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Conversion or not?

keef

Active member
Joined
Jan 27, 2002
Messages
5,005
I need some advice guys. The nice TM conversion on Ebay got me thinking - many of us see a humbuckered fifties Les Paul as the ultimate guitar. For those who can’t or don’t want to pay the price of an original one, a conversion is an interesting alternative.

But what’s the best way to do this? For getting as close as possible a ’55-’58 P90 goldtop would be the best choice – bucker that sucker and yer done. But most will never consider this – messing with a nice unbroken original is considered wrong, market value may decrease, and you still end up paying big $$ anyway.

A more popular option is to start with an ‘issues’ 52/3, hopefully with the increased neck angle that does not require a reset. I see people buy a fifties carcass with unknown sonic quaIities, refin (and sometimes even retop or veneer), reset the neck, drill for buckers and the rest, slap on fifties parts, pay of lot of dough in the process all in the hope that their guitar will sound as good as a great burst. I wonder if that is realistic.

To me it seems like an expensive crap shoot. If the purpose IS ultimate tone, wouldn’t you need to begin with an already great sounding guitar, and keep it intact as much as possible in the conversion process (meaning no resets or refins, no matter how expertly done)? Or a safer option – buying a completed conversion that sounds terrific. The other approaches to converting a guitar seem to make less sense to me – but I would like to hear the experiences of those who have gone through this process.

I’m asking because I am considering to either go the conversion route, or to just forget about buckers and buy a nice unbroken ’52, put on a Glaser tailpiece and wail away. :jim
 

bluesforstevie

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Jun 20, 2002
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12,771
If your object is to have a conversion that sounds like a burst...then I would get a guitar that is as close to 1958-60 as possible.

Even though the early 50's Gold Lesters were fabulous sounding guitars, I think most of them sound different than bursts....even if they were made initially the same way...I think the wood sounds a little different. So, even if you get the best candidate, and have the neck reset perfectly and get a fantastic pair of PAF's etc. they'll sound different than a burst. Just my opinion.

However, there is something...somewhere in the DNA of old 50's Gibsons that make them sound like...well....like 50's Gibsons and this is why I'd choose a conversion with PAF's 9 times out of 10 over the best replica. I don't think it is such a crapshoot. Most 50's LP's sound KILLER!!!

So....yeah. Get a slightly boogered 53 that doesn't need a reset and some appropriate electronics and hardware...a set of PAF's and I think you're closer to a burst than anything 'cept a later Goldtop or a burst itself.

If I had a chance to do it again....I would've kept my 52 Lester stock instead of resetting the neck and just had the 54 as my lone conversion.
 

Wilko

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Mar 11, 2002
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20,191
There was a 56 conversion on ebay recently that was seriously picked on here for some reason a couple of weeks ago.

I got a refin '56 last spring on eBay for a very good deal that I quickly put humbuckers (PAFs) in and bursted.

I can't imagine a better way to "Burst tone".
 

DANELECTRO

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Joined
Feb 24, 2003
Messages
6,254
I've had my share of some very nice Historic '58/'59 reissues and I'm interested in stepping stepping it up a notch with a conversion. I've been keeping my eye open for either an existing conversion or a good conversion candidate. What baffles me a bit are the prices of conversions, some as high as $37K. On the other hand, I've seen three all original unbroken '52s that have recently sold in the $9K range. If you take any other vintage guitar, rout it, refinish it, and swap out its parts, its going to be worth less than half its original value, yet if you've done the same to a '52 Les Paul in order to make it look more like a burst, somehow it increases substantially in value? I prefer not to modify a virgin '52, yet it sounds like it might be the most economical way to get there. I could pick one up for $9K, probably recover $1K-$1.5K selling off the parts I don't need, and then sink a little money into a neck reset and humbucker rout and I'm there. A big advantage is that I would have control of the process and wouldn't have to deal with hidden issues, bridges/tailpieces improperly located, etc. I'm not in any big hurry, so I'm just watching what's out there until I figure out what makes sense.
 

J.D.

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May 24, 2006
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9,908
I'd consider doing a full-blown Historic Makeover with a set of real PAFs. That can also get you there :jim
 

johnnyslim

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Oct 4, 2001
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1,129
I have a pair of 1952 goldtops converted to PAF guitars. Both are loaded with late 50's parts and PAF's in both. Both have neck resets to best accommodate the ABR-1. I would not hesitate one second to put these guitars up against any legit Burst for a tone comparison. Myself and friends have A/B'd my conversions against Burst's and I have only found one guitar that equalled mine and it was a 1957 goldtop.

I realize all guitars are different and I have a small pool of Burst's to compare to but, with regard to weight, tone, and playability, my conversions are their equal. Dollar wise...no contest, but you are asking about tone in the original post.

Today, I would not convert a "non-issues" goldtop. My Lentz conversion was done in the 90's when conversions were not so widely known. It was also a time when '52 goldtops were cheap...mine was $1260 with original case. My last conversion was already headed down the conversion trail by BurstMeUp when I bought it. I just completed the work.
 
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bluesforstevie

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Jun 20, 2002
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12,771
I'd consider doing a full-blown Historic Makeover with a set of real PAFs. That can also get you there :jim

Ok..at the risk of raising the ire of folks, I've got to say that I have NEVER EVER heard any historic sound like 50's wood Les Pauls. If you know of one, please let me hear it!!
 

J.D.

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May 24, 2006
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9,908
With the full-blown Historic Makeover and a set of PAFs you can get there tone wise on a good sounding guitar to begin with. I think most everyone but the extreme vintage snobs will agree. True, it will never be a '50s 'Burst, (but neither will a conversion) :jim
 

bluesforstevie

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Jun 20, 2002
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12,771
With the full-blown Historic Makeover and a set of PAFs you can get there tone wise on a good sounding guitar to begin with. I think most everyone but the extreme vintage snobs will agree. True, it will never be a '50s 'Burst, (but neither will a conversion) :jim

I don't think so. YMMV JMO
 

RAB

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Mar 17, 2005
Messages
2,113
I'm super happy with my '56 standard to PAFs and all cherry red finish conversion. It sounds and plays as well as any of the four 1959-60 sunbursts and two '57 PAF goldtops I've owned over the years. And it sounds WAY better than the '04 R9 I had with all 1950's parts. Old wood is where it's at and a '56-'57 P90 goldtop is a good conversion "mule", eh Wilko? Having owned/played both, the difference in tone between an all 1950's parts Historic and an all 1950's parts conversion is mainly in the richness of tone and the overtones IMHO...and the so-called Burst "double-tones"...
 
Y

yeti

Guest
I’m asking because I am considering to either go the conversion route, or to just forget about buckers and buy a nice unbroken ’52, put on a Glaser tailpiece and wail away. :jim

Seems to me that you have already identified the best option. :salude

That, or buy an already existing conversion. leave the remaining P-90 GT's the way they are.
 

MapleFlame

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Jul 3, 2005
Messages
14,034
Here's my take, as I explained this to a fellow forum member, it's great to buy a conversion already done as it's already there, but I enjoy putting my stamp on things such as paint scheme, aging, pots,pickups,parts, bridges etc... I consider it my guitar after the work. That 52 that had the broken headstock would have been a nice start, at 5250.00.
 

viking LP

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Jan 10, 2009
Messages
270
I don't know but i wouldn't like to buy a guitar with playability/intonation issues,so,i would probably avoid a '52 GT.But my late'53 with a wrap-around bridge (not a original) and PAF's is simply the best sounding LP i ever played or heard.I bought it as is, a long,long time ago.If i could get involved in the process,though,i think i would love to work on a conversion project..It must be great fun !
 

FlamingTop

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Nov 23, 2006
Messages
361
I could pick one up for $9K, probably recover $1K-$1.5K selling off the parts I don't need, and then sink a little money into a neck reset and humbucker rout and I'm there. A big advantage is that I would have control of the process and wouldn't have to deal with hidden issues, bridges/tailpieces improperly located, etc. I'm not in any big hurry, so I'm just watching what's out there until I figure out what makes sense.

This is what I did with my GM 52 conversion. Knowing that I wouldn't need the P90s anymore, I sold the set and used the proceeds to help fund part of the conversion process. (They weren't killer sounding anyway.. the bridge was thin and weak sounding and needed to be rewound)

This much I can say though ... If those p90s sounded awesome and had I known of the Glaser mod already back then, I would have stuck with the Glaser mod and kept it a 52! 52's can souund kick ass awesome. Ask Mr. Urban hehe

Dan D, I'm with you on the 54! I sold off my conversions to buy myself a 54 conversion that had a top only refin. Apart from the top only refin and the routing for buckers, everything on the guitar even the neck angle is original to the guitar. The original serial number is still even on the guitar. It has 50's / 57 parts on it (but no PAFs yet as I ran out of dough LOL)! But so far, based on the soundclips I've heard of it... it seems like my unicorn!
 
Joined
Aug 4, 2008
Messages
131
I would say, conversions have been going on since the 70's, we just did not have these internet forums to discuss them.
 

Tom Wittrock

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Aug 2, 2001
Messages
42,567
I would say, conversions have been going on since the 70's, we just did not have these internet forums to discuss them.

In 1972 I had a stripped 68GT converted to a Burst.
By older brother already had a 50's GT converted to a Burst. :)
 

Skipped

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Joined
Nov 23, 2008
Messages
412
My advice is going to be pretty specific. Get the wood first - an expertly converted 52/53, probably a Lentz or DJ. Aim to buy without parts.
Put aged (repro) parts on the guitar along with the best PAF type boutique pickups you can find. Play the guitar a lot - have it set up so it fits you like a glove, possibly including a refret.
Assuming that you have bonded with the guitar - now start the process of procuring vintage parts. Start with the switch tip. If you are feeling the vintage vibe from the 50's part - buy it. If not stick with the repro part. Remember - this is not a collectors item, It's a guitar......
Repeat the process with all the parts including the pickups. Try to hear more than one PAF clone before you pay big money for the the real deal.
You guitar will end up costing somewhere between $10k and $25k, but where exactly? Let your ears answer that question!
 
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