Mini Les Paul

Background

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.

Build Plans

Full guitar blueprint (A0 paper size)
Body only blueprint (A3 paper size)

Make sure that printer doesn’t scale the page when printing.

Construction

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.

Parts list
  • 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
Finish

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.

The outcome

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.

Pictorial

Click on an image to see more details.

Video Clips

Click on a thumbnail to play the video on YouTube.

Click here to list all 2 related video clips.

Mini LP MK2 (Dec 2014)
Inspired by my Mini LP, a customer ordered another one with few modifications:

  • Oversized headstock
  • StewMac Golden Age pickups in HSH configuration
  • Custom 6-position wiring

Oversize LP Custom headstock

Mini LP MK3 (Nov 2015)
We are particularly proud of our third Mini LP built for a customer. It was inspired by my original Mini LP but with many custom touches requested by the customer:

  • 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
Comments
17 Responses to “Mini Les Paul”
  1. Christian says:

    Wow!
    Do you make mini-guitars also for sell it?
    I love your Mini Les Paul! 😍
    I want it!

  2. Angelo says:

    Hi Bancika,

    inspired by your les paul, being a strat player, i managed to get a neck and body and sawed the guitar to shrink more on the style of grassroots pickup guitar. it actually is 32.2 for total length keeping 25.5 scale intact… vs epi les paul express 3/4 size at 39 inches. may i please ask, for your mini, what is its total length from head to the end of the body? have you tried to ride the air plane and hand carry it? did you still have to disassemble? also, in your original design, any chance a tone control with treble bleed can fit in by widening the cavity?

    thank you…

    • Bancika says:

      I don’t recall exactly, but my blueprints are 1:1, so if you open them in Corel or Acrobat or other vector-based software, you should be able to measure any distance (I don’t have any software at the moment).
      I did carry it on the plane but disassembled. I was able to carry full sized acoustic and electric guitars, but it’s not guaranteed they would let you carry it on board, that’s why I built this to be easy to take apart and back together, so I don’t have to worry. And yes, there probably was room for tone control, I just didn’t want it 🙂 Ultimately, you can use concentric stereo pot for both volume and tone.

      Cheers,
      Bane

  3. Gav says:

    Look up Eddie Van Halen’s mini les Paul. Got it in the 80,s and recorded a song called “Little Guitars” (get it 😉)

  4. Awesome! I totally want to do this. Do you have a part list?

    Thx

  5. Brent says:

    Super super nice job man

  6. Troy says:

    Impressed. I am a professional luthier, and want to lend a very very large applause to you on this build. This is q true family heirloom….. take much care of it.

  7. ahicar says:

    Hi, i’ve been drooling over your project for months. This is my dream guitar in many ways and when i have the funds i would like to build something similar. Being a Les Paul guitar player for many years, have to say that’s its biggest defect is the weight of it, which you solved by making it smaller. Also red wine is my fav color, been thinking of selling mine for a while just to get the same guitar on that color (currently mine is gold flake colored).

    But more to the point. i’m very interested in your neck mod. you mention that it is possible to disassemble the neck. what’s your experience with this so far? I’m interested in building a replica of your project and use it as a travel guitar, ideally stored on a modified violin case. Do you think assembly/ dis-assembly of the neck would work for several cycles effectively?.
    (btw many thanks for sharing the plans)

    • Bancika says:

      Yeah, you can remove the neck as many times as you want with no damage to the wood because screws go in the metal, not the wood. Wood is drilled just that you can fit the screw without wiggling around, but since it’s a screw for metal it will not thread the wood because it’s fine threaded.

  8. Radu says:

    Hi,
    Great work.
    How it feels when you play it?
    It is balanced with the strap on?

    • Bancika says:

      It’s better than any other guitar for playing in the sofa or something, but it is a bit head heavy when strapped.

  9. Andy says:

    Hi
    I am a complete Les Paul Fan and I am extremely impressed with your mini Les Paul.

    One question is how did you create the arched body of the LP body in the photo body4.jpg.

    Another question is have you ever considered selling the pre-shaped mini Les Paul body and Les Paul neck as a kit to be used to allow people to make their own Mini Les Paul. Would be great for people like me who do not have access to routers and access to woodworking skills. Electronics I am fine with.

    If you decide to sell the the pre-routed mini LP body and neck I would buy one.

    Thanks for your time
    Andy

    • Bancika says:

      Hi Andy,

      thanks for kind words. I think my father used standard old school hand methods to arch the body – chisel and sanding. No fancy CNC or anything like that. I’ll ask my father how long it would take and how much it would cost to do woodwork for one of these and I’ll email you with the estimate. Would you need frets and inlays installed as well? What about the finish? Also, bear in mind that I’m in (eastern) europe and sometimes it takes 2-3 weeks for a package to arrive across the pond 🙂

      Cheers,
      Bane

  10. Chris Devlin says:

    Hi,
    I am impressed with your mini Les Paul. Can you make the body and neck left handed?

    Here’s hoping,
    Chris

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    The idea behind this site is to share my experience with Do It Yourself approach to guitars, amplifiers and pedals. Whether you want to save a couple of bucks by performing a mod or upgrade yourself instead of paying a tech, or want to build your own piece of gear from scratch, I'm sure you will find something interesting here. Also, this is the home of DIY Layout Creator, a free piece of software for drawing circuit layouts and schematics, written with DIY enthusiasts in mind.