I "built" my first guitar as a teenager, using layered scrap chipboard sheets for the body and a Schaller neck so thin one could've used it as a toothpick. I had no idea what I was doing in regards to woodwork or electronics (I think I used a soldering gun to wire this horrific thing), and I'm sure the shape would have given real luthiers lifelong nightmares. 

However, over the years I learned a thing or two about guitar building - and most certainly about electronics. These days, I really enjoy building testbeds for my pickups. Or collaborating with local artists to create unique pieces of art that actually sound good. 

Here are some of the guitars I built in the last 15-20 years. 

VIP "LP55"

The LP55 was my attempt to build the perfect Les Paul for myself. I prefer the more dynamic attack of wrap-around over tune-o-matic bridges. I love substantial necks (esp. on Gibson scale guitars) and applied a very special profile from a full C at the head to an asymmetrical soft v shape in the higher registers, which makes it perfect for chords and soloing. I’ve owned many great Les Pauls, new and old, but this one takes the cake.

This guitar is currently on forever-loan with my brother and dear friend JD Simo.

  • Honduras mahogany body with Cocobolo inlay

  • Honduras mahogany neck

  • old growth Brazilian rosewood fretboard

  • Jescar 45/100 frets

  • assembled with hot hide glue

  • aged nitrocellulose finish

  • real Cellulose nitrate inlays

  • Vintage Inspired Pickups LOVERS humbuckers

  • Vintage Inspired Pickups VIPots

  • NOS Sprague PIO capacitors (15nF & 22nF)

  • machined KORTMANN wrap-around bridge

  • TonePros VM1 steel locking studs

  • Gotoh SGV510Z tuners

  • Graph Tech TUSQ saddle

VIP "Bad Betty"

"Bad Betty" was built to replicate a late 50s Gibson Les Paul Junior that probably is the best guitar I've personally ever played. The coolest thing about Betty is that she has two layers of paint - below that aged Pelham Blue lurks a vibrant Cherry Red that already shows through. It's such a cool guitar and sounds almost as good as Betty's elderly grandma.

  • Honduras mahogany body

  • Honduras mahogany neck

  • 80 yo Madagascar rosewood fretboard

  • vintage correct Jescar 45/100 frets

  • assembled with historically correct hot hide glue

  • Vintage Inspired Pickups VIP90 pickup

  • Vintage Inspired Pickups 500k VIPots volume pot (exact functional replica of a 50s Centralab pot), 250k CTS tone pot

  • original vintage Sprague Bumblebee capacitor

  • aged TonePros VM1 steel locking studs

  • Gibson aluminum wrap around tailpiece

  • Gotoh SD90 tuners

  • aged/relic'd nitrocellulose finish: Pelham Blue over Cherry Red

  • Dave Johnson replica pickguard

  • Graph Tech TUSQ saddle

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VIP "Ursula"

"Ursula" is the latest (and most likely last) VIP guitar that was completely built by me. I used to own a mint condition 1967 Gibson Trini Lopez Standard that I loved a lot. However, I had my issues with the narrow 9/16" nut and have always been afraid of putting the first scratch/dent into this beautiful guitar. Thus, I traded it for my 59 Gibson Les Paul Junior - which is my favorite guitar on the planet. And even though I have never regretted the trade, I kind of always wanted a 335-style guitar with a couple of features that were important for me that the original Gibson design doesn't offer (e.g. trap door for the electronics, solid flat top, Honduran Mahogany neck, Ebony fretboard, etc.) - with the Trini Lopez headstock design.

It turned out great and is being played every day ever since I finished it.

  • Chambered Honduran Mahogany body with solid center block

  • Honduran Mahogany neck

  • black Ebony fretboard

  • medium jumbo frets

  • assembled with historically correct hot hide glue

  • Vintage Inspired Pickups Honeybucker pickups

  • vintage 22nF Cornell Dubilier Paper in Oil capacitors

  • Faber locking studs

  • milled bell brass tailpiece

  • VIPots

  • aged nitrocellulose finish

  • Graph Tech TUSQ saddle

other VIP guitars