Les Paul Measurements

Discussion in 'Guitar Building' started by Gary, Feb 18, 2018.

  1. Gary

    Gary New Member

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    I am a seasoned woodworker and helping my son build a Les Paul 59 replica. This is an elementary question to the seasoned luthiers on this web site and most of you have forgotten more than I will ever know about building guitars, but I can't find an answer in all the videos and books I have researched. I have ordered plans for a scale replica of the Les Paul but I want to understand the measurements and not just copy a set of plans. I know the scale length is 628 mm from the nut to the bridge, but the bridge on the Les Paul is not perpendicular to the mid-line of the guitar and is on an angle. If you measure to the top of the bridge it will be longer than 628 and if you measure on the bottom it will be less than 628. So my question is, where on the bridge is the measurement made to the nut? Is it to the middle of the bridge where it intersects the mid-line of the guitar or is it on the bottom or top of the bridge and do I measure to the point of contact on the bridge where the string seats on the saddle of the bridge? Any help is appreciated!

    Gary
     
  2. Heretic

    Heretic Well-Known Member

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    The scale length is usually measured to the witness point (the place where the vibrating length of the string intersects with the saddle) of the highest string. So the high e would be 628mm, and the low E would be something like 631mm. The actual vibrating length depends on a number of factors, such as string thickness, desired height off the fretboard, etc. That's why the saddles are adjustable.

    The stated scale length (628mm) is more of a baseline than a hard measurement. Even the little e will be slightly longer, but I've never seen one adjust to correct intonation at a length shorter than the listed scale length.
     
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  3. Gary

    Gary New Member

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    Thanks for the info. That makes a little more sense.
     
  4. Murkar

    Murkar Well-Known Member

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    To clarify a bit further on what heretic said, the scale length on a guitar listed on plans etc. is called the "uncompensated" scale length. The reason the bridge is angled is because of "compensation." If you actually put the bridge perpendicular to the center-line at the uncompensated scale length, it will sound horrible - when you fret a string and play it, you are essentially shortening the scale for that string...the further up the fretboard you go, the more out of tune it will sound. All electric guitar bridges are compensated to some degree to combat this; the listed scale length on the plans is almost always shorter than the actual scale.

    In practical terms, it's hard to get an exact measurement for how much your compensation should be. Usually the distance to the closest saddle (the high E) will be at minimum equal to the uncompensated scale length, and as heretic pointed out even sometimes that is extended a few millimeters. A good way to get the compensation right is to mount the tailpiece and the nut. Then you can place the bridge on the body with a piece of cardboard under it to to protect the maple.....you can tighten up the strings and tune the guitar. You can then fret and play strings higher up the neck to see how it sounds without having the bridge posts installed yet. And you can move the bridge around until you get it right. I used to use a tuner, and moving the bridge around to get the compensation of the bridge exactly right.

    Then you just mark where the post holes are so you can drill and install the bridge at that spot.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
  5. Gary

    Gary New Member

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    Thank you for that bit of advise. I think we will do do that before drilling the bridge holes. That makes a lot of sense.
     

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