“Various factors all came together in 1959 to produce what I, and many others, consider to be the ultimate electric guitar, the 1959 Burst. I have spent 38 years studying genuine 1950’s Bursts and reproducing their sound. I have found that there are five main factors responsible for creating the 1959 Burst sound”


“The Honduras mahogany used in the 1950’s to build guitars was cut from trees that were hundreds of years old. This wood is often referred to as ‘old growth’. It is a very excellent carving wood. Due to its popularity with furniture makers, boat builders and guitar makers, it is now gone. Used up. The mahogany available now is grown on plantations. For whatever reasons it is very different from old growth mahogany. It might as well be considered a completely different type of wood. I have experimented with it and found it to be very unsatisfactory for reproducing a true 59 Burst tone compared to ‘old growth’ Honduras mahogany”

“Since about 80% of the wood used to build a Burst is Honduras mahogany, this is obviously the most important wood contributing to the tone. I used only old growth Honduras mahogany from the 1950’s just like the 1950’s Bursts were built from. I used old growth Brazilian rosewood for my fretboards and Eastern hard maple for the tops”


“There are four basic pieces of wood that make a Burst style guitar. The fretboard, the neck, the body and the maple top. Obviously then there are three basic glue joints between the nut and bridge. One is between the fretboard and the neck, another between the neck and body and the third is between the body and the maple top. In order to produce good tone these four pieces must resonate as one”

“For hundreds of years musical instrument builders used ‘hide glue’ to build guitars. Hide glue was still used in the 1950’s. This type of glue soaks into the wood and hardens to a glass like consistency. It leaves a minimal film between the two surfaces being joined. Since it dries to a glass like consistency it resonates with the vibrations in the guitar”

‘If you hold up a piece of glass and tap it lightly with a hard object it will ring. If you do the same with a sheet of plastic, the plastic will not ring, instead it absorbs the vibrations. The same principle is in effect with hide glue, brittle and glasslike, versus modern glues that are not”

“Modern glues do not penetrate the wood as well as hide glue. They leave a film between each piece of wood. Thus the four basic pieces of the guitar are insulated from each other. The vibrations traveling through the guitar between the nut and the bridge are muffled at all three glue joints. Modern glues kill the tone of the guitar. I used hide glue in the construction of these guitars”


“In the 1950’s guitar manufacturers used nitrocellulose lacquer. This lacquer dries very hard and brittle. It becomes a resonant part of the guitar. Unfortunately it also chips and cracks more easily; therefore modern manufacturers don’t use it”

“Modern lacquers use plasticizers that keep the finish soft and flexible. The same principle of the resonance of glass versus plastic applies here. It would be the same as wrapping large rubber bands around an acoustic guitar. The rubber bands would absorb the vibrations of the guitar and deaden the sound. I used old style nitrocellulose lacquer (without plasticizers) on these guitars”


“During my 30 years experience repairing and restoring musical instruments, I had the opportunity to closely inspect many vintage guitars. Gibson, Fender, Martin, Rickenbacker, Gretsch, etc. Many were damaged beyond repair and consequently I was able to completely dismantle them and blueprint them. It is from this valuable resource of data that I am able to build guitars today”

“All specifications, dimensions, materials and construction procedures that contribute to the sound of an original 1950’s Burst are exactly duplicated in my guitars. Headstock angle, neck angle, scale length, neck profile, cavity sizes, etc., are all identical to an original 1950’s Burst”


“The original 1950’s PAF pickup is definitely a very important factor in creating the ‘59 Burst tone. These can still be acquired from vintage parts dealers and are highly recommended. Presently I am using Lindy Fralins as I have found them to be very satisfactory compared to my reference set of original 1959 Double White PAFs that I have had since 1974”


“A true ’59 Burst tone can only be acquired in one of the following ways. Buy an original 1950’s Burst for $200,000 – $300,000, buy a ‘57 or ‘58 PAF Goldtop for $100,000 – $200,000, buy a 1950’s Goldtop Conversion or buy one of my guitars”

“I think these guitars come the closest to reproducing a true ’59 Burst sound than any other”. – MAX BARANET

from: http://www.mcimusic.com/page4.html

Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri

We Are Rock 'N Roll People.

  • avatar
    Posted at 01:45h, 09 November

    Are these guitars made by Max still?

    If not, is there another guitar builder that can build of similar or the same quality and detail (wood, specifications, electronic, paint e.t.c) as Max does/did?

    I would really love to have a conversion or as close as possible 59´ Burst replica someday, i don’t think there is a reason to buy an Historic Gibson if for the price they ask if it’s not as close, don’t get me wrong i’am sure many of those are great guitars but i really wants one that is allmost as good as an original burst, an converted early 50s Les Paul or a newly made guitar like the Max burts if at all possible.

    It’s a dream, i don’t wanna ”waste” money upon something that cannot capture ”it”, hope everyone understand.

    Any advice or tips?

    I appritiate any answer to this 🙂

    Best Regards – Sebastian

    • avatar
      Posted at 16:15h, 09 November

      Never mind i emailed Max himself and he seems able to do that still 😀

  • avatar
    Posted at 20:37h, 22 January

    I don’t know if this is the ”right” post to post this, but if i may ask, what are your opinon of these http://www2.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/Les-Paul/Gibson-Custom/50th-Anniversary-1959-Les-Paul-Standard.aspx reissues Gibson is making, can they be compared in any way to the old ones?

    Been thinking about , perhaps try to obtain such a guitar at one point when i can afford, and put vintage or botique pickups, harness e.t.c in it, just curius, allways dreamed of an ”real” ”Holy Grail” or a good copy or an conversation, expecily in Heritage Cherry Sunburst, just love the design and sound of them, dreaming everyday of one.. 🙂

  • avatar
    Posted at 14:43h, 14 November

    Nice guitars an intresting article, but are they really worth 10k? It would be good to see a comparison between say a 2-3k vintage les paul and one of these, are the differences so subtle only a real connoisseur could tell the difference? Cheers

    • avatar
      Posted at 15:47h, 14 November

      You mean the Max guitars? The Max guitars are now around 30k-40k, some of them, more. Unfortunately, and I say, unfortunately, the differences are there and yes, they are worth it. There are reasons why real ’50s bursts fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars. The reasons are also sound-wise. The “Max” replicas are, as well as conversions, the only guitars able to replicate getting very close to real, excellent bursts.

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:45h, 13 November

    whas it these kind of guitars kossoff used?

  • avatar
    Posted at 01:22h, 13 November

    Interesting informations. 🙂 btw… Fil,
    Your first guitars were SGs as far as I know. What were your thoughts when you first played a les paul ? I only had an SG until now. Today I bought a LP as my second guitar. I think (after a few hours of playing) that it looks nice, it sounds awesome, but it feels horrible. I got used to the SG in the last one year (since I have it), so I was really shocked how uncomfortable the les paul is. Its heavy, it doesn’t have rounded edges (so it hurts my arm after a while), and when I tried to slide up to the 20th fret inside a solo… a huge block of wood didn’t let my hand there. the upper frets are pretty much unplayable (or you have to be really tricky). So what were your first impressions with a les paul, Fil ?

    • avatar
      Posted at 21:31h, 05 February

      well i have a les paul and yes, it’s much more uncomfortable than SG. it’s heavy, hard to access upper frets, and fat. it sounds better, but only because it’s epiphone. my previous guitar was worth like 200 $ so it couldn’t be good. my next guitar is definitely SG 🙂

      • avatar
        Posted at 16:42h, 06 February

        My experience with guitars was the exact opposite.
        I played a Les Paul style guitar at first, then got an Epiphone SG.
        And what a difference. The Les Paul played good, but the SG was so much lighter, and like Angus once said: won’t give you a hip displacement. It felt far more comfortable than the heavier Les Paul. I once saw a guy (a support band called “The Carburetors”) that had a rest plate for his arm screwed on to the body (like the scratch plate).

  • avatar
    Posted at 11:22h, 11 November

    Fil, very interesting!!! Have you ever played a Tokai sg 175? It was built from Honduras Mahagoni. I’ve one – very excellent, resonant , warmth and fat tone. But the pickups… i’d like to change, but i don’t know which pickup maker make a good old PAF type.

    Tokai link: http://www.tokai-guitars.co.uk/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=shop.flypage&product_id=77&category_id=14&manufacturer_id=0&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=31

  • avatar
    Posted at 07:21h, 11 November

    Thanks, Fil. Very interesting. And this aspects would be also true for the vintags SGs, I think. While I was aware of the mahogany sort and the Nitro lacquer, I didn’t thought about the glue being important too.
    Hey Angusrocks, there we have it 🙂

    • avatar
      Posted at 08:11h, 11 November

      Yeees, that`s what i thought (-:
      And this is fact ! For a long time i wouldn`t believe that wood makes such a huge difference, but my expierences told me totally different. And yes again, they used different wood in the older days, very old honduras mahogany. The older the wood the better the consistence.

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