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How about a "modernistic" '58 V ?

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Hi guys, have not been around in a while…. (Wow ! I'm a "Veteran Member" now.. Sadly, that's so true at so many levels…. :blush )

The looks of the site have certainly changed a lot, but I see most of the regulars are still around building amazing guitars as usual.

I decided to post because I've been having one of those "what's the story with this guitar model" kind of feelings again. Last time it happened was with the Tele a couple of years ago, and building and playing one really helped me understand the coolness of the model.

This time it was mostly fuelled by this video, while I was working on my own band's version of this song/medley:

Then I was buying some wood at one of my local yards and came across this blank of center-joined White Limba sitting in a corner that was just begging to "Be a V" !


That's when the feeling became more like an itching… One that I couldn't ignore any longer and I had to scratch.

So, what say you ?

Wanna watch while I scratch ?

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No. Just lured out by a slick V. I am going back to hiding.

I will eventually wind pickups for this guitar, but in the meantime I tried some reference pickups to get an idea of the sonic signature of the guitar. First I put a set of Bareknuckles The Mule (PAF

Beginners face a lot of challenges. More seasoned builders face most of the same challenges, but with a lot more resources in their toolbox. When I was starting, getting a really tight neck joint

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So, let's get started with the pictures.

This project is quite advanced by now, but it started with the research of the model. There have been so many incarnations of V shaped six-strings…

I knew for sure that I didn't want to make the '67 version. I like the idea of the extreme fretboard access of the 58, and like the smaller pickguard with standard pickup rings better (I feel the same about SGs, BTW).

There is a lot of, very often conflicting, info floating around about the oldies. The historical fact is that Gibson made in 1958 three batches of 40 bodies of these. By the end of '59 they had only shipped 97 finished guitars, certainly not a smashing success ! Some of the rest eventually trickled out by as late as '64 apparently. These latter ones with different appointments (knobs, plastics colors, nickel/gold hardware, etc.), according to the era when they were finished. This all means that there is not a clear set of specs for the V, as they never really passed the prototype stage.

These days I don't cut any wood (not even templates) until I have a solid plan for the whole guitar. I strongly prefer to work all the details out "on paper" first, so this I did.

From pictures and collating all the info I found around I made my own plan for the '58 V to make sure I have a self consistent set of features. So that all parts actually work together. Wonder what a Blackdog plan looks like ? Well, they can get pretty detailed… :wOOt


All in all, the plan is to make a V as respectful as possible to the late '50s ones, with just a few small concessions in order to use a white limba neck blank I already had.

Let's make something that would not look out of place in this picture:


(Right ! Like the original DOESN'T look out of place in that picture… <_< )

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I'm always game for a guitar from you sir!

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Like I said, there were a number of issues with the Limba blank I had for the neck. To begin with it was a bit short, so I re-worked the design for a 1cm shorter tenon, not a big deal.

Then the grain was pretty much consistently at 45* from perfectly quartered. I decided to split it in half and laminate it back with one of the sides flipped.


While I was at it I put a thin rosewood accent between the halves.

Used some dowels to avoid slippage while gluing (lamination had to be pretty accurate, didn’t have much extra wood to waste)



All planed and squared again.


Second problem with this blank: It was not deep enough for such a long headstock tilted at 17*. I didn't want to go full scarf, or change the headstock size or angle, so I just added a bit of the same blank to supplement the tip of the headstock. The splice will be almost invisible, only exposed on the back. If it looks too obvious I'll make a stinger, but I don't think that will be necessary.


Then cut and planed the headstock face at 17*.


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Even though this is likely to be a one-off build, I had to make a neck profile template of some kind. So I opted for a template that can be used for this robo-sander profiler jig.


I had a similar jig for the Les Paul builds, but the turrets were glued on (mistake). In this new version the fences and the turrets are removable and can be re-used for a pretty much any neck just by changing the template below. I also opted for a deeper and generic heel as I was uncertain at the time of how I was going to resolve it. More on this later.

With the blank in place, the jig/template was used for marking the lines for the rough cut.



This is what I meant when I said I didn’t have much extra wood to waste on this blank (of course there's margin in there, but still).


After rough cut with the band saw and back in the jig.


After the robo-sanding.


Now the blank is ready for the russ rod installation.

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Now this were the late 50s, so the truss rod for these guitars was the basic one-way compression rod, like those used for the Les Pauls of the era. It is a straight rod that runs in an oblique channel rather close to the back of the neck. It’s crude, but it works, so no reason for doing it differently. Gibson didn’t start with the curved rod until 1960, and frankly, is more work for a rather marginal improvement.

Not many pictures about this, but the idea is to run the blank through a 3/16 bit on a router table. Some maple spacers on the headstock end of the blank ensure that the slot ends up being about 1/8” shallower there than at the heel end.

I do this in two steps for a very simple reason. I do the classic oval opening on the headstock with a 3/4” spotfacer with a 3/16” guiding rod. The centre of the cylindrical cut has to be around 1/8” above the bottom of the TR channel. You can also see the spacers still in place in this picture.


So I cut the TR slot 1/8” shallower than needed on a first pass, I run the spotfacer with the guiding rod bottomed on the channel.


Once this is done I deepen the slot to the final depth on a second pass n the table router (the mahogany neck is for a Les Paul Custom I’m making for a friend). The final depths for the channel are 1/2"at the nut and 5/8" at the heel.


The truss rod itself is the “traditional” TR kit from StewMac. It has to be cut to length, the end has to be threaded and peened against the blind barrel nut.


Maple strips thicnessed to 3/16” fill the channel with the TR in place. And the fretboard face of the blank gets planed again.


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Now I was set about using this body blank as-is.

The grain of the Limba on the original 50s Vs was running parallel to the fins. But when Gibson re-issued the model in ’83, they just used the blanks with the grain running in the direction of the neck.


But there’s a lot of waste anyway, so I though “If I’m going to do it why not doing it properly ?”. And I cut and re-joined the blank for the correct grain orientation.


There ! Much better !

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Excellent work. I agree about the grain orientation. For pointy Flying Vs this helps create stronger points through removing unsupported or short grain. Far superior for shapes like this. Similarly, I re-orient the grain of angled headstocks like those on Jackson/ESP/Explorers to help prevent split headstocks from short grain.

I've always wanted a spot facer for my own tool collection. Always shyed away from purchasing one since I can't find them cheaply enough. How much did yours damage you for?

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I've always wanted a spot facer for my own tool collection. Always shyed away from purchasing one since I can't find them cheaply enough. How much did yours damage you for?

Hmm, don't remember. But let's see, I got them here:


$27 sounds about right...

I also bought the 7/8" and 1" ones. Those can be handy for jack holes, either straight or angled.

As a matter of fact I toyed with the idea of a hidden jack on the back of the fin for this V. Using this type of jack (I have one made by Switchcraft that should be of decent quality), with angled counterbored holes into the control cavity. But the angle has to be pretty shallow for it to work and the drill chuck hits the wood way before you can drill deep enough. In the end I went back to the traditional jack-on-a-plate of the originals.

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These are pretty thin guitars. According to the gospels of Gibson literature the thickness of the body is 1.5” (38.1mm). Other accounts report 1 5/8” (41.3mm). I opted for a healthy compromise of 40mm.

The blank was originally 45mm (1.3/4” or 44.5mm which is a very usual thickness for many uses, but too thick for this. So as soon as I had a rough cut I thicknessed it down. And only then I adjusted the outline against the template, with the robosander first and the router finally.


Such a thin body poses some interesting challenges for the mortise and tenon implementation of the neck angle. In the originals the tenon is surprisingly long extending half way between the pickups, which in principle would seem as a necessity for adding gluing surface considering the neck to body joint is at the 20-21st fret.

But if the tenon is made straight with the neck and the mortise is angled (like it is done on the Les Paul and the ES335), when the pickup cavity is routed (even keeping it to a reasonably tight depth) the tenon gets pretty thin under the pickup, rendering the extra-length pretty much useless.

So the solution adopted for these was to cut the neck angle on the tenon and keep the mortise flat with the body. This and the angled pickup cavities leave the most wood under the cavity.


I opted to do the pickup cavities angled (same as neck angle), like on the Les Paul, even though on the original Vs they were straight (the cavities were made on a pin router).

So the first step of the tenon preparation was to cut it down to the required depth and at the required 3* angle.


Then I cut the shoulders, also at the proper 3* angle, and thinned it down to the usual 1.5” width.


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Now about that headstock...

Obviously it is not wide enough to begin with. And it’s pretty long, gets pretty narrow towards the tip and the angle is a steep 17*. Lots of short grain ! It needs reinforcement. So instead of adding wings parallel to the centreline, as usual (which would have left the narrower half of the headstock not reinforced), Gibson opted for this solution:


So here we go…


Ir really looks pretty silly !


Adding the wings (BTW, the neck has been already tapered in the meantime).




And, using the headstock template:



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By the numbers. I'm sort of hoping you decide to go 100% vintage correct. You certainly have the information and skill set to do that. I'm not certain of how Gibson did the tenon, however I do know the neck angle was never consistent. Some (A lot? Not sure) pre-70s Vs had virtually NO angle with a huge step from the body to the fingerboard. I bet those would be awful to play, never mind look at....


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By the numbers. I'm sort of hoping you decide to go 100% vintage correct. You certainly have the information and skill set to do that. I'm not certain of how Gibson did the tenon, however I do know the neck angle was never consistent. Some (A lot? Not sure) pre-70s Vs had virtually NO angle with a huge step from the body to the fingerboard. I bet those would be awful to play, never mind look at....


Well, it's certainly going to be 100% vintage correct. As long as vintage correction still makes sense...

Angled tenon, straight mortise seems to be the consensus apparently. It doesn't really work otherwise.

The neck angle was indeed pretty inconsistent. Apparently going from 2* to 2.5*. I opted for 3* because it's the figure that, according to my plan, works well with the fretboard thickness I chose and the thickness of my pick guard material. Like you said, in this case vintage correct is just a guideline.

The no-neck-angle was a thing of the late 60s, early 70s. Many SGs were built in that way. Pretty half-a$$ed and awful looking, IMO.

BTW, I can't see picture you attached. The site tells me I do not have permission. Any idea what could be happening ?

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The tenon was already cut, with the angled underside as required. So it was time to make the mortise for it.

First step is to square what are going to be the shoulders of the mortise. These are perpendicular to the top, as the mortise is flat. And a 10mm thick lip is left on the back of the body, that will act as a heel cap.


The very first prototypes of 1957 did not have this feature, the heel was stepped, but on the following Vs the extended body-heelcap was the norm as seen here:


I route the mortises using a template, made to match the actual tenon to ensure a tight fit. The mortise had to be routed to a specific depth so that the neck's fretboard plane is flush with the body top at the point where the fretboard is going to end. The top of the tenon from this point towards the bridge, obviously raises up. And for the small segment between the end of the fretboard and the shoulders of the mortise, it sinks below the body top.

I planed the tenon extension to the top level just using two wooden rails of equal thickness on the sides and the plounge router cutting flush with the top. Then a bit of sandpaper action to even things out. For the short shoulders, the quickest solution was to use a hand plane.



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Time make a fretboard for this baby. fretboards on these were pretty simple, no binding and simple dots for markers. They were also on the thin side, typically around 5mm (or a bit less) at the center. I had a nice, wide piece of 7mm thick cocobolo, nicely striped on one half and swirly on the other, that was more than long enough.

Cut a blank of 60mm width from the stripey half for the fretboard and kept the swirly half for the headstock faceplate.

The fretboard blank had to be thicknessed down to the vintage correct(ish) 5.5mm. For this I use the same jig I made for radiusing, but with a flat router attachment. For all thicknessing operations I have two mortise router bits, of 25 and 35mm diameter.


Then the radiusing takes place, the coarse wood removal with the jig


And the finer radiusing with the good old wooden blocks and different sandpaper grits.


A bit of fine sanding for the picture….


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