6/30/2013

c.1949 Gibson ES-300 Electric Archtop Guitar


This ES-300 is a beautiful beast! The model was discontinued in 1952 and introduced in 1940 which puts this closer to the end of production. Overall, it reminds me a lot more of a '50s Gibson "jazz box" compared to the late '30s and early '40s ones that I'm more familiar with myself. The neck is fast and thin, it has a pair of dogear P-90 pickups, and the body is all laminate flamed maple rather than the solid wood the much earlier versions would have sported.

Still, these changes made over a decade make it a much more practical electric rather than acoustic-electric instrument while the "plugged in" tone still recalls the breathy warm sound one might expect from a box like this.

I worked on this for a customer who sent me the guitar in bits and pieces (as it had begun as a parts-er): the body, pickups, and wiring harness came first -- then the big old lyre tailpiece -- then the nice new ivoroid-buttoned Waverly tuners. I added the good rosewood/bone adjustable StewMac bridge, a new bone nut, and some old 1940s radio knobs from my parts bin. Work included a fret level/dress, the aforementioned nut and bridge setup, cleaning, and hooking up a ground wire to the tailpiece.


As a full 17" hollowbody archtop, this is a big guitar, though it doesn't feel it because Gibson placed the waist juuuust right and made it juuuust tight enough to have this feel like you're playing a 00 size in the lap. I don't know (offhand) of any other brands that got the archtop shape quite right to make them extremely playable and non-tiring to a gigging musician playing more than a couple hours straight.


Nie pearl inlay in the headstock (which is bound). The truss works just fine. Oh, and I added a truss cover, too, though an all-black one might've looked slightly more slick (I'll let the owner hunt down a vintage one).


Good radiused rosewood board with nice pearl fret markers.

This has the 25 1/2" Gibson "long scale" neck and so I strung this fairly light -- 46w to 10 with a wound G string -- which keeps the feel slinky and fast.



Here's one of those old radio knobs I had in my parts bin. This one is actually very close to the type Gibson used on early-40s guitars of this style.


The black, dogear P-90s sound awesome.


These two old knobs came off of an old projector. It's hard to find matching sets of anything in vintage gear but I think these ones look pretty good with the guitar.


The big old lyre tailpiece sure is classy.



It's not often I'm jealous of really big guitars, but I am of this one. It plays so effortlessly it's almost painful to put it down.






New Waverly tuners to replace the (missing) original Klusons are a good choice. I don't know of any tuner that's much better than these guys -- they're firm, good-quality, and no-fuss. They also look sexy.



There's the label...

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