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Removing A Les Paul Neck

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I am looking at retoping a Les Paul Custom to remove the unwanted Kahler Vibrato. I have some killer flame maple for the project. It seems like the job would be a lot easier if I removed the neck. Any advice?

I am skilled at woodworking and have removed an acoustic neck before using steam through a hole in the fretboard.


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The guys who take '52-'57 gold tops and convert them into bursts often do it without removing the neck. They just carefully rout off the top and leave the bit under the fretboard, then carefully cut & trim the new top accordingly.

Otherwise, you need to remove the neck. I've done this exactly once, Les Paul Custom just like you. Normally it means removing the fretboard first, but in my case the neck was already loose, so I did not have to.

First I scored the finish all around the neck joint (where it wasn't already cracked...). I removed all the electronics and drilled a few small holes into the mortise/tenon glue joint from inside the neck pickup cavity, then went at it with the espresso maker-tubing-basketball needle steam pump contraption. Also used a hot butter knife as a pry-bar underneath the fretboard and in around the joint. After about an hour's work it came out like a charm, quite clean.

I ended up doing quite a bit of damage to the finish on the top, but sounds like you'll be doing a refinish anyway. Best of luck.

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Erik - Thanks for the advice.  I will look one more time at leaving the neck on and routing only the exposed top.  That may be the way to go.

Actually, I was thinking that if you go this route, you may want to undercut slightly underneath the fretboard, removing some of the old top underneath so that the fretboard overhangs slightly, not much, maybe 1/8". This will eliminate any slight gaps between the edge of the fretboard and the new top, provided you've carved it correctly in that region (leave it slightly thick then carve it to fit the undercut, as the last step before gluing).

Also, if you leave the neck on, you want to make absolutely certain that the thickness of the top at the bridge plane is the same as the old top, so that you don't need a new neck angle. :D

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There's something similar i want to do, I have a Warlock i built, it;s neck thru body, and i applied a veneer on to it, and it looks really bad, and now i want to remove the top of the guitar and add a nice quilted maple top, I think I can manage to do so with a router, but if there's anybody who's removed the top of a guitar without removing the neck and has pictures, I'd appreciate if he/she would comment and post pictures on how is this done, thanks

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