I Swear This Will Be My Last Gibson

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by zombywoof, Apr 8, 2019.

  1. Bill

    Bill Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    It’s a 1950. And you’re dead-on about the low end. Never heard the like on any guitar. The closest is on my L-1, there’s a really strong family resemblance in the sound.

    They sound unlike any modern acoustic I’ve played.
     
  2. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

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    Interesting. Never ran across a 1950 J45 with a short drop in saddle. 1950 would be the last year of the lighter built J-45s.
     
  3. TeleFunk Man

    TeleFunk Man Tele-Afflicted

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    Wow, she's a fine looking acoustic. Very nice!!!
     
  4. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    Whoo! Brother, that was a major score! Those 12-fret L1s are extraordinarily rare, and yours is in astoundingly good condition!

    One minor quibble about how they were finished; on 1932, Gibson had just begun using their newfangled spray equipment. It was only used to clear-coat the lacquer, which was also a new, but similar product to them.

    They were still hand-coloring their sunbursts using analine dyes with cheese cloth 'rubbers' to do the color work. The earliest sprayed lacquer sunbursts came out in 1935.

    The reason why your top looks tiger stripey is because the dyes were all alcohol-based and the penetrated the wood grain far more than lacquer. While the top figure is rare, under a sprayed-color, it would not be as pronounced.

    One thing Gibson had going for them was Michigan was full of killer good red spruce pre-war. It was both easy and cheap for Gibson to buy, and there was plenty to select from. Gibson was never shy about using bear-clawed or other unusual grain-figured wood, either.

    I recently scored a 1930 12-fret L-0 all mahogany guitar that's in equal condition, but it has a cracked bridge, so I haven't played it yet. It's identical to yours in all dimensions, but nowhere as spectacular looking. The L-00 was the guitar in that series that sold the most, changed the most, and is the most commonly seen now. Neither the L-0 or the L-1 lasted for very long before Gibson dropped them from the line.

    I've played all versions of the L-00, old and new re-issues, and the one I always liked the best was a early 30s 12 fretter that was black w/ a white pickguard. The 12 fretter's bridges and X brace are placed differently on and under the top, and their tone isn't as boxy as the 14-fret guitars. They're smoother and have a bigger-sounding bass.
    regards,
    stanger
     
  5. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    Here's a pretty cool second cousin to your guitar. This one is a 1928 Nick Lucas plectrum. I scored it a few years ago by sheer luck. I'm the second owner. It's 100% original, and needs nothing, but the old tuning pegs are close to being shot; I can feel they are growing weak, so I plan to replace them with some good ones before they fail. Even the original case is still sturdy enough to use, but I plan on buying a new one to pack it around in.

    The Nick Lucas commonly came with either maple or mahogany bodies. This one is mahogany. Notice how for down in the body the sound hole is; the neck length forced the sound hole downward. The pick guard is also unique and isn't the one used on the 6-string or tenor Nicks. The guitar was probably a custom order in 1928, and went straight to Fairbanks from Kalamazoo. There's a post office label on the top of the case. Later on, the post office shipped it to Montana, as there's another label on the inside of the case.

    All that pick damage happened in less than a half hour when a drunk got hold of the guitar in the middle of a gig.
    The original owner mostly played the trumpet, and only used the guitar on a few ballads, and according to his son, once he saw the damage, he punched the guy out and they 86'd him out of the joint.

    Mike&NickLucas 2017 copy.jpg

    The Nick was unique- they were a 13-fret guitar, with the L-1 body shape but the sides are as deep as a jumbo.

    The neck on this guitar is a stock Gibson plectrum PB-1 banjo neck with 22 frets, in banjo scale; 26 3/4". While tenor banjo necks are pretty common, plectrum necks are super-rare, as the plectrum was never as popular a banjo as the tenor.

    But all the major guitar manufacturers of the period made them in very small numbers, most often as a custom order.

    For a 5-string banjoist, the plectrum is a very easy change over. I've looked for one for over 30 years, just to see what they looked like in person, and this was the very first one I ever saw.

    It was on consignment at a dealer' shop. He's an old friend, but our friendship wasn't enough to cut a deal for this guitar- it cost me an arm and a leg, but about $1500 less than a 6-string Nick would have cost, because the plecs are too rare to be very much known to guitar players. Even most banjo players know nothing at all about them.

    It's built to take guitar strings, and in plec tuning, sounds like the heavenly choir singing at full blast. Very sweet and powerful tone!
    regards,
    stanger
     
  6. rob2

    rob2 Tele-Holic

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    Thats amazing,they're probably rarer than the guitar then,they really caught my eye when I was admiring it!
     
  7. RLee77

    RLee77 Friend of Leo's

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    Congrats on a beautiful guitar...
    I have to add, your sig quote made me laugh. I’ve done that. More than once.
     
  8. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    The celluloid used for these is exactly the same as the stuff that was used for tortoise shell pickguards.

    Gibson first got the tiger stripe by cutting a block of celluloid at a 45º angle before it was sliced in thin pickguard pieces. If it was cut square to the block, it would look like tortoise shell.
    I'm sure they ordered the material pre-sliced later on though.

    One reason why they look so bright is because the pickguard went on before the sunburst, so it's over bright wood. All the guitars they were used on were pretty high-range models, and in the Depression, lots of novel little details like this could help sell a high-priced guitar. They also helped keep the Gibson crew busy too.
    Unlike almost all the others, Gibson did its best to keep it's floor workers. They even built a line of wooden toys and working model sailboats to keep the labor force on the job, and they sold bodies to almost any competitor who wanted them.
    Gibson also sold a big bunch of non-Gibson branded cheap guitars under the company's own brand names. Some of them are very close to Gibson quality, but they all lacked the neck truss rod, as that was a Gibson patent they wanted to protect.

    For the Gibson products, the 1930s were a time for a lot of experimentation. Some of it led to guitars that sold like hotcakes, despite the Recession, that became the professional's favorites to this day.

    And anyone could order something custom that was based on a production guitar for an extra $50. Some of those custom items must have cost the company far more than $50 to make, but it kept the expensive models going in sales, and most did pay off well. One was Gibson's first really good electric pickup.

    Cheaper non-Gibson house copies of the L-00 were big sellers, though most didn't sound as good. Few of the copies got much detail in the bracing, though the bracing patterns remained the same, and overall, cheaper grades of wood were used, but they were the same varieties.

    When I first worked at Gibson Montana in 1989, the re-issue Advanced Jumbo was the very first modern guitar to get the tiger stripe in the old pickguard shape. The old celluloid was unavailable by then, and a German company was making all the new Gibson pickguards out of acrylic, a much more stable plastic. They had a hard time figuring out how to accurately recreate the tiger stripe, and we kept getting their latest attempts. Some looked really cool, others really ugly, but eventually they got it right.

    By then we had over 100 guitars ready for finish racked up, waiting for the pickguards. I picked out my own AJ out of that batch, with the help of 3 other really good guitar guys. I don't know if it is the best-sounding of the entire bunch, but it's still my favorite guitar by a long shot, and we thumped them all.

    I owned a 1939 AJ for about a decade, and my new one is now old enough that it's beginning to sound like the pre-war. It isn't quite there yet, but its getting close.
    regards,
    stanger
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019
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  9. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    Bone. Horse shin bone. Horse shin bone was used because it's so dense it has few voids.
    regards,
    stanger
     
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  10. Bill

    Bill Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Yes, good spotting. That's because I bought it from an idiot. The original owner gave it to his son, whom I bought it off of. The son played in an industrial metal goth band and beat the daylights out of it. End peg missing, a big chunk of the neck heel torn off, etc.

    The guitar needed a neck reset when the son had it. Instead, some equally idiot luthier took off the original bridge and long saddle, threw them away, and put on a replacement set that had a standard short saddle. Of course the action and intonation were still way off.

    I had the neck reset, heel repaired, etc. after I got it. The luthier I used said it probably wasn't worth redoing the bridge and saddle except to make it look more historically accurate, as it was functioning fine as is. He did, however, reshape the bridge a bit just to make it look better.
     
  11. fatcat

    fatcat Friend of Leo's

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    NEVER say never.

    That's a really sweet instrument. You did get lucky.
     
  12. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

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    That has got to be the scariest cool Gibson I have ever seen!. I have never even heard of a 14 3/4" Advanced L body Nick Lucas built prior to 1929. And the 1929 models are about as rare as it gets. I have only ever seen one. And I have never seen any Gibson flattop - tenor or 6 string - with anything other than an elevated pickguard before 1932. I would love to hear what Willi Henkes or John Thomas over at the UMGF would have to say about it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019
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  13. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    PS - My last Gibson was my last Gibson.
     
  14. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    The age of the guitar is disputed some. The owner's son maintains his Dad ordered it in mid-1928, but a Gibson expert who examined pictures (possibly Gruhn?) said it was an early 1930 when he evaluated it. I suspect that, due to how it had to be shipped to Alaska, the owner probably was off by close to a year in his memory and didn't get the guitar until 1929, as some of the other stuff his Dad told him made 1929 more likely. For sure, it had to have been made over that time span.

    It has a red-line case that's definitely late 20s. The label is there, but illegible and delicate, so I can't read the serial number, and don't want to mess with it. The Grover pancake tuners are the earliest ones Grover made, and are the same ones as they used on their 20s banjos.

    I also suspect that Gibson, who had been working on prototypes for the Advanced series for at least a year, may have used a prototype body for the guitar, as the plectrums were so rare. If it turned out to be a dud, who would know if it was sent to Alaska?

    Ren Ferguson hasn't seen it yet, but I plan on showing it to him. Ren mapped about every pre-war Gibson style they made, and knows about everything there is about the Advanced bracing and the changes. He and I are old friends, and I'll take his word for what it is over anyone else's.

    I thought it was a weird tenor when I first noticed it, but the soundhole placement was strange, and the bridge didn't look right either. That was when I counted the frets. The tenors all had 19 frets, and when I hit 22, I about wet my pants!

    The shop it was in was full of guys playing guitars, and I was just sitting on one side listening. I pulled it off the back wall, and tuned it up quietly, and then played a banjo tune in C that always sounds really good in that tuning. Damn! The heavens parted and the angel's choir began to sing!

    When I looked up, everyone was staring at the guitar and saying "What is that thing?" It's volume can easily hold its own in a horn band, but the sound is very sweet. The strings on it were a tenor set, and really put a lot of tension on the guitar, but the only crack in it was on the back, and a good repairman had fixed it a long time ago. I now string it with a set of Martin lights, which have lower tension. Anyone need some spare 5th and 6th strings?

    The action is still fine and the neck is still straight. The strings feel pretty stiff under the fingers, but once I got used to the feel, it's an easy guitar to play. I tried a set of the heaviest banjo strings I could find on it, but they weren't heavy enough to suit the guitar. It didn't like them very much.
    regards,
    stanger
     
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  15. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

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    Lawdy, the longest scale six string I have ever owned have been the 26" scale Kays.

    On dating the guitar, "Red Line" cases were not around in the late-1920s. They show up in the mid-1930s and disappear in the early 1940s. Grover Pancake Tuners which, although largely disappearing from guitars after 1930 or so, were still showing up on banjos in the mid-1930s ( I have a set of early Grover Champions on of all things a locally-built fiddle which is dated 1922). If you throw in the glued on pickguard, it seems to point to a mid-1930s build. The soundhole binding (which I cannot make out clear enough in the photo) might help clear it up. But in the end it does not matter a fig as your guitar may just be the ultimate Franken-Lucas. And part of the reason many of us love Gibsons is their pure quirkiness. I needed John Thomas (who would go on to write the "Kalamazoo Gals" book) to help me figure out my 1942 J50. The FON and rosette clearly showed the guitar to have been built among the first batch of J50s to leave Kalamazoo. But the guitar sported remnants of an original burst. What was finally figured out is one f the inexperienced lady workers accidently flip flopped one of the book matched top pieces leading to the speculation that when the mistake was caught down the line somebody else on the spot sprayed a burst to hide the mistake.
     
  16. teletimetx

    teletimetx Poster Extraordinaire

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    thanks for all the amazing information - from both you and El Señor @zombywoof . Learning is a joyful thing, 'specially when it's free...

    I've always been a big fan of the Advanced Jumbo, so was doubly grateful for the info you provided. Seemed like that model (in recent time, IME) was more consistent on producing the angels than other models I have tried.

    I finally snagged one in my price neighborhood, a used one from Guitar Center. 2015-ish reissue, but a limited run of maple back & sides. Inside the box, on one of the braces, "#10" is stamped, which I have interpreted to mean that my guitar was #10 of what I have read was a 60-unit run. Not sure that's verifiable or needs to be, but found it interesting anyway.

    The original owner apparently never bothered to just check it out or didn't bond with or whatever. Had a little extra glue shmooz under the saddle that had covered over part of the pickup that was muffling the sound a little. Just needed to be cleaned up and put back in place and it needed some fret leveling, but I'm now in a serious honeymoon phase.

    I've not had the opportunity or pleasure to have one of those rare beauties that y'all have pictured here, but some day I hope to change that - just to play, if anything.

    plus, also learned that the Nick Lucas models came as either maple or mahogany body! I've never seen one in person, so that's a detail that is fascinating.
     
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  17. dan1952

    dan1952 Friend of Leo's

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    Beautiful guitar, congrats!
     
  18. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

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    Aha, so you were the one who came up with the paddle neck joints and Fullerplast finishes.

    Did you know Jim Triggs? When I lived in Kansas he was out there building archtops, flattops and mandolins.
     
  19. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    Nope. When I arrived, Fullerplast was already in use. Steve Carlson began using it for his Flatiron mandolins because of Montana's cold winters, which caused lacquer to crack due to the cold in delivery. The Fullerplast didn't crack in the cold.

    It was an enormous pain in the ass for the finish department, though, as it is super difficult to repair any minor flaws that always happen in finishing. The Plast also took too long to finally cure hard enough to buff up to a high gloss.

    Another big problem with it was the compressors that were used to apply it. At that time, there wasn't much spray equipment invented for high production spraying of catalyzed polyurethane. The equipment that did exist was either designed for low-volume applications or couldn't produce a spray that was fine enough to prevent orange peel after it was buffed.
    Worse, those compressors' pumps were electric powered, not hydraulic. They were stationed on top of the spray booths, were noisy, and that noise was amplified by the sheet metal of the booths. You needed to shout to be heard over them, needed to wear ear plugs, and the damn things had a tendency to overheat and catch fire!

    i once heard one blow up, and had to run out of the color booth with a fire extinguisher in hand, climb up to the top of the roof that covered the booths and put out the fire before it lit up the entire department! There was an access ladder that was right next to the door on my side of the booth.
    The booth itself was one big unit that was divided by a sheet metal wall. The color booth was smaller than the clear coat booth, but the compressors lay directly over the clear coat side. It was a pretty desperate dash across a lot of wobbly tin to reach the fire.

    I actually played a big part in abandoning the Fullerplast. Valspar, the paint company who supplies finish to Gibson, had already come up with a new nitro lacquer with plasticizer in it that allowed the finish to be repaired, be buffed up shiny, and wouldn't cause cracking in the cold, but the new stuff was only being used in Nashville.

    The color booth, where all the sunbursts and other colors are sprayed, got this new clear lacquer in 5 gallon cans from Nashville, and it was sprayed on the guitars after coloring as a good way to protect the colors in all the steps they had to go through before they received their final clear coats.

    I hated the Plast, so when I colored my own AJ, I hid it on the color line and applied the clear coats myself after hours on it, off the clock. This was against the rules, and the division manager knew I was doing it, but he wanted to know how the new nitro worked in buffing, as the guitars with Plast were getting complaints from the dealers. So he let me do my thing. I thought I was being clever, but I wasn't.

    My guitar came out so well that the Plast was abandoned as soon as they could replace the equipment. My AJ is actually the first Montana-made Gibson to carry a nitro lacquer finish. It's held up very well over the years too, but recently it began popping a few age cracks in the top, so I expect they all will eventually.

    The paddle joint was a hold-over from the Nashville-made acoustics, and was already gone by the time I arrived. Along with a lot of other stuff that was sent from Nashville. There were a ton of jigs, body molds, equipment and other stuff that was used or tried out and thrown away during the time I worked there then, and a lot of the stuff that replaced it was gone when I went back there 10 years later.

    Yup. I know Jim Triggs, but not through our work at the Gibson factories. I met him about 8 years after both of us left Gibson. I like Jim a lot. He's both a very pleasant guy and a true craftsman who really knows his stuff.

    I also know Dana Burgeois. He came to Montana in 1990 as a paid advisor to help Ren Ferguson get the production numbers up to speed. At the time, Montana was only completing 6 guitars a day!
    regards,
    stanger
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
  20. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    Like Zomby, I also like the quirks Gibsons have. It makes them very interesting.

    Really though, I'm a player, not a real collector or expert on guitar history. A lot of the stuff I learned about Gibson either came from old-timers or the real guitar historians who passed through the factory on a visit.

    I don't care a lick about when the Nick was made. I just love it as a guitar. If I ever decide to go pro again, I'll probably have a new one made just like it to play out because it's an old lady now and deserves to stay home, and it's one of very few vintage guitars I own.

    I like the fact I can find a living guy to make me a new guitar if the one I have now gets busted up, so I don't buy very many vintage instruments and never have. But I do appreciate vintage tone and age. There's nothing more I like than to play someone else's old guitar for a minute and then hand it back to its owner. It's like visiting an art museum to me.

    One thing I figured out was a lot of those quirks originated down on the production floor. Gibson has always had a managing ownership who didn't care all that much about uniformity; even the floor managers would let something that was out of spec pass if it was a little different. It's part of the Gibson tradition, and it's still happening.
    regards,
    stanger
     
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