Easily the best selling of all project guitars, Les Paul kits are a popular choice for first time guitar builders. This mirrors actual sales of electric guitars with the Gibson Les Paul remaining very popular up to this day along with the Gibson SG and Les Paul Jr. But how simple are they to assemble? Do they sound anything like the real thing? Will we get sued for using the term ‘Les Paul’ in our heading or are Gibson not as litigious as Fender? All this and more below.
A history lesson, Les Paul Guitars
You are probably familiar with the name Les Paul, one of the early pioneers of electric guitar and a highly regarded musical pioneer in his own right. Gibson and Les Paul collaborated on the first version of the Les Paul introduced in 1951, featuring the distinctive archtop single cutaway body, two P90 pickups and distinctive trapeze style bridge.
Ten years later most likely due to dwindling sales Gibson re-engineered the Les Paul adding a second cutaway and reducing the thickness of the body which eventually went on to become the Gibson SG. Best known as the guitar of choice for players such as Angus Young Jerry Garcia and Tommy Iommi of Black Sabbath. Les Paul himself wasn’t overly impressed with the SG and parted ways with Gibson. However after a number of well known guitarists such as Eric Clapton started using the traditional Les Paul the guitar regained it’s popularity and Les Paul again started working with Gibson. Here’s an early clip of Les Paul playing his iconic Les Paul guitar. Out of interest the lady in the clip is Mary Ford, Les Paul’s then wife prior to their divorce in 1961.
Why Buy a Les Paul Kit?
Why not purchase a Stratocaster or Telecaster Kit? Why are Les Paul guitar kits popular? It really comes down to the style of music you prefer playing. Les Paul’s are fitted out with two humbuckers (more on guitar pickups here) allowing for more gain than a single coil guitar such as a Stratocaster, making them ideal for rock and heavier styles of music. Les Paul’s are traditionally a warmer sounding instrument and many argue they also have better sustain. While some may make the point that these qualities are only the case with an actual store bought guitar, many of these characteristics of the guitar are due to the actual style of the guitar e.g. shape of the body, timber used for crafting the body, the bridge and electrical components.
Obviously if buying a sub $250 Les Paul Guitar kit the pickups and associated hardware won’t be of the same quality (far from it in fact) but in most cases the body will be made from Mahogany with flamed maple top as per the real deal. If fitted out with P90 pickups (or something of a similar quality) and hardware you can expect to achieve a relatively similar tone.
Check out this video to see how a Les Paul Guitar Kit sounds: (*please note the owner has fitted this out with Seymour Duncan Pickups)
Entry Level Les Paul Guitar Kits
Saga LC-10 LP Style Electric Guitar Kit
We’ve reviewed the Saga LP before so won’t go into too much detail in this article suffice to say the key difference with the Saga LP compared to say…Precision Guitar Kits is the fact that the body is constructed from Basswood (an Asian style of pine) as opposed to Mahogany and flamed maple veneer top which Les Paul’s are typically made from. One aspect of this guitar you will either love or hate is the harness wiring which although makes it very simple to assemble (no soldering required) will typically be noisier than a traditional soldered joint. This can obviously be worked around especially if you plan on updating the electrical components and copper shielding the cavities of the body.
All holes are pre-drilled, which will obviously save a lot of time and effort but does increase the chances of screw hole misalignment which can be a problem. The neck is also a bolt on which will obviously be a lot simpler for assembly but not as authentic as the traditional set neck Gibson Les Paul. All in all a well regarded guitar kit for the price and a good starting point if this is your first build.Check out the Saga Les Paul Guitar Kit here and Save over $80
Saga LP Junior
As the name implies the Les Paul JR guitar kit is the little brother of the Les Paul family. For most practical purposes the guitars are very similar with the exception that the LP JR features just one P90 style pickup where the traditional Les Paul features two. As per the Les Paul, the timber is completely sealed (basswood) and the headstock is unshaped allowing you complete creative control.Check out the Saga Les Paul Guitar Kit here and Save over $90
Other Les Paul Kits worth Mentioning
Albatross Guitars GK004SM
I can’t offer a review of this guitar as I am yet to see on up close but as opposed to the Saga LP, the Albatross features a mahogany body with flamed maple top which is closer to the real Gibson Les Paul. If you are looking for a good base to build from e.g. upgrading while retaining the body this may be worth a closer look.
Precision Guitar Kits
Precision make premium quality kit guitar bodies (no electronics) which is ideal for seasoned guitar builders who prefer not to dabble in the complicated process of shaping the guitar and routing out the body. Precision focus primarily on Les Paul kits while also offering Les Paul JR, SG and Telecaster style guitars. They will set you back more than your standard entry level kit so are recommended for those with a little more experience. Highly rated by most people in the know, prices generally start from the mid 300 dollar mark right up to $600+
Evor Guitar Kits
Evor also offer Les Paul guitar kits starting from $219.00 featuring a mahogany body with flamed maple top and chrome hardware. The headstock is pre-shaped which may not appeal to those who prefer to tailor the headstock to their own tastes but this will appeal to others who perhaps prefer not to bother with shaping the timber at all.
Summing things up
As you can see you have a few choices when it comes to purchasing a Les Paul Guitar Kit. If you are new to guitar kit building I’d recommend sticking to the Saga LP as it is made with ease of assembly in mind. If however you have already assembled a few kit guitars it might be worth your while to take a look at Precision Guitar Kits or Evor.Buy Electric Guitar Kits at the Lowest Prices