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FDP Forum / Miscellaneous and Non-Fender Topics / Les Paul body shape origins



Nov 8th, 2017 07:30 PM   Edit   Profile  

Some people on here may already know this, but since I figured it out on my own, I feel quite proud.

I had on my bench a Gibson 3/4 guitar from 1960. I am not sure what model, but it looked a lot like the LG guitars from this era, though it wasn't an LG-2, at least not like the ones that show up on Google. It has a funny little body, and it almost seemed like an electric guitar shape. I grab a Les Paul I had sitting waiting for a refret, and held it on top of it on the bench. Sure enough, all of the body contours (minus the cutaway) were a dead match! I did some searching around, and there also was a small archtop, the ES-140 that was a 3/4 version of the ES-175 with the same body shape.

So, my guess is that when the Les Paul was being developed, the came up with the body shape by taking the side forms and just tracing them onto a slab of wood. An entirely different neck would have been added too. It is kinda neat to me that one of the most iconic body shapes of electric guitars was originally made as a child's size. It also interests me that the shape clearly would have been originally created with ease of bending sides in mind, which likely adds to any elegance or cleanness of lines in the final product.

An example, obviously the cutaway is a bit different

FDP Data Goon

We all want

our time in hell
Nov 8th, 2017 11:56 PM   Edit   Profile  

My assumption is that they just scaled down the Log, with the cutaway for ease of access (product improvement over the wings).

The Log

Contributing Member


the downtime
Nov 9th, 2017 07:13 AM   Edit   Profile  

Based on my knowledge of guitar stuff, I've come to the conclusion that it was O.W. Appleton's solid-body arched top guitar from 1943 was the inspiration for the Les Paul. He showed his "APP" guitar to Gibson, and they dismissed it as something guitar players would not be interested in.

Here's some history stuff



Nov 9th, 2017 08:30 AM   Edit   Profile  

I'll have to get a picture of the Les Paul super imposed on the guitar I have in the shop now... it really is immistakable, and one basically looks like a tracing of the other. Not only each dimension, but the curves are all the same, too. To do the comparison I had to put one on the bench in the vise, hold one over the other and look straight down, so I'm not quite sure how I'll get a picture like that, but I'm going to try.

I found one on Reverb that has the same body style. It doesn't jump out because what is in the outer shape is dramatically different, but it is definitely the same.

External link

Contributing Member

juneau ak.

If you must smoke, please smoke salmon!
Nov 9th, 2017 04:30 PM   Edit   Profile  

I think your on to something Funky' although I didn't read Peegoos link yet That 3/4 ES 140
shape is unmistakingly that of a "Lester"

Sweet little guitar BTW.

Contributing Member


Nov 9th, 2017 07:18 PM   Edit   Profile  

Alright, so I got a couple pictures for y'all. They aren't the best, but hopefully they get the point across. The best way to look at them is to super impose them, but since each instrument was top heavy and I needed a hand free to take the picture, this is as far as I got.

On stands

Contributing Member


Nov 9th, 2017 07:23 PM   Edit   Profile  

I should also describe for those not in the know:

Traditionally acoustic instruments' bodies start in forms... the sides are wetted, heated and bent, and then quickly put into the forms to cool. The same forms are used as templates to trace out the top and back pieces, and some builders will even do some of the assembly inside of the forms. My guess is that since these forms were some of the most visited pieces of equipment in the shop, they just grabbed one, traced onto a hardwood slab as though they were cutting for a top or back, and used that as a template for the earliest ones, and just kept the shape.

Sides don't bend perfectly to the forms, that is why (especially on older instruments) you'll see random flat spots on the sides. This was alleviated over time when large side bending irons were created. So, small differences in the shapes in the sides between one of these instruments and an LP would easily be explained by this.

On the bench

Contributing Member


"toxic masculinity personified"
Nov 12th, 2017 12:42 PM   Edit   Profile  

That Appleton stuff is very intriguing, Peegoo. Thanks for posting it.

Steve Dallman

Merrill, Wisconsin

Age is just a number...mine is big
Nov 13th, 2017 02:55 PM   Edit   Profile  

I think the Bigsby built for Merle Travis in 1948 has to be considered...both as a pattern for LP's and Fenders to come.

Bigsby Merle Travis

Contributing Member


the downtime
Nov 13th, 2017 03:10 PM   Edit   Profile  

I agree there too. None of these guys were operating in a total vacuum; they all knew each other, or they knew of each other.

Word gets around pretty fast when there's some newfangled gee-tar stuff happening somewhere and a few traveling musicians get their hands on it.

Contributing Member


Nov 13th, 2017 07:33 PM   Edit   Profile  

One interesting point on the Appleton article that I missed the first time reading it was that he initially was using a 3/4 Gibson... with the same body shape as the one I just had in the shop! Hmmm...

Contributing Member

American Patriot

About as ordinary as you can get.
Nov 15th, 2017 11:43 AM   Edit   Profile  

Whatever the reason, they got it right.

FDP Forum / Miscellaneous and Non-Fender Topics / Les Paul body shape origins

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