How to Build a Les Paul Style Guitar the HARD way

By Jon Tirone

(Also known as John Fisher)


I wanted to share a bit of a history of the LP guitar I just built. You will probably see some techniques and ideas that are a little strange and others that are very strange but all I can say is it worked for me. There are even some methods and the use of certain materials that I wouldn't recommend but I needed to resort to because of my circumstances and conditions. This will be enough to make any experienced luthier cringe.
I live in a country where many ideal materials and guitars parts don't exist. I also didn't have a lot of money so these adversities have caused me to do a lot of experimenting . As they say, "Necessity is the mother of invention".

I had very little of the basic tools and I had NO shop to work in. I was found working away at my guitar in various locations of the house that were non conducive such as the laundry area, the pantry or sometimes a table in the back yard. I say these things to encourage people that they don't have to have everything perfect to accomplish something. The following pages are not necessarily a complete step by step manual for building a Les Paul but I waned to at least stimulate some inventive ideas and some of the lessons I've leared.


Like I said, I had very little of even the basic tools. To have all the right tools is also expensive. In theory, you can build a guitar with just simple hand tools but having some power tools will help speed things up a great deal and in many cases help you to do a better job. Fortunately I had the use of circular saw, a router, belt sander and an electric drill. I also have a little "Dremel" high speed drill which was very helpful.

I didn't have any large clamps for gluing the body together so I went to the local hardware store and got some 1/4" threaded rods with nuts to make my own simple devices to clamp things together.

Another example is that I didn't even have a simple cabinet scraper, which is vital for such projects so I just cut up some small pieces of glass for scraping which worked really good. I also did a lot with my trusty "Swiss Army knife".

I didn't have a band saw to cut the shape of the body so after drawing the shape I just cut off pieces with a normal hand saw, then I belt sanded it to the right shape.

As you read through the following pages I'm going to mention many other examples of unconventional methods. Hopefully you (the reader) who endeavors to tackle such projects will in many cases have better tools and working conditions. It is my hope to at least inspire a little ingenuity.

Philosophy behind of Project

To tackle such a project is quite a learning experience. I think that more then even skill, your patience gets exercised to the limit. It's very time consuming and trying to see quick results will usually cause setbacks.

"The hair never made it but the tortoise did"

" It takes God time to make a tree, a sunset, or even a blade of grass"

It takes a lot time to plan the project and to just even figure out what kind of guitar you want. I wasn't really sure at first and was leaning toward making an SG style but eventually gravitated to a Les Paul style. Unfortunately, you are sometimes limited by the lack of money you have or the availability of materials and tools and even time.

Agostino D'Antonio, a sculptor of Florence, Italy, wrought diligently but unsuccessfully on a large piece of marble. "I can do nothing with it," he finally said. Other sculptors too, worked with the piece of marble, but they, too, gave up the task. The stone was discarded. It lay on a rubbish heap for forty years. Out strolling one day, Michelangelo saw the stone & the latent possibilities in it. It was brought to his studio. He began to work on it. Ultimately, his vision & work were crowned with success. From that seemingly worthless stone was carved one of the World's masterpieces of sculpture--"David"!

It takes a lot of just plain hard work but even the many mistakes made along the way are a tremendous learning experience. I learned that although a lot of things take time it is important not to let petty details impede progress and always try to see a way to get past the problems by looking for a better way to do it.

I would like to thank Paul Gambon who helped me with a lot of info. He has made some really impressive guitars. Also I would like to thank the people over at "Ampage" who I pestered with many questions. Another great place where the people are very helpful and where you can learn just about anything you need to know about building and reparing strings instruments is "The MIMForm."

While I'm at it I would like to thank My wife Shawne and my son Isaac for putting up with me in all my shenanigans and God most of all who through his love gives us all things.

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