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A tale of two Les Paul's - setup/mojo help?

RustyShackleford

New member
Joined
Jan 19, 2023
Messages
4
Hello all,

Long time reader/lurker here, i finally registered in hopes that you might be able to help me out with some set-up questions. My goal is to make my 2018 LP Studio pay more like my 1979 LP Custom. (I know it'll never be the same haha but i'm just trying to make the studio more enjoyable to play)





I'll try to make the story short and to the point...

My Dad bought the 79' custom used in 1984, and played it A LOT in numerous bands over the years...safe to say its been broken in nicely. It was his prized possession and took excellent care of it always.

In 2018 my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He loved his Les Paul, but he also always wanted a Strat. One day he said screw it, I'm buying a Strat...and i said yeah screw it I'm buying a Les Paul. We went to Sam Ash and my dad bought a New American Pro Stratocaster, and I bought a 2018 Les Paul Studio at the same time. I'm forever thankful for the memory of that day and playing our new guitars together. At the time i realized my Les Paul badly needed a set-up and the action was awful, but i figured I'll worry about it later on.

Sadly my dad passed not long after. I inherited his guitars. After that I just didn't feel like picking up a guitar for a long time.

Recently i started playing again, and i was reminded how terrible the set-up is on my Studio. I can't stress enough how perfect and low the action is on the 79' custom, it's by far my favorite guitar to play...but i don't always feel comfortable playing it. I'm a big boy but good lord the weight of that thing is insane, it just kills my back after a while. I scratch my head wondering how my dad played that thing for hours at a time and never walked like caveman after.

Most importantly though, aside from the weight, i'm terrified of something happening to it like accidentally dropping it etc... When i get the itch to play a LP i'd feel more comfortable playing my Studio which doesn't hold the same sentimental value to me.

Is there some secret mojo on my 79' custom that i just wont be able to replicate in terms of setup?

So on to the set-up of my studio...So far i have checked the neck relief which is good, i've adjusted the bridge so that my low E height is .06 and high E is .05 at the 12th fret.

My guitar left the factory with the low E at .10 and high E at .09.

I'm thinking my pickups are now too close to the stings since i lowered the action, can anyone tell me how close to the strings the pickups should be? I believe these are 498R and 498T pickups. Also how do i know when it is time to file or maybe i should upgrade the nut?

Any advice is appreciated!

Sorry for the long post, if you made it this far, thank you for reading my story.
 

charliechitlins

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 16, 2021
Messages
619
I've done a million set-ups and am still baffled as to why seemingly-identical guitars play differently.
If you do good set-ups, set the one you don't like the same as the one you do.
If you can't do it yourself, take both to a good tech and have him do it.
One of the main things contributing to feel is the frets.
If the fret height/width on the Studio is substantially (maybe even slightly, depending on how sensitive you are) different from those on the Custom, the guitars will never feel the same.
'79 Custom, eh?
Were those in the low, wide and flat on top fret years?
 

RustyShackleford

New member
Joined
Jan 19, 2023
Messages
4
I've done a million set-ups and am still baffled as to why seemingly-identical guitars play differently.
If you do good set-ups, set the one you don't like the same as the one you do.
If you can't do it yourself, take both to a good tech and have him do it.
One of the main things contributing to feel is the frets.
If the fret height/width on the Studio is substantially (maybe even slightly, depending on how sensitive you are) different from those on the Custom, the guitars will never feel the same.
'79 Custom, eh?
Were those in the low, wide and flat on top fret years?
Good point about the frets. That is a factor I wasn't considering for some reason...the frets are MUCH higher on my studio.

I'm not sure what they were like in 1979, i'm sure they've been worn down substantially over the past 40+ years of being played.
 

garywright

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 17, 2002
Messages
14,900
“Is there some secret mojo on my 79' custom that i just wont be able to replicate in terms of setup?”… the ‘79 would have a lesser ( 14 degree ) headstock pitch.
 

Big Al

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Joined
Apr 24, 2002
Messages
14,411
They will never play, sound or feel the same. Never! The Studio is a completely different animal, in every way. Always insist upon having a well set up guitar, before buying from a shop. That said, there is no reason it cannot be made to play and sound its best. Adjust pickups by pressing the strings down at the last fret and lower or raise the pickup so that each is under the string but not touching. Make sure they are clear of the strings. You can the adjust down only to balance for volume and tone.

Be honest in your ability to understand fully and execute a proper setup. Most folks I know fall short. Not saying you do, but the mojo is in the skill.
 

RustyShackleford

New member
Joined
Jan 19, 2023
Messages
4
They will never play, sound or feel the same. Never! The Studio is a completely different animal, in every way. Always insist upon having a well set up guitar, before buying from a shop. That said, there is no reason it cannot be made to play and sound its best. Adjust pickups by pressing the strings down at the last fret and lower or raise the pickup so that each is under the string but not touching. Make sure they are clear of the strings. You can the adjust down only to balance for volume and tone.

Be honest in your ability to understand fully and execute a proper setup. Most folks I know fall short. Not saying you do, but the mojo is in the skill.
Thanks for the advice! I'm far from an expert, but I learn a little more each day and with any luck someday I will possess the ever elusive mojo haha

One thing i can't stand is the glossy sticky neck on this Studio, I need to do something about it.

Let me ask you this; is there a preferred method of simulating a worn neck finish? scotch brite etc... I know this sounds absurd, but i'm not concerned with resale value because i'll never sell it. I'm only concerned with playability and enjoyment...But i also don't want it to look like complete :poop:.

I'm curious to hear your opinion.
 

charliechitlins

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Joined
Nov 16, 2021
Messages
619
#600 sandpaper.
Long strokes up and down the neck, light pressure, for about 10 seconds.
You are not removing the finish, just knocking off the gloss.
If you ever want the gloss back, it can easily be buffed back to a high shine.
Do not use steel wool unless you put the body in a trash bag and tape it up (it's not worth the hassle).
A zillion little splinters will come off and stick to your pickups, possibly shorting them.
 

RustyShackleford

New member
Joined
Jan 19, 2023
Messages
4
#600 sandpaper.
Long strokes up and down the neck, light pressure, for about 10 seconds.
You are not removing the finish, just knocking off the gloss.
If you ever want the gloss back, it can easily be buffed back to a high shine.
Do not use steel wool unless you put the body in a trash bag and tape it up (it's not worth the hassle).
A zillion little splinters will come off and stick to your pickups, possibly shorting them.
Awesome, thanks!
 

Big Al

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Joined
Apr 24, 2002
Messages
14,411
Thanks for the advice! I'm far from an expert, but I learn a little more each day and with any luck someday I will possess the ever elusive mojo haha

One thing i can't stand is the glossy sticky neck on this Studio, I need to do something about it.

Let me ask you this; is there a preferred method of simulating a worn neck finish? scotch brite etc... I know this sounds absurd, but i'm not concerned with resale value because i'll never sell it. I'm only concerned with playability and enjoyment...But i also don't want it to look like complete :poop:.

I'm curious to hear your opinion.
Scotch brite works great. Micro Mesh is my preference. I would not use 600 grit sandpaper. Gaining skill in setup is learning how each individual step effects and interacts with the guitar as a whole. Mistakes include improper nut and saddle slotting, proper truss rod adjustment for straight neck with little, little relief and adjusting action with truss rod. Reducing string angle over saddles by tailpiece adjustment or top wrap. Adjusting action by raising or lowering bridge, proper intonation adjustment using a strobe tuner etc., etc., etc.

Take it slow and ponder each step so that you understand exactly what each process does and the how and why of it. It is not as daunting and it's fun. The mojo lies in the understanding, use of proper tools and practice. Even things like fret leveling, profile, dressing and polishing can be easily learned and even full fret jobs if you find you enjoy this stuff.
 
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Dilver

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Feb 17, 2016
Messages
111
First off - good for you in trying to learn how to set up your own guitar. It takes experience, but you learn by trying and the only way to really get a set up that’s *just right* for you, is to do it yourself. Many people are afraid to try to set up their own guitar and bestow an almost mythical knowledge and skill set upon people who do know about guitars and proudly proclaim “their luthier does the best work”. No shame in knowing your limitations, but people shouldn‘t fear trying a few things. It’s a guitar, not a helicopter.

I’d suggest looking on YouTube as there are many videos detailing the set up process. There are generally 4 things that impact how a guitar plays: bridge height, neck relief, frets, tailpiece and nut. Your Custom came with lower, flatter frets that’s your Studio and years of your dad playing it have likely worn them down further. Chances are you don’t need to do anything to the nut of your Studio, unless there was a problem with how it was cut when you bought it. There’s a very good chance you might need to have your frets leveled and recrowned - frets wear at different spots depending on how you play and even many new guitars could use a fret level. A simple fret rocker will show you where frets are uneven. If you’re daring and you really want to get into it, you can try this yourself (everyone has to start somewhere). But know that this requires skill, experience and the right tools for the job. Otherwise, bring it to a skilled tech and they’ll likely include a set up as part of the process.

Your relief measurements are fine, but some guitars need a little more relief to play and sound their best. Don’t just go by numbers - every guitar is different. Also, don’t feel like you have to crank your tailpiece all the way down so that it’s flush with the guitar body. You want a little space between the edge of the bridge and your strings, and adjusting the break angle of the strings over the bridge saddles also affects how your guitar feels. A lot of people think you have to deck your tailpiece for maximum sustain, but some guitars really benefit from having the tailpiece raised a bit higher. Hope this helps!

p.s. You should play your dad’s Custom. I’m sure he’d want you to be playing it and enjoying it. And if you do break it, most things can be repaired to be as good as new.
 

SpencerD

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Mar 11, 2016
Messages
803
600 grit sandpaper is not a good choice. At all. ( I forgot to add IMHO and all that. )
 
Last edited:

charliechitlins

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Nov 16, 2021
Messages
619
Yeah. It's just not my thing.I'm probably not good enough to use it properly quite frankly.
This could be true.
Scotch Brite may be less aggressive and safer for the inexperienced.
This is why, when I suggest 600 paper, I'm sure to say it only takes 10 seconds.
You can't do any damage in 10 seconds.
 
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