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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Old Black Guitar Reproduction

old-black-guitar modification

Some amazing photos of a reproduction of Neil's Gibson Custom Shop Historic R6 Les Paul Goldtop electric guitar over on TeleModders: The Telecasters Modification Discussion Group. Some beautiful photos and details of the job posted by Jeff Levenson of FabGear.
"- Gibson Custom Shop Historic R6 Les Paul Goldtop, finished by me in black nitro ("amateur" job replicated, no clear overcoat)
- hand fabricated truss rod cover, jackplate, bridge pickup trim ring, control cavity covers and pickguard to match his made out of polished aluminum.
- SD Antiquity 4 conductor Firebird pickup in bridge position wired to a coil tap mini switch
- chrome P90 neck pickup cover
- Schallers tuners
- inlay added to headstock then painted over like his
- modified Bigsby added (stop tailpiece holes plugged and levelled)
- all aging and wear matches Neil's original exactly."

More on the Ragged Glory sound of Neil's guitar Old Black and photos.

UPDATE: This post has been corrected from previous info posted in error stating this was Neil's actual guitar. As comments below indicate, this is an exact replica of Neil Young's guitar Old Black. Thrasher does like to get things right the first time and when this link was forwarded it seemed to indicate this was the real deal. Sorry for confusion and apologies. Thanks to TJ & Bob for correction comments below!

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At 1/22/2005 10:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy freakin' cow! What a job. I guess this kind of a restoration must be what you live for if your in that line if work.

I wonder if she'll sound any different?

At 1/22/2005 03:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Thrasher this guitar is a replica, bloody good one but a replica.

Guy makes them for a living, he says on page 2 guy gave hime the gibson to customise as old black.


At 1/27/2005 10:20:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gents / Dudes / Ladies / Whomever......

Gibson could make a bundle reproducing Old Black, but chose not to. Instead they licensed the rights to do so to Epiphone and they did one in a very short run limited edition release about 2-3 years ago. I bought one thru chnace dumb luck and it is a killer guitar and very finely finished, the Gibson P90 pickups are out of this world. If an Old Black is what you lack, surf around, you may find a loose Epiphone model that is damn close to the real thing. I'd recommend it to anyone else out there.

At 2/26/2005 09:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A miniture model with Neil's 1955 Fender amp was created, but I'm not sure if they are for sale:

At 3/06/2005 11:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An absolutely astounding reproduction! It's come a long way from the same guitar I saw him use in 1969. Originally it was set up with Grovers, a B3 Bigsby, and a Rowe DeArmond M5-A in the bridge slot.
I wonder, though, where is the headstock binding on your replica, and did you do the strip inlay on the back?
Again, my compliments on a remarkable job!

At 4/11/2006 05:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently saw another repro of Old Black on the guitar reranch forum :

This guy made the whole guitar from scratch. The strap really looks cool (and so does the kid).

At 11/12/2006 01:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey thrasher, do u know were i can find a tailpiece like old black's?

-i have a les paul, but i want to put together my own little replica.

neil young is my favourite musican by far...

-keep on rockin in the free world,


At 12/02/2006 12:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

does anyone here at all kno were to buy a good tail piece like old black's, it really means a lot to me

At 12/08/2006 01:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

go to

they have the reproduction of all sorts of guitars like eric claptons brownie including old black.

At 1/01/2007 05:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am working on a reasonable replicate but was curious where I can get stencils for the case. Found some brass interlocking ones but can't estimate the letter size. Am I correct "Neil Young" is 2", "C.S.N.Y." is 2.5, "Fragile" is 3/4" and "Handle with care" is 3/4"? Also still trying to find the right case. Suggestions on where to get stencils and the case?

At 1/02/2007 03:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Pat ... Neils' Old Black tailpiece would be a Bigsby B7. The B70 version (licensed) of the B7 lacks much of the Patent Pending stuff on it. After which you would have to age the tailpiece, especially to get the black paint off the inset. I found mine on Ebay for around $90.
Per my previous note found my stencils for the lettering on the case - on Ebay as well as ... went with brass letters in three sets 1", 2" and 3".
The metal pickguard and truss rod cover I am having custom made at: The template for the guard should be from a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe.

At 1/07/2007 04:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi everyone,

My name is Jeff Levenson from FabGear, I'm the artist that created the above piece. Thanks for all your nice comments.

There is no binding that I'm aware of on the original headstock. What you're seeing I believe is the wear of the paint off the edge which looks like a bound edge on that replaced veneer. The back strip is there, this is merely one photo of the guitar. The photo on the Guitar reRanch board is my Old Black Replica as well.

Please keep in mind that the case was not based on a specific case, that is, it was a creation of my own imagination to compliment the guitar itself.

The lettering was done with custom stencil and letterforms I created, not a stock stencil.

You might find something similar at a sign shop or a craft store.

If you'd like to see any of my other replicas or inquire abot getting something done, please email me at or check out my photobucket albums under fabgear/ guest.


At 1/31/2007 08:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you pete i really apreciate it. i am already looking for them!

At 2/02/2007 09:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think im gonna make my replica with my epiphone les paul and make a real one when i get my gibson
'cause epiphone makes the vibrato tailpeices just like the bigsby's

or mabe use a bigsby, im not sure, what do you guys think?


At 4/05/2007 11:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, just curious, did you go to the extent of finding a really microphonic pickup?

Really nice :)


At 1/08/2008 07:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there was a reproduction of the guitar i saw a long time ago with the same custom case coming from finland, costs about 18,000 euros.

At 6/30/2008 02:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well ... $5000 later .. I have a fairly authentic Old Black right off Ebay .. unfortunately for me the next time Joey made one and sold it for less than $3000 on Ebay. He is going to get the schematic for the mini-toggle (direct out) and having some metal P-90 covers made of which he will send me one. His copy is real close ... I already told him though that Neil's showed the old tailpiece post hole potted in ... but none the less its a great copy. I had him replace the case since it had flood damage and had some mold ... but the case he sent was the new white interior (eaaaww) so I am looking for a more accurate case now. Pete

At 7/10/2008 10:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I laud the remarkable "Old Black' reproduction, but feel compelled to offer some history on this instrument.
I saw (and met) Neil the last Sunday of his opening week with Crazy horse at the Troubadour in LA, April 1969 with a friend named Jennifer Starkey... back when Old Black was Young!
The guitar was traded from Jim Messina in 1968 for a Gretsch and used on Neil's first solo album and the "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" LP. I have vivid memories on how the guitar was decked out that night and can verify most of it with a photo from an old poster.
The details are as follows:

*The instrument was a beautiful gloss black with an old punch-print tape strip above the pickups that read: "It ain't easy bein' a fuckin' indian!"
*The bigsby was a B-3 model (like a B-7 without the under-strung tension bar)
*The stop-bridge holes and bushings were open, and still are.
*The bridge coil was an old black face Rowe DeArmond M5A single coil as found on 50's Gretsches and Guilds. (This coil was left for repairs at a shop that folded and the coil disappreard. For a short time the LP was fitted with a Gretsch Filtertron but was replced in '72/'73 with a Firebird coil and the current B-7 Bigsby.)
*At that time the headstock was indeed nicely bound with creme binding and, even then, sported the Gibson crown inlay.
*The tuning machines were Grover N-102 roto-matics.
He played the first set with Crazy Horse (Danny Whitten using Neil's Gretsch 6120 and both of them using Fender Bandmasters reworked for overdrive by a guy named Randal!) But the second set Stephen Stills showed up and the two of them drank champagne, played their Martins, and sang just about every Buffalo Springfield song ever written.
All that was missing was Richie!

Quite an evening...


At 9/09/2008 08:35:00 PM, Blogger sidecarjoe said...

There is an Neil Young Old Black on Ebay item # 120301534165
I hand made all the Metal Parts.
The Truss rod Cover, P-90 cover,Pick Guard, and all three plates on the Back,Peace and Dove Strap included.
I started with a brand new 2008 1956 Gold Top VOS.
Check it ouy and let me know what you think?
Have a Great Day!
Joey (Peace!)

At 9/23/2008 06:08:00 AM, Blogger sidecarjoe said...

Check out the new Neil Young "Old Black" Gibson Les Paul on Ebay Item # 120307452989


At 11/03/2008 01:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Geoff who posted in July..This is Jennifer Starkey...if you were the Geoff in Wind Forest please contact me at

It has been several decades and I would love to speak with you again.

At 1/10/2009 11:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally found it. The Neil Young Guitar Strap I've been hearing about. It's handmade by Souldier using the original 50 year old fabric that Ace had left over, no cheap cutouts. I tried to get one on ebay, but lost it. You can also buy it here

They also have other rock legend straps, maybe 500 some different ones at

They've been around for several years and it's the first I've heard about it. Has anybody else heard of Souldier. Wilco uses their stuff, so must be pretty good.

At 2/04/2009 09:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got ordered one in December.
It arrived is 3 days. It's perfect!
I am actually putting together a "NEW" old black based on a Agile AL-3100 Black Special Edition.
( Ausom Guitar By the way!!!)
I still need to order the bigby.

I will post some photos when i get a chance, but it may be a while...

-Alex at koosh dot net

At 3/07/2009 12:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got my Bigsby, a B700.
I just need a the p90 cover.
Anyone know where I can get a a real aluminum p90 cover.

I was going to make one... But i can't find the right size aluminum U channel. At Lowe's & Home depot & the local hardware stores only have 3/4 " U channel.


alex at

At 4/25/2009 10:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gibson did recreate Old Black as the Gibson Custom Authentic R6 Ebony NY. It came out of the historic/custom shop for Yamano, the Gibson distributor for Japan, a few years back? '04, I think.

I've heard differing stories about quantities. I've heard less than a dozen to as many as 10 aged Murphy's and 10 regulars. Urban legend has it that Neil caught wind of the repro, threatened lawsuit, and Gibson ceased production. The folks at the Custom Shoppe could neither confirm nor deny the information I presented to them. The tone of their response was all I needed to believe the legend and buy the guitar.

They are pretty incredible. The nastiest sounding Les Paul I've ever played. Mine is incredibly detailed. I'm thrilled to have found it even if I did pay way too much for it. It compliments the original ACE Peace Sign and Doves strap that I also paid way to much to acquire :)

Photos here

Jeff, your recreation is amazing!


At 12/07/2014 03:55:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Does anyone have schematic of the exact circuit wiring of Old Black (and for the mini toggle switch)? Neil uses it to bypass volume and tone control pots and to achieve out of phase sounds...


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