The Custom is a variant on the Gibson Les Paul Standard targeted at more wealthy players, collectors, and those who want their instrument to be as much of a showpiece as it is a great player's guitar. Where specifications on other Les Paul models have changed a lot over the years, Customs haven't changed much since their introduction. While they used to be manufactured alongside all the other Les Paul models, the creation of a Custom is now left to Gibson's 'Custom, Art & Historic' division.
The most significant differences between a Custom and a Standard are as follows:
- Gold plated hardware.
- Larger headstock, with 'split diamond' inlay in abalone, and edge binding.
- Unchambered body. Les Pauls are heavy to start with, but a Custom WILL ruin your back.
- Large square abalone neck markers.
- Large round 'speed' style knobs.
- Lower frets with more squared off tops. These lead to the custom being known as the 'fretless wonder' in some circles.
- Ebony fretboard. This lends a slightly snappier sound, and makes the fretboard feel a little more 'slippery'.
In terms of feel, a custom is almost identical to a Standard, with the notable exception of the frets, which tend to be better for chord work than the larger frets on a Standard. Older Customs with worn frets can be very hard to play as a result of this.
While modern Customs are made of the same body woods as a Standard (mahogany back, maple top), some older models are made of solid mahogany. This lends the guitar a darker tone than the versions with a maple cap.
Over the years other small changes have been made to things like the fretboard markers and the tuners. In the late 70's and early 80's Customs came with ingenious tuners which had in-built flip-out string winders to make restringing easier and faster. I don't know why everyone doesn't use these, they're totally invaluable.
At present the Custom is available in Ebony, Wine Red, Alpine White and Heritage Cherry Sunburst, however the sunburst is a relatively new addition to the Custom colour lineup. Ebony Customs are often referred to as 'Black Beauties'.