Mini Les Paul
I’ve been GAS-ing for a LP style guitar for a long time, but couldn’t justify getting a 4th guitar. So I got an idea – why not make a travel-sized LP guitar that I can take with me and pack it easily. With new baggage limits I can’t afford to take a full sized guitar, but something smaller and lighter would be perfect. At first I wanted to get a GFS travel guitar that resembles LP, but has only bridge pickup and is made in China. I’d rather pay a bit more for parts and have my father build it just as I want it with high(er) quality parts and better wood.
What did we shrink?
I wanted to keep the playability of a full-sized guitar, so scale length is left untouched – full 24 3/4 inch Gibson scale. Body on the other hand was not very important, so I shrinked it to 80% of the original and much thinner to save weight. It is not chambered however. Headstock was also shrinked to under 80% of the original. Enough to hold all the tuners, but not much bigger. Also, I got rid of separate volume pots and used a single master volume pot. Tone pots are removed completely, since I rarely use them anyways. To save even more weight, I got rid of the tailpiece and used string through body ferrules. They look cool and probably transfer string vibration to body better than a tailpiece.
To reduce the cost I decided not to put a maple cap, so it’s all mahogany. Also, fingerboard inlays are synthetic pearloid I got from eBay. Having a real mother-of-pearl there would bring the cost up but wouldn’t look *that* better. However, headstock inlays are genuine pearl.
To make it easier to (dis)assemble and make the joint sturdier, we used threaded solid brass inserts in the neck that take neck screws, so no wood will be damaged if I take it apart too frequently. Without that improvement, threads directly in mahogany would be ruined after just few times. Also, I got a bike-style allen bolts for the neck. They can take more abuse then phillips screws.
The body is two piece mahogany, but very nicely matched. Looks almost like a single piece. The neck is three piece mahogany for stability and with a rosewood fingerboard and headstock plate. To compensate for high bridge, the neck is angled at 3.5 degrees as the original and the headstock is tiled at about the same angle as the original. Headstock inlays are done with laser engraving machine. I scanned the mother of pearl letters obtained from eBay, vectorized them and put together the logo to feed the laser.
- Two piece mahogany string-trough body
- Three piece mahogany bolt on neck with ’60s thin profile
- 24 3/4 inch rosewood fingerboard with LP trapezoid inlays
- Buffalo horn nut
- StewMac LP-style medium fret wire
- DiMarzio 36th PAF covered pickups
- Gotoh tune-o-matic bridge
- Gotoh tuners
- 3-way LP switch
- Single DiMarzio 500K Volume pot with black speed knob, no tone pot
- Kinman-style treble bleed circuit consisting of a 1nF PIO cap and a 130K resistor wired in series
- Switchcraft output jack
Trying to keep cost and complexity down, I opted for a simple rub-on oil finish. Both body and neck are stained with LMII brown wood dye, then oiled a few times with Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil and finally finished with Birchwood Casey Wax. This finish is inexpensive and easy to apply and offers smooth, silky feel. It’s kinda like Gibson’s Worn Brown finish. The only downside is that it takes few weeks for the smell of the oil to go away. It doesn’t smell anything like paint, and it’s not very nice.
This may well be the ultimate travel guitar 🙂 It’s pretty light and easy to pack yet it sounds and plays like a full sized guitar. PAF 36th pickups may not be vintage correct in terms of construction mojo, but they definitely have that classic LP vibe, maybe a tad hotter. They are very versatile and can cover anything from blues to metal. Cleans are rich and beautiful and crunch is organic and raw. With some amp settings it can have that “fixed wah” sound and artificial harmonics are fairly easy to get. I was slightly concerned that it will be too bright due to the lack of tone control, so I prepared a 470K resistor and 22nF cap as a fake tone control. But it wasn’t necessary, it feels like it compensate for the warmth of all mahogany body without the maple cap. It’s bright but not shrill, and an LP should be somewhat bright 🙂
I didn’t like the way lower volume settings made the tone muddy so I installed a god old Kinman-style treble bleed circuit I have on all other guitars. It made the tone stay pretty much the same across the travel of the volume pot.
Oil finish is very comfortable and smooth, like a well broken-in neck. I like the fact that neck surface is not perfectly flat as with lacquer finish, but you can feel the pores. It’s kinda nice, feels like a ribbed cotton shirt 🙂
Update (April 2013)
I decided to upgrade the tuners because I love stability of my other guitars with double locking systems, so I got a set of Hipshot open-gear locking tuners. They look very cool with open brass gears and feature 18:1 ratio which is very smooth and precise. Also, their string posts are about 3mm shorter than normal, so you get more string tension without the need for string trees. Visually they are more period correct for an LP because pegs are somewhat triangular shaped, so they resemble Kluson-style tuners, but smaller and less flashy. I’m very happy with the upgrade.
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Click on a thumbnail to play the video on YouTube.
Mini LP MK2 (Dec 2014)
- Oversized headstock
- StewMac Golden Age pickups in HSH configuration
- Custom 6-position wiring
Oversize LP Custom headstock
Mini LP MK3 (Nov 2015)
- Flame maple top over chambered mahogany body
- Double cutaway body shape
- Oversize LP Custom headstock
- Red burst finish
- Cream binding on body, neck and headstock
- Wraparound bridge
- Gold hardware
- StewMac Golden Age humbucker set
- No controls other than pickup selector switch
- Non-detachable set neck