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  1. #1

    52-59 Burst Conversion

    I scored this 52 Goldtop a couple weeks ago off Ebay and am doing a conversion to 59 Burst specs.




    The guitar has a 70's neck and it has to go. I first remove the fingerboard by using a heat blanket. Next I get the depth of the neck and mark my drill bit with some tape.


    I need to bore several holes along the glue line so I can steam out the neck. Check out the added shim in the neck pocket.


    Before I steam the neck I strip the finish around the neck joint and with a razor blade I break the joint.


    Add a little steam..


    And the neck pops right out

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member MapleFlame's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Good thing is, you saved the neck and can resell to restore a 70's Norlin. LOL. Yeah look like a great project. Will be interesting to see what's under the hood, I see a little flame with the finish off by the mortice.
    Top carves are sexy

  3. #3

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Those long tennons are always fun to get apart...
    Cool project! Keep us posted.

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member pinefd's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Alright, another conversion project! I love these, Jim! Can't wait to watch this one unfold.


    Frank

  5. #5

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    I went into this project knowing I was going to do a retop. I know some of you think this will have a negative effect on the tone. IMOP the majority of tone is from the mahogany. The mahogany Gibson used in 1952 was some of the best tone woods. So off with the old top. First I'll run it thru a planer.


    And then finish it off with a drum sander.


    This is what a 52-53 body looks like. Notice the ground wire channel that runs into the control cavity.


    I'm going to plug the P90 routes and other holes with some mahogany. I use a jig and router and then glue some mahogany into the routes using hide glue.



    I also glued some mahogany into the neck pocket so when I route out for the neck I have a nice tight fit.



    Here is what the end looks like from the trap and bigsby.


    While the top is off I'm going to do a repair to hide the 3 holes made from the original trap. I use a sharp chisel to notch out a small section. I'll leave the 2 extra holes made from the Bigsby and plug them with some mahogany.


    End plug looking good.


    I have 500 bd ft of Michigan flame maple that was harvested in the 80's. I have been saving a top for myself for a special project. The top is vintage looking but off the charts in color, flame, 3-D.... First get the hide glue ready to go.


    New top glued and clamped

  6. #6

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Continuing on with the new top. I trim the maple with my OH pin router.


    I always thought my 1957 Goldtop has a great top carve.


    So I made a dummy blank to use with my builds.


    I use the dummy top carve blank to carve the new top.


    Ten minutes with a sander and the new top is looking good.

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member kharrison's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion


  8. #8

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Damn, you work quick!

  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member Ryan Givhan's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    wow amazing. i cant wait to see the rest of the project!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. #10

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Sweeeeeeeeet!

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member Red Baron's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Cool thread, thanks for sharing your progress.

  12. #12

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Great stuff - very interesting to see how you are doing this - thank's for sharing it. That top looks great!!
    ................................
    When you have the same guitar (or pedal, pickup, or amp) that your favorite player uses to play that music and make those sounds, you know that piece of equipment isn't part of the "problem", and you can either move on to blaming the next piece of gear or get down to playing and seeing if you can really do it.


    ...............


    ...............

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member PLarson's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    I can't tell you how impressed I am!

  14. #14
    Burst Detective! zorglub!'s Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    REALLY impressive project, thanks for sharing.

  15. #15

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Jim: I can't wait to see the final product!

    Jim
    You can play a Les Paul, but you can't play a Van Gogh!

  16. #16
    Les Paul Forum Member Coda's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    A fascinating project. I wish I had your skills (+ home wood work shop !).

  17. #17

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Thanks for all the kind words. Yesterday I worked on the neck angle and pickup plane. I use a 1.2 degree for the pickup plane and a 4 degree neck angle just like my 1960 Burst.



    To get the exact 4 degree angle I use a jig that I made. It's basically a box with a piano hinge at the one end. First I set both sides to a 4 degree angle.




    Next I take a router mounted to a piece of 1/2" plywood with a 1/2" x 4" straight cut bit and pass over the neck area of the body.


    The end result is a perfect 4 degree neck plane.

  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Member kharrison's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Let's see some more pics of the burst

  19. #19
    Formerly dmartinez rufes's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    great job dude!

    Thanks for sharing
    Old guitars please

  20. #20
    Les Paul Forum Member sapi's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Amazing! Thank you for this interesting project info!
    ~ Shanti ~

    "Without the buzz and the feel, we can go to sleep..."

  21. #21
    Les Paul Forum Member Slashburst's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Man, can´t wait to see the final act!
    God Gave Les Paul to you!


  22. #22

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Great job capturing the process..Thx
    Nice to see the ability and tools you have.

    ( FWIW-I pick up a screwdriver and a voice comes out of the sky ..and says:
    "Roger, Step Away From The Screwdriver)

  23. #23
    Les Paul Forum Member MapleFlame's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Yes it's alotta fun to watch your builds and very interesting to see how it's done. This was a good candidate for restoration. I know this is your guitar to do what you want, but I will be again contraversial. I actually liked the top you had on the guitar over the current retop. I thought the character of the great flame with the center plain was cool. If you look in that top pic, the out side sections is about as good as it gets for flame. Yes everyone wants a center seamed Burst to look like the real deal, but for me I really like what it had. It had great character. I also disagree about the maple that was on there, it's amalgamated to the Mahogony as one and think it has taken away from the tone. As the 52 mahogony, I do agree with being the best from the 50's, I also think the maple from that era was equally as great.
    Here's the pic again. No doubt the guitar will come out great. Wish ya the best bro.
    Top carves are sexy

  24. #24
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    +1 re the comment about keeping the original top My '56 conversion shows nice, matched flame over 80% of the top and then birdseye or blister maple for the remaining, thin sliver of the top. Someone suggested routing out that section and trying to match to the larger, flamed portion but I wanted to leave the original wood intact...

  25. #25

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by MapleFlame View Post
    I thought the character of the great flame with the center plain was cool. If you look in that top pic, the out side sections is about as good as it gets for flame.
    Quote Originally Posted by RAB View Post
    Someone suggested routing out that section and trying to match to the larger, flamed portion but I wanted to leave the original wood intact...

    The pic I used was to show the process and was from my last conversion. I forgot to take a pic of this top after I stripped it. It was a 3 piece with top with two of them being being dark brown and no flame. If this guitar would have had a top like the last one I would have kept it and inlayed a center piece to match the outside ones.

  26. #26

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Jim, I really enjoy these threads that you post, so educational!

  27. #27
    Les Paul Forum Co-Owner Tom Wittrock's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Are you going to retop the 60 next?
    Pauls to the walls!

    Hüter der Flammen!

    PLEASE SUPPORT www.burstserial.com !!
    Click here: www.burstserial.com

  28. #28
    Les Paul Forum Member Patrick Ginnaty's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Not that I know much, but "conversion" must mean something different to different folks. To me, "52-59 conversion" implies replacing the bridge with a TOM/stop tp, installing PAFs and refining (I used to own a "52/59 conversion"), but using the body wood to build a guitar around with new top, and new neck isn't, in MY mind, a "conversion".

    I admire your woodworking skills, but don't really like this project at all.

    Sorry, no offense intended... just sayin'.

  29. #29
    Les Paul Forum Member slammintone's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Ginnaty View Post
    Not that I know much, but "conversion" must mean something different to different folks. To me, "52-59 conversion" implies replacing the bridge with a TOM/stop tp, installing PAFs and refining (I used to own a "52/59 conversion"), but using the body wood to build a guitar around with new top, and new neck isn't, in MY mind, a "conversion".

    I admire your woodworking skills, but don't really like this project at all.

    Sorry, no offense intended... just sayin'.
    This is more likely a re-top conversion. Looks to be top rate work going on and then some. I'm glad I checked this thread out and cought a glimpse of this level of craftsmanship. Can't wait to see the end result.

  30. #30

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Ginnaty View Post
    Not that I know much, but "conversion" must mean something different to different folks. To me, "52-59 conversion" implies replacing the bridge with a TOM/stop tp, installing PAFs and refining (I used to own a "52/59 conversion"), but using the body wood to build a guitar around with new top, and new neck isn't, in MY mind, a "conversion".

    I admire your woodworking skills, but don't really like this project at all.

    Sorry, no offense intended... just sayin'.
    Patrick:

    I guess you may have missed where Jim stated he will be installing a real 1953 Neck on this? I bet it will be a wonderful sounding guitar once it is done.

    Kudos to Jim for what he's doing on this one as it will again be a mostly 50's wood Les Paul! Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if the top is from an old plank of maple!

    Jim
    You can play a Les Paul, but you can't play a Van Gogh!

  31. #31

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by kharrison View Post
    Let's see some more pics of the burst


    Quote Originally Posted by TW59 View Post
    Are you going to retop the 60 next?

  32. #32

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    One of the coolest features of a vintage Les Paul is the top carve. Why cancel that out with a retop. The work may be skilled but this guitar will forever be a retop. Many people have done them and there will be more I'm sure. But there was only one original top for that guitar. If you are skilled enough to pull off a convincing retop then you might as well start from the ground up rather than shave off the last 3-D carved surface of this guitar.

    I get people that want me to rewind perfectly good Paf's. So far I have convinced all of them to say no to a rewind. If the pickup is dead sure rewind it as needed. If it is so heavily potted that you hate it well maybe a case can be made to rewind it. But otherwise do a magnet swap, try it with another guitar, another position, sell it. But why do a destructive operation to a vintage piece when there are other reasonable alternatives? I think this guitar falls into that category.

    I have converted my 52' to a wrap tail. So I get the desire to have a vintage guitar that you own fit the bill. And I get the DIY ethic if you have the skills. I make violins and do my own repairs. I could do a retop as it is basically a take on a violin top. But I think a retop needs to be reserved for repairing catastrophic damage.

  33. #33
    Les Paul Forum Co-Owner Tom Wittrock's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by boogieongtr View Post



    And with the magic of a nice angle photo, the 60 Burst [seen in post #17] magically becomes a flamey "retop"!



    Pauls to the walls!

    Hüter der Flammen!

    PLEASE SUPPORT www.burstserial.com !!
    Click here: www.burstserial.com

  34. #34
    Les Paul Forum Member au_rick's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    dam, I wish I had access to all those tools

  35. #35

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Boogie on Guitar,
    I think you're doing the LPF an honor by sharing this project. And it takes a set of balls to keep sharing, in spite of the nay-sayers. It's your guitar. Many of us can tell by your impressive skills, that the choice you have made "with YOUR guitar" will come out fantastic. Good luck & please keep us posted! It's looking absolutely killer!

  36. #36
    Formerly dmartinez rufes's Avatar
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by TW59 View Post
    Are you going to retop the 60 next?
    yeah, I would convert the 60 into a 52 goldtop


    A 60/52 conversion. That would be something....
    Old guitars please

  37. #37
    bigsby'd
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    .
    Last edited by bigsby'd; 06-20-14 at 08:07 PM.

  38. #38
    loufed52
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    I wouldn't retop it. No matter what, the old wood is gone from the top.

    If a center seam was that important to me I'd veneer the top- it's far less destructive.

    The other modification that bothers me is the end plug.

    It seems like a shotgun approach to a fly swatter problem.

    I think that the rectangular plug looks far worse than doweling the small holes and making a round patch (or section of dowel) to cover the damaged area.

    Your woodworking/guitar repair skills are top notch, but I fail to see the merit in this approach.

    I'm a project builder/repairer too, but this was a fine guitar to begin with.

    I'm sure that the finished product will look nice, except for the rectangular end plug, but I doubt that it will be a better vintage LP than it would be with just a vintage neck on a minimally repaired body.

  39. #39

    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Wow, a lot of vitriol in some of these posts.
    You can play a Les Paul, but you can't play a Van Gogh!

  40. #40
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: 52-59 Burst Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by bigjimsguitars View Post
    Wow, a lot of vitriol in some of these posts.
    +1

    I'm usually very much for the reverence of the old wood, the old guitars, vintage, don't booger with it, etc., etc., etc. ............. In other words, don't mess with early 50s goldtops and other unmolested 1950s guitars that are still basically unmodified. Don't strip 50s Gibsons for PAFs, wiring harnesses, ABR-1s, knobs, tuners, etc., to put on your Historic.

    In some cases like this, where "the cows are already out of the barn", the rules are different. 1970s neck, refinished, non-original bigsby, etc., GO FOR IT. It's a player, so make it an awesome player.

    BTW, thanks for sharing.

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