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Les Paul Custom: 79 or 86?

gthegentleman

New member
Joined
Jan 25, 2021
Messages
6
Hey all,

First time poster, so be gentle.

I'm looking at two beautiful Ebony LPC. One all original 79, and one all original 86. Now I know I know, I should play them first and go with the one that feels right, but thanks to the pandemic, I can't. Both are roughly the same price and condition.

So the question: which year do I go with based on production year alone?

Thanks so much in advance!
-G
 

Triplet

Active member
Joined
Mar 13, 2006
Messages
1,597
weight. With enough fiddling you can make any guitar sound decent.
 

AJCR

Member
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
124
Ok, features are pretty different:

79: solid body with 3 piece maple neck, volute, 14degree headstock angle, more oversized headstock shape, possibly short body and the different cutaway shape.
Pickups if original are Ttops.

86: weight relieved body with 1pc mahogany neck, 17deg headstock angle, smaller headstock, late era Shaw pickups if original.

Both have the short neck tenon and Nashville bridge.

Whilst you can get any guitar to play well, by no means will that mean they sound or feel the same. Neck profiles and pickups alone will guarantee that even before you get to the chassis components.
 

gthegentleman

New member
Joined
Jan 25, 2021
Messages
6
Ok, features are pretty different:

79: solid body with 3 piece maple neck, volute, 14degree headstock angle, more oversized headstock shape, possibly short body and the different cutaway shape.
Pickups if original are Ttops.

86: weight relieved body with 1pc mahogany neck, 17deg headstock angle, smaller headstock, late era Shaw pickups if original.

Both have the short neck tenon and Nashville bridge.

Whilst you can get any guitar to play well, by no means will that mean they sound or feel the same. Neck profiles and pickups alone will guarantee that even before you get to the chassis components.
Is there any consensus on which MOST people prefer?
 
Joined
Jan 11, 2020
Messages
116
I don't think either of those years would be considered Gibson's best, so I cannot imagine that any person intelligent enough to trust would pick one. There are good ones and bad ones from every year but those specific years (and the range around them) are part of the reason for Gibson's reputation for spotty quality. In 79, Gibson Kalamazoo was in decline--hence part of the reason for the sale (a few years later) of the company. In 86, the company was just acquired by a new group of people and moved to Nashville with some craftsmen from Michigan (who for a decade had been making some of the worst Gibsons of all time--but not necessarily the fault of the craftsmen) and some brand new employees (some of which still make some of the best Gibsons ever but were new). Who made those guitars? I have no clue and as such cannot say which is better. My answer is, "it depends" Which one do you like better?
 

gthegentleman

New member
Joined
Jan 25, 2021
Messages
6
I don't think either of those years would be considered Gibson's best, so I cannot imagine that any person intelligent enough to trust would pick one. There are good ones and bad ones from every year but those specific years (and the range around them) are part of the reason for Gibson's reputation for spotty quality. In 79, Gibson Kalamazoo was in decline--hence part of the reason for the sale (a few years later) of the company. In 86, the company was just acquired by a new group of people and moved to Nashville with some craftsmen from Michigan (who for a decade had been making some of the worst Gibsons of all time--but not necessarily the fault of the craftsmen) and some brand new employees (some of which still make some of the best Gibsons ever but were new). Who made those guitars? I have no clue and as such cannot say which is better. My answer is, "it depends" Which one do you like better?
Totally hear ya there. The 86 is in great condition and a total beauty. Everything in general seems priced extremely high right now, making the more desirable years way out of my price range. so may be best to wait, but also...I want one, haha. : (

Appreciate the input though!
 

AJCR

Member
Joined
May 2, 2018
Messages
124
Is there any consensus on which MOST people prefer?
There are those who dislike Norlins who would say neither. Those who own this era guitars and can see past the myths and misinformation would have no hesitation in recommending one or either.
As an interesting note, the much vaunted Hj era from mid/late 86 onward changed absolutely nothing about the instruments themselves for 5 years after the sale. All of the major alterations to make the specs more vintage accurate all occurred under Norlin ownership.
 

Big Al

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 24, 2002
Messages
14,294
smaller headstock? huh?
I know, wtf?? No size difference I'm aware of.

Get the one you like best, for whatever reason. I never understand the reason for these posts. Define what you really want and why and you'll have your answer.
 

gibson-r8

Active member
Joined
Jul 15, 2004
Messages
452
Yea, I think the pertinent thing might be the words “weight relieved”. As long as the price is reasonable you probably could always get your money back (eventually).
 

Strings Jr.

Active member
Joined
Jan 17, 2016
Messages
551
Ok, features are pretty different:

79: solid body with 3 piece maple neck, volute, 14degree headstock angle, more oversized headstock shape, possibly short body and the different cutaway shape.
Pickups if original are Ttops.

86: weight relieved body with 1pc mahogany neck, 17deg headstock angle, smaller headstock, late era Shaw pickups if original.

Both have the short neck tenon and Nashville bridge.

Whilst you can get any guitar to play well, by no means will that mean they sound or feel the same. Neck profiles and pickups alone will guarantee that even before you get to the chassis components.
You nailed it buddy!!

I would only add that if the 79 happened to be a K-zoo guitar, it may have a factory ABR.
The 79 will also have a flatter top carve.
 

frenchphil

Active member
Joined
May 30, 2010
Messages
1,204
i might be wrong but i would go for the 86 because i have an 86 es 335 with the shaw pups they sound great the finish is great no flaws and sometimes norlins can be heavy just my opinion
 

ajwain

Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2003
Messages
70
I have an Alpine White ‘89 Custom, and although it weighs more than a house, doesn’t have any of the quality issues you hear about... in fact it’s pretty much flawless and plays beautifully.

The pickups are not the most subtle, but these can be changed. The way I look at it, if you have to buy hands off and unseen, then the ‘86 is closer to the original ‘50s spec, and closer to those available today.
 
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