I would assume you would have to refin the whole guitar.

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Again, I've not done or attempted anything like it but I would suggest that sutting off the top on a bandsaw would be asking for trouble.

I'd route it off.

BUT, like I said I haven't done anything like this so I wouldn't take my word for it! Or even listen that hard for that matter :D

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Back before I had a digital camera, I reset the neck of a friend's LP custom. He had left it in the trunk of his car for a week, and it turned into one of those "neck trem" guitars...loose neck joint. It was already a beater to start with, so I felt OK about trying it.

First thing was to score the finish around the neck with a razor (the nitro was already cracked). I removed the neck pickup, drilled a few small holes in the glue joint around the tenon, then went to work with steam (espresso maker + hose + basketball pump needle). I also lifted the end of the fretboard (hot metal spatula) and was able to remove the neck without having to completely remove the fretboard. Cleaned it all up of old glue, re-set the whole works with Titebond, now its nice & stable (and we're still friends... :D ).

The binding did separate a bit from the fretboard, which we tidied up with CA, and the finish got messed up around the neck joint. But, like I said, it was already a beater so we didn't do anything about it.

This gave me enough confidence to seriously consider a re-top on my own Lester....to replace the 3-piece plain maple with a nice 2-piece 5A flame :D But I will try it on another axe first, maybe an Epi. It's one of those things in the "someday" category...

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I'd route it off.

I get such a kick out of the router love on this site LOL!!!!

I wouldn't route it off, that wouldn't even be my 3rd choice.

First choice would be a bandsaw. But it has to be the RIGHT bandsaw, I'm not talking a little 14" with a 1/2" blade (although I'm sure you could do it with that too) but a LARGE bandsaw with like a 1.5" resaw blade. Set the body up against a TALL rip fence, cut the top off leaving 1/8" and then run it through a thickness sander.

Second choice would be to run it through a thickness sander with coarse belts until you were nearly done, then smooth it out with a finer belt. I would not use a thickness planer for this job due to all the routes in the wood and the fact that figured wood really doesn't work well in a planer.

Third choice would be to steam the top off, I've seen this done on a LP and although it's not my first choice, it saves the top and the back of the guitar. Yes, it's very possible and is the only non-destructive method of removing a top.

Maybe for a fourth choice I would route it off, but man, this means you need a HUGE router base, and a level jig all the way around the entire body, plus a way to secure the jig and body all together, yeah, it's not hard to do, but in the time it takes to build the jig and router base you could have bandsawed it off or thickness sanded it off.

Routers have their place, IMO this would not be one of those places.

Just my 2 cents.

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LGM - Of course, thicknesser/sander would be a first choice, but I'd be a little bit paranoid about snipe with a planer, and not many folks have acess to a 14" thickness sander. I'd route it off:

19_routerplane02.jpg

Steaming would be a nightmare. It's such a massive gluing area to deal with, and unlike a flexible piece like a head veneer or fretboard, it would be very hard to get a 'peeling' action going.

Failing anything more complex, a jack plane and some elbow grease would deal with it pretty swiftly. Infact, you could plane the top down to 1/16" and then use an iron to steam it off...

Re: removing the neck, I've done it, using this setup:

setneckremoval.jpg

Tighten the clamps down with a block (in red) under the heel, whilst applying heat and moisture to the tenon. Be sure to pad any surfaces which you intend to keep! Score the finish around the neck, and push a hot spatula down the sides of the joint to separate all the visible surfaces, then you just need to 'pop' the bottom glue joint.

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Setch,

As I said, I wouldn't recommend a planer, I said it would probably beat the hell out of everything. I've seen a top steamed off, done properly it's not the impossible task it may seem, it's not my first choice but it is the only non-destructive method you can use if you want to salvage both the top and body. (why you would I don't really know outside of if you needed to use the top as the template for a copy carver)

Even with your router setup (nice by the way) it would take 20 times longer than using a bandsaw would, however, it all comes down to what tools you have ACCESS too. Since this wasn't a thread with a guy asking, "how would I do this, these are the tools I have" I just gave my opinion on the best methods to acheive top removal :D

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I agree with you LGM, but I figured that Dave wouldn't have access to the correct type of bandsaw as that's a special bit of kit. Setchs picture showed exactly how I would have done it. Anyway, I'll take everybodies word for it as, like I said, I haven't done anything like this before.

Right then, if that's the question answered, can we please get on with some Ed bashing? :D

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Regarding Les Paul Retops: Should you have a Les Paul that you want to have retopped but are not sure how to do it, then send it to me as I have done countless retops and renecks on old Les Pauls, new Les Pauls and 335's etc. If you want more information, you can check out my website at www.brianmonty.com or email me at brian.monty@sympatico.ca.

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I would like to make mention that I have no problem with people here who have done a job and are willing to help, the previous post however does not even give an introduction to whom Brian Monty is. Basically only an ad. For somebody who has

"done countless retops and renecks on old Les Pauls"

Considering this is a guitar building forum, would it not have been more polite and better etiquette to give some insight as to how the job WOULD be done, not just stating to send it in and have him do it?

Just my opinion.

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About the routing. I did some of my LP top carving with a router bit attached to a drill press. If you'd do it that way you wouldn't need a huge router base etc.

carvingylajyrsin.jpg

You'd have to take it slow, since I wouldn't take much at a time, but I think it would work to remove a top. Just make sure the guitar bottom and drill press base are flat.

Just a thought :D Can't really help much more, since I haven't even finished my first guitar :D

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Tim:

OUTSTANDING IDEA!!!!

I think your idea is the winner for me!

About the routing. I did some of my LP top carving with a router bit attached to a drill press. If you'd do it that way you wouldn't need a huge router base etc.

carvingylajyrsin.jpg

You'd have to take it slow, since I wouldn't take much at a time, but I think it would work to remove a top. Just make sure the guitar bottom and drill press base are flat.

Just a thought :D Can't really help much more, since I haven't even finished my first guitar  :D

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You could also remove a good bulk of the wood with a radial arm saw, and use a dado blade if you had one. You could get all the way up to the fretboard and then finish with the overhead router/drill press.

You could probably do it without removing the neck if you wanted to. I don't think it would weaken the neck joint to remove the maple from around it and then reglue.

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I would like to make mention that I have no problem with people here who have done a job and are willing to help, the previous post however does not even give an introduction to whom Brian Monty is.  Basically only an ad.  For somebody who has

"done countless retops and renecks on old Les Pauls"

Considering this is a guitar building forum, would it not have been more polite and better etiquette to give some insight as to how the job WOULD be done, not just stating to send it in and have him do it?

Just my opinion.

+1

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You could also remove a good bulk of the wood with a radial arm saw, and use a dado blade if you had one.

You'd have to be certain that the cut would be exacly parallel to the table...or you could use the dado to cut yourself a big shim that lays on top of the table, then go at the top.

I say thickness planer first, then finish off with a router.

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You'd just watch the edge and see how far you could go before touching mahogany in any particular area. Take it down to about 1/8" and then see if you have any low points from the blade. Just take it down so that even the thinnest part still has maple on it. You'd finish it off with the overhead router anyway, and that's what would get you your constant depth/height. Jeremy's right, the planer will tear out the humbucker routes and probably take some mahogany with it, especially since mahogany tears out much easier than maple does. Anyway it's all moot because I think it's a worthless idea. I can't imagine anyone getting a LP re-topped. I mean if you bought one real cheap with a lame top, maybe you'd want to spruce it up, but re-topping is more laborous than building a body from scratch, so I'd just make a replacement body. I mean, you're re-doing every step except the neck mortise and the electronics cavity. It's ridiculous. If you make a replacement body you can hand pick your mahogany, or chamber it out, or whatever you wanted to do. The world is your oyster.

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I think its what you want to do if you still wanted to call it a Gibson. As I said, I'm seriously considering this option on my LPC to replace a 3-piece plain top with a 2-piece flame top. If I just replace the top, I'd still feel good about calling it a Gibson. But not if I replaced the entire body.

And I do want to call it a Gibson...it's my only one, and the first guitar I owned that wasn't from the Sears catalog :D so there's a sentimental attachment.

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Retopping a Les Paul I read an interview with Billy Gibbons awhile back. He said he had a couple of Les Pauls where they steamed the top off and then routed out a bunch of wood and put the top back on. Billy Gibbons is known to tell stories it could be true I dont know :D

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Retopping a Les Paul I read an interview with Billy Gibbons awhile back. He said he had  a couple of Les Pauls where they steamed the top off and then routed out a bunch of wood and put the top back on. Billy Gibbons is known to tell stories it could be true I dont know :D

i don't think thats too far fetched, i know i've heard somewhere of them using steam to loosen the glue under a fingerboard to be replaced... i quess the theory is the glue bond would melt from the steam :D

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