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On Saturday afternoon a local guy brought me what he said was a custom shop Les Paul with the strings out of alignment with the sides of the fretboard. Opens it up for me, and it aint no custom shop Gibson, but the strings sure are out of whack. At some point in the conversation he mentions that it had been in a fire...

Long story short, what I have here is some kind of Les Paul (and could have been a Gibson, but just as easily not) that saw fire, and at some point after someone decided to fix it up and refinish. The work is pretty clearly that of a lay person or handyman who read a book or two. Not horrendous but definitely not good, finish isnt half bad. The neck and body are original, and maybe/probably the fretboard, but probably nothing else. Any serial numbers etc are gone. Looks like the neck was reglued with polyurethane glue at some point (some foamy glue lookin stuff around the tenon under the neck pup).

One thing caught my eye though: the volute on the neck sure doesnt look Gibson to me. But then Im no expert when it comes to identifying this kind of thing. So what am I looking at here? 

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Piece du resistance

Looks like a les paul studio, which typically have doggy maple tops. Looks like Roscoe put on a new peg head veneer (I think Gibson just paints the peg head on these models).

Is there a fracture under that volute? Looks like the volute was added (like a false nose) for reinforcement. I'm thinking the neck came off in the "fire" and Mr. polyurethane put it back on crooked. The bridge (and sustain block) looks like its in the right place. 

There are some cracks in the neck that were glued back on, but as far as i can tell the volute is original to the neck. I can see no hint of a joint there. Rosco definitely put his own veneer on - he was even fairly careful following what I think may be the original profile of the headstock, which is pretty uneven at the top. 

Im pretty sure that the neck was put back on in line with centre despite not having anything left on the body that provides a guaranteed, solid reference to measure from. When you sight down the guitar the neck looks like it is on straight, despite both sides of the neck being bowed in a little and throwing the eye. The tenon/neck joint in general dont look like they were boogered with much. No worse than could have happened at some factories anyway. There are some centre marks in the pickup cavities that almost agree with mine, and Im pretty sure Rosco screwed the pooch trying to drill for larger bridge bushings, since the bridge and the tailpiece holes dont seem to have a common centre either. That detail is a lot clearer when you take it apart and look at the bushings (and into them with a flashlight - very deep holes and the ground connection has been messed with). Probably a wandering drill bit or drill press out of square type of scenario there.

Bridge ground :D. Could have twisted off on installation.

Another update: evidently this guitar has a two way truss rod that works backwards.. thats a new one on me.

100% Not a Gibson. Looks hand/home made. 

You are correct.  The customer is a bit of a character shall we say, and communication with him is a bit of a trick. Anyway, when he picked it up he disclosed the guitars origin more clearly: a friend of the current owner had it made by another friend who was a cabinet maker. And so the truth comes out (after a couple beer in this case lol). I suspect it could have been a kit guitar, because I doubt that the person who radiused/fretted the fingerboard is the same person that glued, routed and shaped the body. Hard to say though. Regardless, I was able to put things in the right place so he can play it. Levelling the frets was a bit of a trick though, considering he didnt want to spring for a fboard level and refret, since the neck did not did not respond correctly to truss rod adjustments at all.

I'd love to spend 5 minutes inside the mind of someone like your customer!

The biggest giveaway was the lack of a stamped serial number on the back of the headstock. Then there is the shape of the headstock itself. The bridge bushings look like import size to me. Also, the stop-bar bushings are usually flush with the body/paintwork on a Gibson. I think you are right about it being a kit guitar. 

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