9/27/2012

c.1934 Gibson L-50 Roundhole Archtop Guitar


Update #2, 2013: I've been loving this guitar and used it to record all of "Has Been Framed," but needs must be met, so it's up for sale. It's a fantastic, rare instrument and if you're at all into L-00 bluesy guitars that can also suit early jazz and old-time/country, look no further! It also comes with a hard arched case for safe storage and transport. Also, since these photos were taken it's had a K&K "Twin Spot" pickup installed for gigging use and a strap button added to the heel on the treble side (using an old celluloid endpin to look "period"). New pics of said mods & of course a soundclip will be available soon. OH, and also -- a replacement period-correct tortoise pickguard is available for this guitar as well.

Update: I've since researched the labels found in the soundhole and pieced together this guitar's history. Pretty cool! Click here to read up.

I've been looking all over for this particular model of Gibson archtop. It's the same size and shape as the Kalamazoo KG-21 I'd been playing hard for the last year-plus, but has a flat back, carved top, round soundhole (love the looks of that), and maple secondary woods rather than mahogany. Of course, it's also a "first line" Gibson product, so the fit, finish, and truss-rodded neck are nice upgrades, too.

Tonally, it's far more similar to the brighter (and wider-bodied) f-hole Kalamazoo KG-22s and 31s I'm much more familiar with, save that the treble has a bit more zing and sustain and open chords are a little less compressed-sounding. It's not a hugely warm guitar but it's just what the Dr. ordered for darker picking styles, blues, and "jazz comp" sound.

If you'd like a good back-history on the bizarre and strange alterations this model underwent from the early 30s into the late 30s, click here to check out this page and scroll down to L-50. It's very curious!


Work included cleating and filling several long top cracks, slight modification to the bridge's saddle section, a fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup

Don't you just love that glossy, thin, red to "black plum" finish?


Pearl Gibson script in the headstock. Truss cover, and original bone nut.


Rosewood board with pearl dots. These frets were really, really worn out, but still managed to level & dress to practical use.


Ebony bridge. It's hard to see in the pictures, but the biggest crack runs right from the soundhole edge straight to the tailpiece under the low E string. They're all cleated-up and stable, though.


Who doesn't love round soundholes on an archtop?



The maple back and sides are stained a uniform dark brown.


Original tuner plates are seriously un-fancy but get the job done.


Good neck set, cream-bound top and bottom edges.




The ebony pin is a replacement from my parts bin.

Update: the ebony pin is replaced now with an "endpin jack" for the K&K pickup. No modification of the tailpiece was necessary, though.


...and one of the coolest features is the radio station labels pasted on the inside of the guitar. Looks like this was owned by someone who was spending a lot of time playing local radio hours in the Kentucky and Virginia area!


Here's a shot from during the repairs to the top I snapped yesterday morning.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jake

I like the way you vary the backgrounds in your instrument pictures. I can just imagine you shlepping all the stuff down to the creek and back to give us an interesting shot

Thanks for the attention to the details

Ben

Antebellum Instruments said...

I'm glad you appreciate it!

I get bored shooting the same spot, though, to be honest, and instruments look more like themselves if I can get some good sun in the shot.

In the near future I'm upgrading my camera so look out for nicer shots in even more places, too! I'm pretty psyched about getting something a bit more user-adjustable and higher-grade on the image quality side of things.

Rolfyboy6 said...

I too like your photos and the sunlight and backgrounds and the way I learn stuff from them.

Num, num, num. Three of the deadly sins immediately popped up in me seeing this guitar: Lust envy, and jealousy. Oh my Guitar Acquisition Syndrome! The Kalamazoo was bad enough, and then this!

How's it sound doing Robert Johnson tunes? Gillian Welch tunes?

Antebellum Instruments said...

This plays the blues, jazz, big band chops, and also manages to be a fine solo instrumental guitar, too. You have to like archtop tone, though... it's crisp and has just that slight velvety mandolin mwah to the bass notes. I think of this as more piano-like attack and sustain than guitar-like sound.

Definitely not warm enough to replace Gillian's J-50 tone... her style has evolved so much based on that guitar's lovely meshed chord sound, at least to my ears. Those are lovely singing guitars, and if I ever have the $$ to put down on a nice old one, they're high up there on my list. I like the adjustable bridge models best, though -- they have a bit more note separation methinks.

Anonymous said...

Hi - Is this guitar still available for sale? Thanks - Bjablonski@yahoo.com