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What's Your Opinion On Top Contours?


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Hi, i'm fairly new to guitar building, and all of the guitars i've built (mostly les paul style,lp custom, lp special, blueshawk) have had flat tops... at first this was because i was intimidated by the thought of carving a top... but now that i can carve a top that will suffice, i actually prefer the flat top... i like the way it looks, and plays and almost every aspect of this... but i still do appreciate a really nice carved top... actually i have this book "the guitar handbook" by ralph denyer... and it says that the first les paul customs were actually flat tops... but other than this book i've never heard of that... anyway, i'm just asking what your guys 'opinions' are on the choice of a flat top or a carved top and why... oh yeah and just off the subject a bit... on some les paul specials' with a single cutaway the fretboard is flush to the body but it's got a tune-o-matic and somehow the top appears to be flat? how is the possible, is the body actually tapered very slightly at the same angle as the neck? or is the lower bout tapered slightly to lower the bridge height in relation to the neck... or am i just totally wrong and the body just isn't flat at all? anyway, sorry if this is confusing... i'd just like to know what other builders' preference is on the subject... thanks, jonny

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I prefer a carved top, or at least a bevel for comfort. I prefer a flat-top for ease of build. Rounding the edges over (a la a stratocaster) does help, but it's just not as comfortable to me. It's a toss-up, and I usually end up going with what suits the aesthetic of the build.

The flat-top LPs I've seen are one of two ways -

1) with the fretboard raised to meet the string height of the tune-o-matic and no neck angle. (This is horribly uncomfortable for me doing anything other than jazz playing, as I tend to mash my big paws into the sides of the strings and cut my knuckles.

2) with the fretboard flush to the body, and the neck angled. It doesn't take much (just a few degrees) to make enough angle for the TOM to work, and it often isn't noticeable at first glance - angling the body or such would be much more noticeable. If the fretboard is thick enough, it might pass you right by - because the edges of the fretboard thin as the board widens (towards the higher frets) as a side-effect of radiusing, if the board itself begins to dip below the level of the top, you may not notice an apparent change in thickness looking at the neck join.

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Depends on the design. A Les Paul or PRS-style with hardware to match and a flat top? No sir. A tele with a bevel? Forget it. A LP Junior with a carve? Well, you've just built a Santana, haven't you?

Overall, I like mahogany bodied, maple topped, humbucker equipped carved top and back guitars. So that's what I usually build. But sometimes I like something else.

See where I'm going with this?

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...

A tele with a bevel? Forget it.

...

God, please don't give me any more stupid ideas, I've got enough of my own, thank you . . .

(Seriously, I could see this looking either really good or really bad, I can't decide which)

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<drools at Drak's neck joint and belly carve>

I typically prefer flat top, but as other people have already said, it depends on the specific instrument of course. I think a lot of the flat-topped PRS guitars look rather nice, actually!

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