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  1. #1

    Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Hi all, while I normally concentrate on '50s/'60s Gibson guitars to restore, with a particular focus on '50s Les Paul 'Burst' conversions, I wanted a cool single cut with vintage features to keep as a beater, yet still with enough nerd value to satisfy my inner (and outer) geek.

    I hope the mods will indulge me, as while this is a vintage MIJ, the veneering process is relevant for early goldtop conversions, and while the process has been generally scorned, the results are really compelling, and I feel a totally valid alternative to retopping.

    With this in mind I sought out one of the estimated only 500 Greco EGF1200 Super Real Les Paul's hand made in Japan between '79-'81, with BRW boards, supposedly old Honduran Mahogany bodies and the infamous 'DRY Z' PAFs made using NOS '50s PE wire.

    While the bones are all one could want from a vintage Les Paul, the construction deviates in the fact the body is multi piece, the finish a kinda poly/nitro hybrid, and the top a very thick cross banded laminate veneer:



    This example was greatly reduced in price as the top was severely cracked, so I immediately about removing it, hoping to reveal an acceptable centre seam (if plain) solid maple cap, but while it initially appeared that'd be so, it was actually a 5 piece block board..









    I decided to try and make the most of what I had, and sanded and bleached in order to even out the pieces, but it just wasn't acceptable for the sunburst I had in mind:






  2. #2

    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    I briefly toyed with shooting a translucent cherry, but I've never been a great fan of that look, so decided to attempt fitting a killer flame eastern maple veneer I've had saved for a couple years, and rigged up a vacuum bag press Wacky Races would be proud of..

    I used hide glue for a brittle and super thin bond, and was really pleased with the results:



    I moved on to finishing with vintage correct pure nitro and aniline dyes, and aimed for a NOS '59 cherry sunburst, to fade naturally over time.

    I started with a golden yellow base coat:



    Then onto the burst:



    I built up the lustre and colour with amber clears, and it's now ready to hang and cure before polishing out and assembling ready for ageing:





    The veneer flame shifts in the light, and has all the depth of a solid top, and you'd not know to question it in hand from appearance alone, and I'm really pleased with the result.

    I intend to keep this as my beater, but the success of this process gives me confidence to consider veneer tops for really trashed '50s conversions, and there's really no reason to have anything short of spectacular results regardless of the original condition of the guitar.

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member AA00475Bassman's Avatar
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    WOW nice work !
    Ive never confused owning a bunch of high end gear with being some kind of a guitar player I'm a hack and I love guitars !

    He thinks the mirror is a photo of a clown ?

    The Myth: Neat wiring layouts always equate to great-sounding amps.

    The Myth: If I would have lived with MOM & mooched till I was 48 I would play like Clapton !
    Think about it
    won't you ...... Please !

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member sws1's Avatar
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Super cool, Yuuki.

    Did you have to carve the veneer? Any pics of how that gets put on and cut?

  5. #5

    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Thanks guys!

    I traced the outline of the veneer with some slop for shrinkage, razored it out then vacuumed it with a very primitive improvised vacuum press, glued with hide glue for a really thin/hard bond, plus as it's a mere 0.6mm thick I actually saved 4oz vs the old 3mm cross banded laminate.

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member Progear's Avatar
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Great work Yuuki
    Music for me.

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member sidekick's Avatar
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    You have a talent, Yuuki ...


  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    That is so cool !

    Just think, 20 years from now,

    When ALL the goldtops are gone !

    You'll still have work !

    Converting these back to goldtops !

  9. #9

    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Thanks for the positive comments guys! This has been a slightly more labour intensive job than usual, but very gratifying

    Here it is mocked up:



    And after some fading:


  10. #10
    All Access/Backstage Pass Wilko's Avatar
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Very nice work! Looks great!

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member MapleFlame's Avatar
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Stunning. Back in the 80's and 90's I had a huge collection of Greco and Tokai LP's. The high end ones were great. Yes those Greco pickups were really good.
    Top carves are sexy

  12. #12

    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Thanks guys!

    Here it is fully complete




  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    wow, trully excellent !!!

    a small question, how do you ensure that the veneer does "sit on top" of the binding, do you sand it down towards the edges, or do you use the existing ledge created by removingthe previous veneer ?

  14. #14

    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Thanks man!

    I removed the original binding intact, then made the centre joined 'top' slightly oversized for the substrate, then trimmed it to exact size once attached and re-fitted the binding- pretty logical and intuitive IMO

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member J.D.'s Avatar
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Wow, the result is absolutely amazing. That is some fine work there; you should be very proud

  16. #16
    Les Paul Forum Member pinefd's Avatar
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Absolutely amazing, Yuuki...as are all your projects, it seems! I always look forward to seeing your threads and watching you bring new life to old guitars with issues.


    Frank

  17. #17

    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Thanks Frank! That's high praise indeed coming from one of your talent and skill

  18. #18

    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Hi Yuuki, that is incredible! I forgot your handle actually, sorry if my question and reply to you on the other forum was a bit formal!

    Is it me or do old Grecos have a slightly more pointed or slimmer horn than say an old
    Tokai? I can always spot a Greco by that lower horn.
    ................................
    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.


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


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

  19. #19
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Great job , Bravo !

  20. #20
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    MUCH BETTER! Nice work!

  21. #21
    Les Paul Forum Member Stow's Avatar
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    Re: Veneering a vintage 'Les Paul' vs retopping.

    Great work.. love the colour.. yes

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