Les Paul Gold Top Copy

Repair LoG Les Paul Gold top copy SN: xxxxxxxxx ‘Made in U.S.A’ actually made in China

14/08/17 Copyright reserved Terry Relph-Knight

Supplied fitted with a set of 0.009, 0.010, 0.016, 0.023, 0.030, 0.040 strings ? With a black hard case branded ‘Gibson USA’.

Value – £90?? Weight – 3.2kg. 7.054lbs.

This guitar is not a re-branded knock off, rather it is a fake, as it attempts to look like a genuine Gibson gold top Les Paul. On a cursory glance from a few feet away it is surprisingly convincing. The owner did not tell me how much he paid for it, but it was obviously not a lot of money. As delivered this guitar had not been carefully assembled or set up. The interesting thing is that, once the various problems had been fixed and the set up adjusted, it became a really fun guitar to play. It felt and sounded good and had a charm all its own. Initially this was a rush job as the owner wanted the basic problem with the output jack fixed before leaving the country for a few weeks.

Repair Log, issue 2, – Les Paul Gold top copy SN: xxxxxxxxx ‘Made in U.S.A’ actually made in China


Body – Made of mystery wood, certainly not mahogany, hard to tell how many pieces (one join line is visible at the edge of the body). The exposed wood surfaces inside the guitar are quite pale – it could be poplar or pawlonia. Overall the guitar is very light weight for a ‘Les Paul’. Gold top with cream binding on the top edge. Back and sides in a very dark red translucent finish. The back of the guitar appears to have a mahogany like veneer across it to disguise any joins in the body pieces

The carved top is almost certainly two or more separate pieces Carving / sanding is a little crude in places – there is a gap under the top edge of the bridge pickup.

Neck –  Also mystery wood. Cream binding on a quite black fretboard, again of mystery wood, but has the appearance of something between ebony and rosewood (possibly black dyed). 22 flatish jumbo frets. Quite sharp fret ends. Moto flared parallelogram fret markers.

The serial number and the Made in U.S.A have been laser cut down to the wood through the finish. A technique that Gibson has never used. The headstock is not quite the right shape, it is too narrow. It does have the ‘Gibson’ logo inlaid on the headstock in abalone shell and Les Paul model in the gold script (actually does not look quite gold, it is more of a dull yellow). Very crudely cut and too small truss rod ‘bell’ cover with Les Paul STANDARD roughly hot stamped in silver. Moulded plastic nut, obviously not Corian.

Hardware – Crude copies of the Gibson Deluxe / Kluson tuners with rather grey ‘green’ plastic tulip head buttons. Spacing and fitting of these tuners is quite sloppy. Two open top black bobbin humbucker pickups with flush steel poles in each pickup (no adjustment screw poles) and probably ceramic magnets. Chrome plated copy of a Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge with chromed zinc saddles. Bridge posts are 6mm with slotted screw heads. Chrome plated stop bar – screwed down as far as it will go to the body. Gold bell knobs. Rather yellow moulded plastic elevated pick guard.

No internal screening paint or screened cables. Very crude disc around the pickup switch with RHYTHM and TREBLE seemingly dyed in to the surface. Strap buttons have a very shallow flare.

Problems – A wire to the output jack has snapped. The jack socket itself was loose and had probably rotated, snapping the very flimsy connection wire.

The low E and the G tuners are loose on their attachment screws. The tuner post push in ferrule for the G string is loose in its hole.

Generally sharp fret ends.

With the strings removed was possible to see that the rear side of the plastic nut was quite rough where the strings slot had been hacked into it.

Last minute problems with high and low frets above the 12 fret.

Work done – Unsoldered the jack socket completely and cleaned up the solder tags. Fitted a toothed lock washer to the jack socket, tightened the retaining nut onto the jack plate and then dabbed on some clear nail varnish to the nut and threads on the outside to inhibit future loosening. Cut back re-stripped and tinned the connecting wire and re-soldered the connections to the jack socket. Screwed the jack and its plate back onto the body.

Plugged in the guitar to check for proper function and playability.

Second phase of work done – Hammered down the high threaded bridge insert, so it is at least flush with the top of the guitar. Removed the two loose tuners, plugged the over large screw holes with toothpicks and superglue. Glued in the loose G ferrule with a dab of super glue and refitted the tuners. Cleaned and polished the fret board and frets, including smoothing down the fret ends.

Rubbed down the rough spots on the nut and cleaned up the string slots with nut files and then ‘flossed’ them with the old strings coated in metal polish to polish the string slots.

Converted the existing stop bar bolts into a ‘poor man’s’ locking system by cutting off the bolt collars with a mini-hacksaw and supporting the stop bar on a stack of steel washers (instead of a neater looking Faber spacer).

Re-strung with the D’Addario NYXL 10 to 46s. Set up the action and set the intonation.

Fret problems – hammered down and smoothed various high frets above the 12th. At first G 15 was high then D has 15 low and 16 high. String buzz on the D string only at the 15th fret.

Third phase – 29/11/17 Filed and polished frets 16 and 17 so all the frets in that area read level. Changed the D string, which I had damaged in my haste to hammer down fret 15, and was still buzzing even with the frets levelled.

Diagnostics – All the electronics in this guitar are of low quality and the wiring is rather elementary. The control potentiometers are the small 16mm diameter case types and the pickup switch is the low quality ‘box’ type rather than a leaf spring switch.

The bridge is set up at an angle with the bass side higher than the treble (9mm bass and 6.5mm treble – from underside of the bridge end to the top surface of the body). The treble side thread insert has not been pressed all the way into the body, it sits about 1mm proud of the surface.

Tuners have quite a lot of backlash in the gears (the tuner on the D string in particular).

On closer examination while re-stringing the low E and the G tuners are loose on their attachment screws (the two small screws that fit through the tuner ears on the back of the headstock). This is because at least one of each pair of screws isn’t threaded into wood – they are just spinning in an over large hole and the press in ferrule on the G string tuner is loose and will just fall out. Loose tuners do not help with tuning stability. Tuner spacing is quite irregular, particularly for the high E tuner which is spaced away from the other tuners.

The stop bar bolts are rather short – only 18mm to the lower collar.

Intonation as delivered

In this test (with the old strings) each string is tuned exactly to pitch and then the pitch at the fretted twelfth fret is measured. The results are the error from the perfect octave, in cents.

E +5

A 0

D +18

G 0

B +3

E +2

Tuning stability

In this test, each string is tuned exactly to pitch and then the length of string between the tuner and the nut is depressed until it touches the headstock and then released. The figures are the change in pitch in cents following this test.




G +10

B +15

E +10

Intonation adjusted for zero error and tuning stability much improved after the nut slots were polished.