Building a lightweight Les Paul guitar
A while back a regular customer of mine, Paul, approached me about the possibility of building a lightweight Les Paul style guitar. Paul has a Les Paul, but like many a Les Paul it is very heavy and therefore quite hard to gig with for any length of time.
There are a number of factors that make a Les Paul a heavy guitar. These being; the overall thickness of the body, the choice body woods (mahogany and maple) and the thickness of the maple cap.
It was actually Paul’s suggestion that we build the guitar using cedrela, also called Spanish cedar, instead of mahogany. Length for length cedrela is somewhat lighter than mahogany. Incidentally, cedrela is neither from Spain nor is it cedar wood!
And so the full specification was agreed and the build began.
Here is the full specification for this guitar:
- Cedrela body and neck
- Chambered body
- Flamed maple top
- Zirocote fretboard with mother of pearl inlays
- Stainless steel fretwire
- Grover locking tuners
- Tonepro bridge
- Lindy Fralin pickups with maple surrounds
- Gloss finish
As the build progressed, I was keen that this guitar was not a straight copy of a Les Paul but had a few touched that made it more of a custom guitar. So, faux body binding was used instead of plastic binding, maple pickup surrounds were made, zirocote was used for the fretboard instead of rosewood and the rear control covers are wood instead of plastic.
In order to reduce the weight of the body, I chambered it. Once that was complete the body weighed 3Ib, which is very light for a guitar body. At one point I was concerned that the guitar might feel unnaturally light for this type of guitar. But once the maple cap was added this was not the case.
The choice of colour for the flamed maple top was Paul’s. I have to say I think it looks quite stunning. During the spraying process, tinted lacquer was used to give the body and neck that light brown/honey look.
So what was the final weight of this guitar? Well, with all the components fitted this guitar weighed 7 pounds 12 oz or 3.5 kg. I guess that is comparable to many a Strat or Tele. When it comes to building a lightweight Les Paul guitar you can’t overlook the fact that the maple cap, which is 20mm thick in the centre section of the body, does add a lot of weight. I think if you wanted to make a Les Paul style guitar that was much lighter than this one, you would have to reduce the thickness of the maple cap. But this would changed quite significantly the traditional carved top of a Les Paul.
That said, this guitar is still lighter than any Les Paul I have picked up and, importantly for Paul, the guitar is light enough to gig with without having to see a physio the next day!
I have made a 3 episode series about the making of this guitar;
- Episode 1: Making the body
- Episode 2: Making the neck
- Episode 2: Staining, spraying, polishing & assembling the guitar
If you would like to discuss the possibilty of me making a guitar for you please feel free to CONTACT me