Unusual Custom Shop Les Pauls and More!
By Mike Slubowski


(CLICK IMAGES to view LARGER VERSIONS)
 

This article is a bit different than others posted on the Les Paul Forum, in that it does not document historical aspects of various Gibson Les Pauls, but rather describes some unusual instruments. It is a bit risky, in that guitarists tend to be pretty traditional when it comes to their axes. For Les Pauls, many die-hards believe that the only “real” Les Paul is a classic ’59 style, cherry sunburst flame top. But from time to time we hear from Les Paul Forum members who have interest in unusual Les Pauls. So, inspired by this interest, we are providing a profile of some unusual Custom Shop instruments. A few are “one off” Custom/Art models, and others are limited production models.

“Gunstock” Les Paul

This guitar is a one-of-a-kind art guitar that was conceived by Steve Wilson, formerly of the Gibson Custom Shop, based on his love of guns and guitars. It is a very unusual Les Paul in that the neck is made of seven layers of mahogany, walnut, and other woods, and is shaped and finished to look like a gunstock. The neck does not have a binding, in keeping with the gunstock theme, with an ebony fretboard. The unusual volute completes the look. The neck is very deep and comfortable to play. The neck width is a bit narrow at the nut (1.5 inches) and widens down the neck, but does not detract from the playability of the guitar. It is painted in a custom brown burst color that is also quite unique. This guitar has many custom features, including a combination of gold and nickel hardware, an engraved “Custom” in the stop bar, “Les Paul” on the truss rod cover with a 335-style inlay in place of the “Les Paul Model” logo, a tortoiseshell pick guard with white outline stripes, carved walnut volume and tone knobs, black multi-layer binding, abalone neck inlays, a carved inlay work flower in the wood back plate, “Les Paul” engraved on the nickel selector switch back plate, Grover tuners, and a Custom Shop logo. The guitar is equipped with 490/498 Alnico humbuckers. The unusual multi-layered neck contributes to the hefty weight of this guitar, at 10 pounds. It sounds great and plays effortlessly.

 

P-90 Quilt Top Les Paul
This guitar is a one-of-a-kind custom order from 2001, which was inspired by another one-off Les Paul with similar but not identical features. It is made with a breathtaking deep quilt top that is perfectly symmetrical on both sides. The guitar is painted in a tri-burst color, with special instructions that were given to the finisher to keep the outer dark color ring thin and translucent in order to show off the magnificent quilt top from edge to edge. The unusual combination of features for this guitar include chrome P-90s, Telecaster-style machine knobs for volume and tone controls, long neck tenon, large 1958-style neck, Nashville bridge, wide binding in cutaway, and Les Paul Standard-style plain truss rod cover. This guitar is extremely light weight, at 8 pounds 4 ounces, and is a joy to play.

Les Paul Florentine, Birdseye Top, No F-Holes 
This guitar was part of a limited run in 1996, and is unusual in that it is a Les Paul Florentine model, with sound chambers, but no f-holes. It is one of the few Les Pauls in recent years that has a spectacular Birdseye maple top, finished in a light cherry sunburst (almost orange burst) color. The back of the guitar sports beautifully figured mahogany. The guitar has a vintage style serial number and sports gold hardware. The pickups are ’57 Classics. It weighs in at a modest 7 pounds 12 ounces. It has the familiar hollow tone of a Les Paul Florentine model. It is slightly neck heavy given the light body and large LP Custom-style headstock.

Firemist Quilt Top Les Paul Standard 
Made in 2001, this guitar is another one-of-a-kind guitar custom order, with an unusual combination of features. It has a remarkable and deep quilt top that is finished in a very translucent Firemist color. This instrument has specifications that align more with a Les Paul Standard, including wide binding in the cutaway and Les Paul Standard-style plain truss rod cover, but it also has reissue features like a long neck tenon and ABR-1 bridge. It is equipped with ’57 Classic pickups, gold hardware, and Grover tuners. The guitar weighs 8 pounds 12 ounces.

CS 336 Custom 12-String Prototype 


What’s this guitar doing in an article on Les Pauls? Remember, the title of this article said, “…and More!”

This guitar is a prototype instrument from Gibson Custom, weighing in at a modest 7 pounds 12 ounces. It has Gibson mini tuners that are styled after Schallers. Unusual features are the long, flamed headstock to house the 12 tuners, with white Gibson logo. The color is a magnificent orange burst, with a beautifully wavy flamed top. Given the light weight of the guitar, combined with the long headstock, it is neck heavy. However, its ’57 Classic pickups, combined with the hollow body/solid body properties of a CS-336, combine to make a great sounding guitar! Think The Byrds and Roger McGuinn’s 12-string with a bit more punch! The nice thing about this guitar is that the string spacing is wider and more playable than that of the famous Rickenbacker models. This guitar came with a special-order black Custom Shop case.


ES 175 Custom Vine 

Another one-of-a-kind guitar designed by Steve Wilson, this instrument is a true work of art. It has three ’57 Classic pickups, and many custom features, including unusual brown burst color, flamed top, a wood pick guard with scrimshaw work, carved inlay work vines on the side of the body, abalone vine inlay on the neck and headstock, and abalone binding. It has the classic warm, full-bodied tone that one would expect from an ES-175.

I hope that this mini-tour of rare, custom Gibson instruments is enjoyable for at least some of our readers as a change of pace. Now, for the traditionalists, rest assured that we’ll be back to documenting classic Gibson models in future articles!



Mike Slubowski is a Gibson enthusiast, collector, player, and author, with a special passion for Gibson Les Pauls. He is always interested in learning new things about the details and history of Gibson Guitars. Please contact me at MikeSlub@aol.com.

This article and photos are property of Mike Slubowski. No part of this article may be reproduced without the expressed written permission of the author.

© 2006 Les Paul Forum All Rights Reserved