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Thread: Strange Bird

  1. #1

    Strange Bird

    I picked this up for $1,500. It's odd for a few reasons, the biggest of which are the first fret inlay and the factory rosewood binding. The neck never had binding and it appears to have the original frets.

    Serial number is in the 500,000s.

    I'd love to get feedback, thoughts, etc. (I posted this over in the Norlin section of MLP, but I thought I'd toss it at some fresh eyes.)

    Thanks,
    j.k


    Click for link to large sized images at Picasa Web Albums - sangandongo - Les Paul Gold Top






    the strange inlay:








    The rosewood binding:


    Clarostat pots? Sprague caps?

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member 58Lover's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    The body and neck have had the binding removed.

  3. #3

    Re: Strange Bird

    Ok. Wouldn't the routing along the neck edge need to have been filled by something? There's nothing filled, nothing to fill: the fretboard runs all the way to the edge.

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member 27sauce's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    How do you know its factory? It looks refinished to me, so theres no telling what is original or not.
    Marc

  5. #5

    Re: Strange Bird

    I -don't- really know it's factory. The top is rather faded though. There's checking in the gold. It's possible that it's been refinished, but I haven't blacklighted it yet.

    The thing that makes me think the binding is not an alteration is that there appears to be no ledge / routing evidence on the neck at all. The rosewood binding on the body blends right into the neck edge. Towards the third fret on the top side, the nitro/clear coat has been worn through and you can see clearly that the board has no edge.

    It's possible that the board was replaced, but man, if that was done, it was executed with extreme skill.

  6. #6

    Re: Strange Bird

    Stiff neck and a brass nut. Congratulations on your "Strange Bird" Les Paul. Hard to tell from the pics, the frets look big with little or no wear, possible re-fret. Have fun playing that thang.

  7. #7

    Re: Strange Bird

    The brass nut I know was done by the owner in '78.

  8. #8

    Re: Strange Bird

    This may be hard to see because I'm using my phone to photograph this, but if you look closely you can see fret-end nubs on the rosewood binding on the neck. The neck rosewood binding stops between the 7th and 6th fret. It's sliced in at an angle and is very skillfully concealed. (I only just found it as I was typing this.)

    The fret-end nubs stop at 10.

    Nubs:


    Binding to Fretboard blend. it's difficult to make out with this phone. It starts with the first 45 degree grain. from there to the nut is fret board edge rather than wooden binding.:

  9. #9

    Re: Strange Bird

    strange indeed...

  10. #10

    Re: Strange Bird

    I asked the owner if he knew what the "B" stood for, how long owned the guitar. I told him that the pot codes were Clarostats.
    Hi John, All the old goldtop Les Pauls had that B in a circle in the control cavity until 72. Its a code for 2 piece maple top. Had the guitar awhile now, I got it from the owner who had it since 73. You have no worries you got an absolute home run on that guitar. I am so glad it kicks through your amp! Enjoy it there aren't that many vintage les Pauls around anymore and none for 1500.00 anywhere. Thanks, Tracy
    I told him that I found a '74 on ebay with the "B" in it and that wasn't exactly right. Also, last night, after I sent the email, I figured out that it was a three piece top, not a two piece. I don't think I've ever seen a 2 piece Norlin Les Paul. I mentioned to him what we've concluded (both here on MLP and on LPF) and his response was this:

    Hi John, I just wanted to tell you he is wrong Gibson had runs of numbers all over the place but it dosen't even matter if it does go to 74 because the value from 70 to 74 is the same. I stated in my add I dont want or need vintage lessons, I know as much as any dealer I belive and no one can tell me different that its not a refin top and I know the pots are original.
    I told him "thanks, take care."

    Honestly, I don't care. I just wanted a bit more information from him to fill in a gap here or there. He believes the shit is original: fine. I don't. one isn't more valid than the other, but it's like religion to me: I can prove the non-existence of one with the use of science and mathematics. Him believing really hard that this is something other than what it is despite the evidence stacked against it won't make it true.

  11. #11
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    Re: Strange Bird

    I don't see the "rosewood binding" you're talking about, all I can see in the picture is the edge of the maple cap.

    Also can't see the "nubs" in the pic (I think you mean "nibs", but whatever).

    Someone did a bad (crooked) job of installing those Grovers, too!

    Could have been a custom guitar made for some artist, hence the "logo" inlay.
    Definitely interesting.

    Al

  12. #12

    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by zombiwoof View Post
    I don't see the "rosewood binding" you're talking about, all I can see in the picture is the edge of the maple cap.

    Also can't see the "nubs" in the pic (I think you mean "nibs", but whatever).

    Someone did a bad (crooked) job of installing those Grovers, too!

    Could have been a custom guitar made for some artist, hence the "logo" inlay.
    Definitely interesting.

    Al
    Well... I really have no response for you here that you're likely to listen to. I don't think arguing with you will produce a different response. Perhaps high resolution photos would, but again, my point wasn't to prove to anyone what it already had, it was to see if anyone else had seen something like it and share an oddity.

  13. #13
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    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by sangandongo View Post
    Well... I really have no response for you here that you're likely to listen to. I don't think arguing with you will produce a different response. Perhaps high resolution photos would, but again, my point wasn't to prove to anyone what it already had, it was to see if anyone else had seen something like it and share an oddity.
    What argument?. I was just pointing out that I can't see what you're talking about in those pictures, they are too fuzzy to see detail. I wasn't being argumentative at all. And there is no argument that the tuners have been installed incorrectly, one of them is way crooked (that was not factory, for sure). Why so sensitive, I said it is an interesting guitar?.

    Al

  14. #14

    Re: Strange Bird

    the rosewood is the darker wood with orange and black stripes-it is in fact covering the maple cap in the cutaway section

    -in fact in the cutaway pic above you cannot see maple at all-if you did it should be very light-the reddish wood is the stained pancake bod mahogany-the thin stripe betwen the body pieces may be maple-i cant remember if gibson used maple or some other wood- for the thin sandwich -holly i think now

    could someone tell me what the 1st fret inlay represents? i see an Lp-ish guitar, with 3 knobs with a explorer like lower bout protrusion-and i know this isnt right-what is it?
    Last edited by Stevedenver; 08-09-10 at 12:09 PM.

  15. #15

    Re: Strange Bird

    For Al / ZombieWoof:

    As for the grovers, sorry you see it that way. It's likely a camera angle issue. My '78 Standard looks the same when I put grovers into the bottom screw hole of the Klusons. The tuners on my '80 Deluxe are also angled this way.



    As for the top, ever seen a maple cap with grain and coloration like this?


    or this:


    or this?:


    And here are the nibs:

  16. #16

    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by sangandongo View Post
    Ok. Wouldn't the routing along the neck edge need to have been filled by something? There's nothing filled, nothing to fill: the fretboard runs all the way to the edge.
    well im guessing that the binding somehow came unglued-if you will-
    unlikely it was both the neck and body tho at the same time

    assuming that being the case-somehting came unglued-

    then perhaps someone decided the two should match -and both body and neck binding were peeled off

    there is a ledge for the binding-and strips of rosewood could easily be fitted-once the routed ledge was cleaned of old glue

    and RW would take glue and adhere better than plastic binding-

    once fitted and glued it is nothing to scrape them perfectly flush

    im guessing that the top was reshot -thus no visisble binding from dead on straight

    gold looks similar to that used by gibson in the early 70s-and could be original
    but then i dont understand why the binding would be visisble from straight on

    btw -the binding imho is brazillian-the cutaway portion sure looks like it to my eye

  17. #17

    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by Stevedenver View Post

    could someone tell me what the 1st fret inlay represents? i see an Lp-ish guitar, with 3 knobs with a explorer like lower bout protrusion-and i know this isnt right-what is it?
    Steve,

    I saw in the inlay something close to what you did too. I went as far as to take the image and put it into Photoshop so I could submit the shape to "similar image" search engines. I got nothing.




  18. #18

    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by Stevedenver View Post
    well im guessing that the binding somehow came unglued-if you will-
    unlikely it was both the neck and body tho at the same time

    assuming that being the case-somehting came unglued-

    then perhaps someone decided the two should match -and both body and neck binding were peeled off

    there is a ledge for the binding-and strips of rosewood could easily be fitted-once the routed ledge was cleaned of old glue

    and RW would take glue and adhere better than plastic binding-

    once fitted and glued it is nothing to scrape them perfectly flush

    im guessing that the top was reshot -thus no visisble binding from dead on straight

    gold looks similar to that used by gibson in the early 70s-and could be original
    but then i dont understand why the binding would be visisble from straight on

    btw -the binding imho is brazillian-the cutaway portion sure looks like it to my eye
    Steve,

    I thought the same thing at first about the binding until I found the seam where they blend the binding in with the fretboard. The binding gets progressively thinner along the top side until about half way between the 6th and 7th fret. Somebody very masterfully cut the rosewood to match one of the grains so that the seam lined up and was nearly invisible. You can see the binding separation all the way up to this point if you are looking straight on from the front.

    Above that, it is all fretboard, no binding at all. On the cut-away side of the board, the binding stops between 11 and ten, where again, they matched the edge with a grain.

    As for the species, I agree: both the fretboard and the binding are Brasilian. In fact, I got rather excited about that and proclaimed it loudly when I first saw the guitar in person.

  19. #19
    Les Paul Forum Member j45's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    It's a cool guitar with some unique personalized features and if it plays good and sounds good, that's all that really matters. I would put heavy money (if I was a gambler) on a definite refin with some old after-the-fact luthier custom work. The masking marks at the fingerboard, control cavity, and especially the pickup rout in the larger photos are very "non-Gibson" of any era regardless of special order or not.

  20. #20

    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by j45 View Post
    It's a cool guitar with some unique personalized features and if it plays good and sounds good, that's all that really matters. I would put heavy money (if I was a gambler) on a definite refin with some old after-the-fact luthier custom work. The masking marks at the fingerboard, control cavity, and especially the pickup rout in the larger photos are very "non-Gibson" of any era regardless of special order or not.
    Agreed. In fact, I found a divot on the top just left of the bridge pickup's upper left corner a hole that might be an old screw point for the early 70's "goof rings" that were so common on these.

  21. #21
    Les Paul Forum Member j45's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    $1500 is still a great deal for that the guitar regardless of what may have gone on in its past. Congrats!

  22. #22

    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by j45 View Post
    $1500 is still a great deal for that the guitar regardless of what may have gone on in its past. Congrats!
    Thanks a lot. I thought the same. My heart of hearts would love for this to be one of those one-offs with all this stuff having been done in the factory, but logically I know none of that really matters.

    This is likely my best sounding Les Paul and also my least expensive. The funny thing is, in terms of value, I paid inverse amounts.

    '78 Wine Red Standard - $1850 in '08
    '80 Tobacco Burst Deluxe (dead mint) $1650 in '10
    '74 Gold Top - $1500 in '10.

    Go figure.

    I'm up to 7 Gibsons (8 if you count my '65 Epiphone Olympic, which is just a "back door Gibson"/Melody Maker in disguise). I don't really need / want for anything more.

  23. #23

    Re: Strange Bird

    My guess is that the inlay is supposed to be half skull/half guitar. It's most clear in the 4th picture down in the original post.

  24. #24

    Re: Strange Bird

    Gee, I hope not. ;)

    To me it seemed sort of Picasso-esque. I can see the edge of a guitar, but the rest of it is just abstract as hell. Unless somehow, someday, the original owner sees this, I don't think we'll ever know.

  25. #25

    Re: Strange Bird

    So... Jay, the owner of Emerald City Guitars here in Seattle, says that the wiring may indeed be original, as might the finish. He looked at the guitar for a minute, I talked to him, and then he picked it up and marveled over it for maybe 10 minutes.

    He said they would likely have to dissect it further to be certain, but it's not unlikely.

  26. #26

    Re: Strange Bird

    well it is unique-
    and as said

    if it sounds and plays-its great-

    congrats there is no question its special and
    play it in good health

    thanks for the info on the blend-i didnt first catch the width issue-perhaps the neck was shaved ???

    anyway its very interesting and nice looking


    i think its great you have a guitar that really is unique

  27. #27

    Re: Strange Bird

    Steve,

    I guess the thing is that all of this is speculative without the guitar in your hands. I'm trying to be objective as possible here using what I observe, not what I wish to be true. That being said, I considered a shave on the neck, but there's no evidence of that either.

    A) there appears to be no refinish done, evidenced by black light.
    B) there is no taper from the area above the upper bought to the neck indicating shave
    C) the "binding" extends up from the 22nd fret to above the 7th fret.

    At this point, I agree with you whole heartedly. The guitar is nice and interesting. The reason I'm discussing it is academic at this point. I enjoy this sort of thing quite a bit.

    Now, all that being said, let's get to the meaty stuff!

    I got to play it cranked loud today finally. I have a '63 Gibson GA-40T "Mariner" 25 watt amp as my main. This guitar sings. It has amazing harmonic undertones. The sustain is amazing. I can honestly say that I hear the difference between an ABR-1 and the later Nashvilles. That's probably the biggest difference.

    I'm sure the trans-tenon has a bit to do with the difference, but as somebody said on the MLP forum: "Long tenon? Short tenon? It's all the f*@#$ same when the drummer comes in."

  28. #28
    Les Paul Forum Member Billy Porter's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by sangandongo View Post
    Steve,

    "Long tenon? Short tenon? It's all the f*@#$ same when the drummer comes in."
    That was in Phil47uk signatures many years back. Wonder what happened to him ?
    You’re never alone with a schizophrenic

  29. #29
    Les Paul Forum Member j45's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by sangandongo View Post
    So... Jay, the owner of Emerald City Guitars here in Seattle, says that the wiring may indeed be original, as might the finish. He looked at the guitar for a minute, I talked to him, and then he picked it up and marveled over it for maybe 10 minutes.

    He said they would likely have to dissect it further to be certain, but it's not unlikely.
    Well, this is how we at the LPF have gotten our rep as a bunch of wise-asses but a vintage guitar store owner with no clue as to what he is seeing is more than par for the course. Just to be clear for sake of the data base and all keeping score, a blacklight is no help whatsoever in determining whether or not a guitar is refinished OR the age of a finish. It will ONLY expose relative differences of exposure to UV that one area of a guitar has received as opposed to another area on that SAME guitar. If a guitar is a total refin, it will indeed blacklight identical to any other original finish with equal exposure to UV....regardless of age.

    There are very clear masking marks in the pickup cavities among other places which indicate a second finish applied to the guitar. There is just no other explanation of why the break lines from one finish to another would be there. There appear to be masking marks all over the place....fingerboard, binding, etc.... something you won't find on an original Gibson finish. The control cavity and lack of matching clear coat on the ledges is another story altogether but also another indicator of non-typical Gibson factory original finish regardless of custom order of any era.

    Please understand that I'm not trying to cast bad light on this guitar. If it's nice like you say that is ALL that matters and from what you have said I feel like you have found a wonderful musical instrument. I believe the LPF's strongest offering to the internet is an unparalleled database of accurate, reliable information and photos in fine detal of a wide range of specifications for vintage Gibson guitars. We've seen plenty of special orders and factory custom work with a long list of features not typical to production models but until someone can point out documentation or give some kind of explanation for the sub-standard (for Gibson) work it should be considered non-original.

  30. #30

    Re: Strange Bird

    This is my formal apology to Zombiewolf: You were right, there is a crooked tuner or two. Sorry for being a douche. D and B are a little off.


    I thought I'd have a look to make sure it hadn't been replaced at some point, and that there weren't extra holes.





    Appears not to!



  31. #31
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    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by sangandongo View Post
    This is my formal apology to Zombiewolf: You were right, there is a crooked tuner or two. Sorry for being a douche. D and B are a little off.


    I thought I'd have a look to make sure it hadn't been replaced at some point, and that there weren't extra holes.





    Appears not to!


    No problem, I thought it was pretty obvious in the case of the D tuner. My question is, did Grovers come stock on LP's in the era of that guitar (70's, right?)?. I didn't think they came with Grovers till later. Of course, if this was a custom order or something maybe they could have been specified.

    Al

  32. #32

    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by zombiwoof View Post
    No problem, I thought it was pretty obvious in the case of the D tuner. My question is, did Grovers come stock on LP's in the era of that guitar (70's, right?)?. I didn't think they came with Grovers till later. Of course, if this was a custom order or something maybe they could have been specified.

    Al
    They did not come stock on Deluxes. They did come standard on Customs from '59 on. This guitar, while it is not a Les Paul Custom model, is likely a "custom" order, which is why I think that it has the TRC saying "Custom." The Custom model's TRC said all three words "Les Paul Custom" during this time period.

    It also shares the black colored control panel plates of a Custom, where Deluxes and Standards have the brown plates.

    LPs were all over the place from 68 to 76, after which they sort of stabilized. 68-69 was really erratic: long tenon, single piece necks transitioning to medium "trans tenon." By 70-71, the necks started moving to three piece mahogany. in 75, the neck went from mahogany to maple and the volute got bigger.

    75 also brought in the Nashville bridge, doing away with the ABR-1. That's the single greatest thing to affect tone, in my opinion, seconded by the maple neck.

    Anyhow... a lot of people hate Norlins. I find that they're no worse than modern Gibsons. You have gems and you have duds. I lucked out and have 5 gems and one rhinestone. My 60s Gibbos are consistent and nice. I don't own any Gibson younger than 80 though, so I have no experience there.

  33. #33
    Les Paul Forum Member D'Mule's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by j45 View Post
    Please understand that I'm not trying to cast bad light on this guitar. If it's nice like you say that is ALL that matters and from what you have said I feel like you have found a wonderful musical instrument. I believe the LPF's strongest offering to the internet is an unparalleled database of accurate, reliable information and photos in fine detal of a wide range of specifications for vintage Gibson guitars. We've seen plenty of special orders and factory custom work with a long list of features not typical to production models but until someone can point out documentation or give some kind of explanation for the sub-standard (for Gibson) work it should be considered non-original.
    What he said.

    '02 Gibson LP '58 CA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    Open your eyes, ears and mind.

  34. #34

    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by D'Mule View Post
    What he said.
    Way past that.

  35. #35
    Les Paul Forum Member kharrison's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by zombiwoof View Post
    No problem, I thought it was pretty obvious in the case of the D tuner. My question is, did Grovers come stock on LP's in the era of that guitar (70's, right?)?. I didn't think they came with Grovers till later. Of course, if this was a custom order or something maybe they could have been specified.

    Al
    Where's the serial number and made in usa....IMHO guitar has been refinned.

  36. #36
    Les Paul Forum Member Humbuck's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by sangandongo View Post
    Way past that.
    Probably because you seem to want to disregard what j45 says about your guitar not being original or a Gibson custom shop piece, even though he has a huge amount of experience with exactly such things.

    It's not an original finish. It's not stock. It has been modified at some point, and not by Gibson. It's not a custom order.

    Enjoy your guitar.

  37. #37
    Les Paul Forum Member D'Mule's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    Quote Originally Posted by Humbuck View Post
    Probably because you seem to want to disregard what j45 says about your guitar not being original or a Gibson custom shop piece, even though he has a huge amount of experience with exactly such things.

    It's not an original finish. It's not stock. It has been modified at some point, and not by Gibson. It's not a custom order.

    Enjoy your guitar.
    What he said.

    '02 Gibson LP '58 CA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    Open your eyes, ears and mind.

  38. #38

    Re: Strange Bird

    Yep. That's it! I'm not being objective AT ALL. Thanks!

    Serial number is there. So is the Made in the USA. If it's been refinished, fine. The # is 5XX887.


  39. #39

    Re: Strange Bird

    Just went to get a black light. The guitar glows like creamy radiator fluid. Even the top. If it was a refin, it was done quite a while ago. Still, this isn't a fail-safe test, as we should all well know, but it's a decent indicator.

    I'm still not completely convinced the top isn't refinished, but the back and sides are most certainly not.

    Whatever the case, it plays and sounds so different to my '78 and '80.

    Thanks for the mixed bag of responses. Until later.

  40. #40
    Les Paul Forum Member 27sauce's Avatar
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    Re: Strange Bird

    It should sound pretty different from a '78 or '80, it looks cooler too. Not anything towards you, but more so to myself, If that is not refinished I have to reevaluate what I think *I* know about old guitars and finishes...it just does not look like Gibson gold, looks mustardy/pasty yellow.
    Marc

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