Luxe Paul With Pickguard(s)

Here is the finished Luxe Paul with pickguards.

I’m a little conflicted about which I like better. I like the darker one because I hand carved it out of a sheet of material that is used in archtop guitars, it matches the binding and headstock, doesn’t have any screws, and seems a little more unexpected.  I like the redder one because it’s a Les Paul pickguard, adds color, and feels a little more finished.

Any thoughts?

Luxe Paul Assembly

I didn’t expect to assemble the Luxe Paul in one night, but when the body arrived after what seemed like forever, I was energized and motivated. One night was all it took for the basics. Fine tuning will be ongoing.

Glossy Finish

The pictures below show the body as it came from Warmoth. I just set some of the hardware pieces on top to see how much contrast there was going to be between the aged elements and the high gloss finish. If you look closely you can see how shinny it was, which I’m sure is why it took so long to get to me. Sadly for the people who did all of the polishing, I didn’t like the super high gloss finish because it made the rosewood look fake, as if the whole body was shrink-wrapped.

I sanded the body with 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper, then polished it with the finest grade polishing papers, which I think were also 2000 grit. It matches the hardware much better now, though I still have some detail work to do.

Neck, Selector, Bridge and Bigsby

After sanding away the hard work of the folks at Warmoth, I attached the neck, the pickup selector switch, and then the bridge bushings & ground wire. I needed to make sure the Bigsby was aligned correctly before I drilled the holes for its screws, and I needed to have the bridge in place so that I could use fishing line to gauge the string locations.

Control Holes

I also needed the Bigsby to be in place so that I could see how much space the control knobs needed. That part pretty much came down to guesswork. I tried to measure the location from the bottom and back of the guitar and map it to the pre-drilled control cavity, but it was very difficult to trust that the measurements were accurate. In the end I decided to drill one 1/16″ hole from the inside of the cavity to the outside, then used that as a guide for the other hold locations. I used a step bit to increase the size up to 3/8″. It made some finish flaking, but it wasn’t too bad.

There was more wood between the control cavity and the top of the body than I expected, and when I tested the depth, the volume knobs were barely visible. I noticed this was due to a little locking mechanism that sticks up on the potentiometers, so I cut a slot for these into the cavity. After doing that, the knobs came through with enough threads showing so that I could lock them in place. There wasn’t enough room though for the locking washers that came with them, and this is why I ended up not using the copper shielding. I didn’t want to add more thickness, even though in hindsight it would have been a negligible amount. If noise becomes a problem later it won’t really be too hard to take the controls out and add the sheilding.

Soldering

Ordering the pre-wired harness from MSSC was really helpful. I don’t remember intentionally requesting the 50’s Les Paul wiring configuration, but it’s interesting. It retains the high end as you roll off the volume, and drops the volume slightly when you roll off the tone. I think I might like it better with a darker set of capacitors, but I think I’ll keep it this way for a little while and test it out.

The wiring harness came attached to a plexiglass plate, and I used this to hold the pots in place while I soldered the pickups and selector. The coil-tap pickups made the wiring slightly more complex, but only added a new connection for each pickup. I left the labels on that came with the harness so it would be easy to update things in the future. I also left the length of the wire as it came from Lollar. There was plenty of room for it.

An oddly thick pick came in the order from Lollar, and it actually was very useful for reinforcing the shafts of the pots. The control knobs I have were screw-in, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t crush them when I tightened the screws.

Setup, Pickgaurd and Final Details

I got lucky with the soldering and things seemed to work after the first try. I’m still adjusting the relief, action, and pickup heights to find a good balance, but sounds are coming out of the amp, and that’s encouraging.

I expected I would need to make a custom pickguard, and I ordered some tortoise samples to gauge the color. Today I found a similar one in a Les Paul style, so I bought it and will try it out to see ifI get luck with the measurements.

In general the only real issue with the guitar right now is that its weight isn’t evenly distributed, and it doesn’t feel balanced. I think I might need to sacrifice the heavy volume and control knobs to see if that helps. Another option will be to replace the metal pickup rings with plastic. Aside from drilling holes into the back to weight-relief it, I’m not sure if there is anything else I can do about it.

What Would Joe Do?

Luxe Paul Neck Prep and Finishing

The replacement label for the Luxe Paul arrived on Monday and I applied it to the headstock the same day. It was much thinner than I expected, and was very difficult to align correctly. It dried quickly and when I looked closely, I saw many wrinkles in it. Thankfully I asked Greg if he experienced this too, because I assumed that I could cover the wrinkles with lacquer and sand them out, but Greg advised me to re-wet it and see if I could flatten it out. I gave that a try and it worked really well.  You can see the differences in images 3 and 4 below.

Once the label was fixed, I taped off the headstock and prepared to spray it with nitrocellulose lacquer. I ended up doing two sets of 4-5 thin coats. I didn’t want the headstock to be too glossy, and I think the lacquer was starting to buckle the label. You can see this in the “F” in Fendson if you look closely.

After letting the lacquer dry for 2 days, I installed the bushings and tuners. I used matte board and slip-joint pliers to press the bushing into place. I had reamed the holes to be slightly larger at the top, but it was still a tight fit.

These are vintage-style, aged nickel Kluson tuners that look a little dark in these photos, but match the other hardware I have for the guitar, and are the same ones that are on my telecaster.

The only things left to do is any secondary polishing, and then install the string Ts.

IMG_1366

 

Luxe Paul Neck

I got the Luxe Paul neck today and it’s very nice! The grain on the fretboard is beautiful, and the inlays are extremely precise. The birdseye maple is nice, too, although I probably might have liked regular maple a bit more. Those eyes are a little random. Probably just need a day to get used to them.

Overall, I’m very happy with it. The photos show a comparison with my tele neck. The fretboard is about the same size, but the scale is much different, and the Luxe Paul has an extra fret (even though it looks like two extra in that picture). The pictures near the end of the collection show the length difference when the base of each neck is side-by-side. At first I wondered about the way the neck was finished at the end, (straight across instead of rounded), but then I realized that is exactly how it should be to line up against the humbucker rings.

One thing I had forgotten about my order is that I got a vintage satin finish. I did that because I like the satin finish that came on my Martin’s neck and like how it gets polished as you play it. I guess I didn’t think about how this might affect the headstock, which does look a little too dull, especially when compared to what I assume will be a very shinny body. I’m not sure this is much of a problem though because I’ll need to lacquer over the label on the headstock and then polish it. The way it is now is essentially prepped for the label.

Whenever I get the new label. Because yeah, why would the label work out perfectly the first time?

2015 Luxe Paul

Greg and I are each building the dual-humbucker-guitar-of-our-dreams this summer, and this is a Photoshop rendering of mine:

Luxe_Paul

I’m calling it the Luxe Paul because it’s basically a combination of a Tele Deluxe and a Les Paul.

  • Les Paul elements: Mahogany body, HH configuration, Les Paul wiring and control placement, rosewood fretboard, pearloid neck inlays, scale, pickguard shape.
  • Tele Deluxe elements: Tele body shape, maple neck, Fender CBS headstock, 6-inline tuners, Bigsby
  • Custom Tele elements: Front and back binding.

I opted for a rosewood top instead of a maple one (like on the Les Paul) because I just thought this one looked better, and I thought the rosewood might add some nice tones.

It will have two Lollar Imperial pickups, wired for coil-tapping so they can be used in single coil mode. The flat tele body made it easy to use the Bigsby B5, but I needed to recess the bridge so that I didn’t end up with too much of a gap between the strings and the body.

I also got a 24 3/4″ conversion neck, to match the scale of the Les Paul. Custom label, too.

I’m happy with the way it looks, but there were many things I considered before landing on this design.

Whenever the body and neck show up (probably late June) I’ll have to do a little bit of work to get it read for the installation of the parts. The two biggest things I’m concerned about are the placement of the Bigsby, and drilling the holes for the knobs. The Bigsby is probably the most important thing, so I’ll likely be overly cautious about it. After that’s in place I’ll drill the knob holes to make sure there is enough room separating them from the B5 arm.

Here’s an example of the process for installing a Bigsby (though not the B5, but it’s essentially the same)

The wiring is also an area I’m anxious, but there are so many YouTube videos about how to do it that I don’t think there is any uncertainty about it. Here’s one from that guy who explained the capacitors:

When you think about it, the whole thing isn’t really that complex, and you can always just solder it again if you make a mistake. In the grand scheme of things, even if you had to redo the whole wiring it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, would it?

Maybe I’ll feel differently in early July.

MSSC Prewired Dual Coil Split Harness

I ordered this prewired harness from Martin Six String Customs (no relation to Martin Guitars) because I was a little nervous about wiring the Luxe Paul myself, and the parts they use are high quality. I’ll still need to do some soldering to connect the pickups and input jack, but those things seemed like they were going to be easier.

After studying it a bit closer, I don’t think wiring it together would have been a problem, but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have been able to make it look as nice as this.

Each harness contains:

(2) CTS 550K Premium Custom Audio Taper Potentiometers with 9% Tolerance for both volume positions. These are not your standard issue CTS pots.  These premium pots are spec’d at 550K to ensure that pots meter no lower than 500K.  These pots have a very responsive sweep and are metered for optimal placement in the harness.

(2) High quality US Spec 500K Push/Pull potentiometers w/ brass shafts (tone positions).

MSSC Vintage Series .015 / .022 Paper in Oil Capacitors made from NOS Mil-Spec PIO caps or optional Luxe Bumblebee .015 / .022 Reproduction PIO Capacitors.

Oxygen Free, Teflon Coated Hook-up Wire

Each harness is meticulously wired 50’s style and properly grounded with vintage correct 20AWG bus wire.

This harness allows you to split coils on both humbucker pickups.

 

You can read more about it on the MSSC web site. They make all sorts of prewired setups, not just in the Les Paul configuration.

Plus, how can you argue with Johnny Hilland?

Though that’s not the version I got. (It was a limited edition thing.)