Les Paul Fire Brand

The story of my 1971 Gibson Les Paul

Custom Deluxe Gold Top

This is how she looked in 1971

In the mid-1970’s, she survived a catastrophic fire leaning against a wall inside a house. 

In the late 70’s I was in the Southern Rock band Erik The Red when I discovered the Les Paul. 

I wish I had taken pictures then, because she was a sad sight.

Her original Gold Top finish was severely damaged, as well as the clear finish on the mahogany neck and body. All of the removable plastic parts were melted to some degree, most were unsalvageable, but amazingly, the “Deluxe”-inscribed "Antique Bell" truss rod cover survived unscathed.

Sadly, I couldn’t save the "Les Paul Model" logo Silkscreened in gold on the headstock.

The mother of pearl inlayed “Gibson” on the headstock and Acrylic Trapezoid inlays on the rosewood fingerboard had survived the heat, but were stained dark brown from smoke damage.

And, quite miraculously, her neck and mahogany body were still perfect, with only a small separation in one of the joints of the laminated maple top.

 

I began restoration by using Formby’s Refinisher to remove what was left of the original finish.

I was afraid to use refinisher on the inlay, but with a lot of buffing each one cleaned up nicely.

 

I considered repainting with the original gold, but I had neither the skill nor the facilities to do it right.  Besides, I liked the natural color of the laminated maple top.

So, I hand-rubbed multiple coats of Tung oil over her entire body (sounds kinda sexy, doesn’t it?)

And installed genuine Gibson Humbuckers, pots & switch (that made her sound sexy).

I replaced the tuners and other hardware as well.  Only the tailpiece is original (painted silver).

When I added strings, she tuned up perfectly and played... well, just like a Les Paul should. 

The separation of the bottom laminate joint is a result of getting super-kiln dried in the fire. 

I wasn’t sure how to deal with that.

It was very unlikely that I could color-match wood putty to the natural finish, so I left it alone. 

In the late 80’s I took it to a Luthier in Tucson.

He agreed with my decision, and added - “If it were me, I’d leave it just like that.  It’s kinda funky.”

And so I sealed the crack with clear epoxy.

Sadly, I couldn’t save the "Les Paul Model" logo silkscreened in gold on the headstock.

But the mother of pearl inlayed “Gibson”   buffed out nicely and the "Antique Bell" truss rod cover survived unscathed.

The heat of the fire was intense enough to melt one of the plastic fret marker dots.

The mechanical pencil tip is inserted inside the empty hole that is now the 9th fret “dot”.

The honorary title Fire Brand” comes from this spot in the center of her back. 

It was created in her early years by a belt buckle scraping the finish down to bare wood.  As she was re-birthed in fire the smoke stained the mahogany creating this unique ‘birthmark’.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then lack of funds must be the father.

 

I cut the material for the two back plates from a fiberglass sheet used to make electronic circuit boards.

 

I cut the jack plate from an old automotive speaker switch mount.  From the top left it reads,

“Front” “Rear” “Both”  “Dual Speaker Switch”

Perfect for a 1/4” audio jack receptacle…

My 1971 Gibson Les Paul Custom Deluxe Fire Brand

 

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