I finally got to talk to the mysterious Over the Pond Guy about his world renowned Les Paul Replicas. I also got to have a good rummage through his templates and even some actual original parts that he had (pictured below). This project is one of the most exciting I’ve worked on and certainly tested our CAD skills and CNC programming to another level.
You may think that the carved top would be easy to draw and is symmetrical, a similar shape across the sections of the body, right? How wrong you would be. Before I started building a 3D model of the body I asked Over the Pond Guy whether anyone else that he knows of is making this carved top body? His answer was “yes”…."but none of the ones he’s seen are exactly correct”
It’s a very complex carving and while copying his patterns I asked him to check it throughout all the stages of the process, needless to say he rejected the copy a few times before I got the all clear!
The photographs below show parts from an original 1954 Les Paul (the one in two halves) and a 1955 which is the complete top. I believe it would not be possible to copy this carve without an actual original to copy. I also included below a couple of CAD views taken during the process. I also grilled him on a little Les Paul history….
In the early 1950's, popular guitarists Les Paul and Mary Ford began the idea of capitalising on their success and inventiveness by licencing the Les Paul name to a guitar manufacturer. After visiting Fender (where Les was given a 1951 Nocaster), Larson Brothers, and others, a deal was negotiated with Gibson. Gibson was not at first prepared for the amount of input Les intended to give to the guitar designs but over the years the partnership proved to be extremely fruitful.
The first design was the Ranger which closely resembled the later single cutaway Les Paul Junior but with a screwed on neck and different pickguard design. Is it a coincidence that the first design had a slab body the same thickness and width as the Fender Telecaster, with two control knobs in exactly the same position, and a bolt on neck?
It was quickly decided to adopt an arched maple top and two extra control knobs and after the first few guitars a glued neck joint and flashy gold finish completed the Gibson Les Paul design which debuted in 1952.
The slab body flat top Les Paul resurfaced as the budget priced Les Paul Junior in 1954.
Les Paul’s and Mary Ford’s own guitars always featured custom modifications such as DeArmond pickups, bridge modifications and unusual control configurations.