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Carved-top Guitar

The original carved-top electric guitar was the 1952 Gibson Les Paul “Goldtop.” Because Gibson had the specialized tooling with which to create a contoured top that was similar to the arched top of a fine violin, Maurice Berlin of Chicago Musical Instruments (or CMI, Gibson’s parent company) believed this would set the Gibson solidbody guitar far ahead of the competition (chiefly Fender at the time). Initially, the rough carving was done by a machine copying a 3-dimensional pattern made of steel. The cutter marks were then smoothed by a luthier using a stroke belt sander. The operator would hold a cushioned pad against the running belt pressed to the top of the instrument in order to create the desired contour. Today, much of this is accomplished using computer-controlled carvers, after which hand finishing adds the final touch.

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