3/30/2013

c.1940 Gibson L-30 Archtop Guitar



Update May 2014: I've been using this as a daily player since fixing this up. It's been nice and stable in service and even sports a K&K Big Twin ($68) pickup under the hood and a good hard tweed case ($75) these days. I've used it for a few shows and I really love the way those things sound in archtops... so natural! I've also added StewMac repro-style "Golden Age" tuners which are a huge improvement over the originals which were at the end of their useful life. No doubt about it, this guitar has been around the block... but it's got that Gibson archtop sound in spades, is super loud, and will suit someone into "mojo." Note that in the soundclip you're hearing semi-flattened strings for that more dark, chunky 40s sound that suits chord chop work. This is bright, bold, and brutally loud with roundwound 12s. I used this for half the tracks on my album "Magic Beans."


Back to the original post...

Well, here's your egg-hunting revival story, folks.

This one started as a pretty cracked egg but I had it finished for this morning's jam. I'm really happy I did, too. It's got that big band thump and snap that I really like in these old 16" Gibsons and despite the plethora of cracks, that carved top is dishing it out even with the pretty light gauge strings I have on it. In person this looks just as beat as it looks on the blog, but the feeling one gets from it is "been through the wars" but not "wounded soldier."


During the wartime years, many Gibson products were made from lesser-fancy wood and I'm sure the black finish on this instrument covers up the rather plain-Jane spruce and maple used throughout. Note the cleated, repaired hairlines in the top... I tried to get a little bit of glare on them so you can see them all. Everything is sound and good to travel but they're there.

All the hardware is fairly original but the tailpiece is a same-era replacement and I recently replaced the tuners.


Update: Truss cover added from my parts bin...

Truss-rodded neck with bone nut. The Gibson inlay is pearl which looks spiffy. 


Radiused rosewood board with pearl dots. This neck feels just like later 50s necks -- quick and fast but not as tiny as the 60s necks. I like a neck like this for chord work up and down and around.

Update: Along with the crack repairs and whatnot I also leveled and dressed these frets and did a lot of clean-up (hah, I know) and setup throughout on this guitar when I first worked on it. I haven't added any fretwear to it, really, since the initial work. I have a pretty light touch. It plays beautifully with 3/32" bass-side action at the 12th fret and 1/16" at the treble. I have a mixed set of 50w-22w basses and 16/12 trebles. I go back and forth between regular 54w-12 lights in roundwound form and this (current) semi-flattened mixed set which suits 30s/40s jazz chording better.


The original rosewood bridge is the final design that Gibson settled on for all their archtops after WWII.


This rusty old tailpiece fit the mounting holes at the endblock and is period, but from my parts bin. the original one would have been slightly nicer but this works just fine and looks the part.


That binding has all turned a sickly yellow that's vaguely satisfying.



Yep, there are some repaired side cracks, too. Some were old, some were fixed by me (the more cleanly-done ones, of course, heh heh).



Update: These are newly-made StewMac repro tuners. These are tight, won't slacken up during a show, and feel great. They're roughly similar to what was originally on here.




The filled holes are all leavings of a weird "strapping" bit of metal that was ridiculously screwed-down across the heel and back. As a result there was a big enough hole at the bottom of the heel to install the original endpin at the heel, here, when I installed the K&K endpin jack at the other end. 

Note the big old split through the heel... it's been 100% stable since before I had this guitar. The old reglue job isn't beautiful but it does work. I mean, heck, not much is beautiful here, but it's still a grand old gal.


...and there's that chipping-off finish and K&K endpin jack!

2 comments:

Ian said...

Is there a FON number to establish the date of manufacture?

d13champ said...

my wife has one of these that sits in the living room. Lotta folks pick it up and say, 'whoa, where can I get me one of these?' Ten years from now they will be a grand.