Tim wanted a guitar with a familiar shape and with familiar features but he also wanted more. He wanted a chambered body so the dense sapele core is sigificantly hollowed out. He wanted a one piece figured maple top rather than the usual two pieces bookmatched. More than that he wanted the figuring to run diagonally across the body - which I think is a first. And he wanted the back to match and be carved like the front. So we had to find a suitable piece of figured maple big enough to do all this which was quite difficult. It had to be big enough to cover the top but also even bigger than that so it could be rotated through 45 degrees to get the figuring to run diagonally. Eventually we found the maple you see here in Portland, Oregon. I was able to make the top thicker than normal which allowed for a deeper carve that enabled me to make a re-curve (the dished edge round the top) which, I think, is much sexier than the standard carving. I was able to repeat this on the back and also make the control compartment covers from the same piece of maple. The neck is fairly normal, glued into the body, made from quartersawn sapele but with a scarf jointed headstock. The ebony fingerboard is without face markings. The gloss finished sunburst was chosen to match another guitar I had made for Tim a few years ago.
The bridge and stop tail are standard but the tuners are back locking Schallers. The pickups are Bareknuckle Mules in a calibrated set - this means the output is correctly balanced for neck and bridge positions. Controls are what you might expect with the addition of a pull switch on the neck volume control which reverses the phase on that pickup so it is possible to get the 'Peter Green' sound when both pickups are selected together.
Tim has taken a classic design and added to it. So how does it all work? First it is much lighter in weight than you might expect from it's size due to the hollowed body core. It is easy to play and very sensitive which I think is helped by the Mules. This is the first time I have used these pickups and I like them a lot. Unplugged it has a pleasing resonance, plugged it this helps it to produce controllable feedback at very low volumes from any fret. It also sustains for weeks. All the classic sounds are there and then more. It is a great rock machine. It looks good, it plays beautifully, it sounds amazing and it is original. What more could you want?
After I wrote the above Tim sent me his initial thoughts on the guitar. So here, with his permission, is what he had to say.
This is what I found out so far:
The guitar is acoustically surprisingly resonant, especially when compared to the "real" Gibson Les Paul. There is a high end shimmer that lasts throughout the sustain which sounds absolutely incredible. It is a big difference when compared to the usually bulky and rather dull sound of a Les Paul. Plugged in it does sound like a Les Paul, only with a more balanced range, but with sustain to spare. The Bareknuckles are a rare find: sweet, soft, ballsy or all-out rock, they seem to do it all. Just for future reference: the pickups do struggle a bit with modern high gain amps, like Boogie Rectifiers or other metal-orientated things (the unpotted construction makes them feed back like crazy*). Luckily that's not my cup of tea, so I don't mind!
The 10" radius is a bit unusual for this design, but it feels like the perfect match to me. The guitar is very easy to play, the bulky neck is wonderful, and the string spacing allows nicely for picking and hybrid picking. Hardware is top notch too, these locking tuners should be a standard feature on any guitar!
And as for the looks... This one turns heads faster than any other guitar! Other players eyes pop out when they see the top (and once more when they see the back!). The recurve around the edges looks great, as well as the flamed maple covers on the back. Details like this clearly show that you never cut corners when it comes to building a great guitar. You also managed to create what I think is the ultimate "Les Paul but no Les Paul"-headstock. I've looked at dozens of designs for Les Pauls, from ESP to Heritage. I think your take on it is probably the most tasteful I've seen. It even pleases the real Gibson nuts!
I'm taking the guitar on stage this weekend for the first time, but I have no doubts that it will perform great. The last electric you built for me has served me on (litteraly) hundreds of gigs as my main guitar. This one will probably do just the same!
* you can get the Bareknuckle Mules potted as well.