c.1984 Gibson J-25 Slope Dreadnought Guitar

Update: You can pretty much hear this guitar on every track from my last album (click here to hear it on SoundCloud) and now I've got it listed as it's time to change gear for the next couple recordings. I like to keep things fresh for my fingers (and mics). This is a lovely, practical, Gibson-feeling, super-durable and reliable piece of equipment. I've been taking it all over the place this Summer as it travels so well.

I picked this guitar up from a fellow in Texas and I'm very happy with it. This is going to become my new take-anywhere (picnics, rougher gigs, trips) instrument and it fits several wants of mine: a slope-shoulder dreadnought sound, Gibson scale length and neck shape, super-durability, and practicality. It came in the door today and aside from a light cleaning, new set of GHS 12s, and truss and nut adjustment, it was ready to go.

What makes a J-25 a J-25 is simple: it looks and feels like a J-45 or J-50 from the front but the top is spruce plywood, the back is an Ovation-like synthetic unit (it's a little more "squared" than your typical Ovation bowl and has some ergonomic shaping I actually really like a lot), and its simply adorned.

These were built in Nashville (and then in Montana, I believe, as the OP-25 model) and while they're rare and not at all fancy I think at their price point ($400-600, these days) they're extremely good buys. Features that may at first seem counter-productive from a fine-wine sort of guitar player are very practical if you plan to use a guitar like this day-in and day-out while roaming around: the ply top is super-stable and the synthetic back even more-so.

This has the usual Gibson-style Kluson Deluxe tuners. The truss is perfectly fine and the sort of stripey rosewood used in the board is fun. The nut was replaced with bone at some point.

The neck has a 50s feel in the middle and a bit of a 60s feel at the nut, front to back. Fortunately it's got a 1 11/16" nut width which gives more comfort for me compared to skinny 1 5/8" Gibsons of the mid-60s.

The two-ring rosette is a carryover from late-60s and onward Gibson products. I prefer the vintage 1-ring style of 30s through 50s Gibsons but, hey, I won't complain. The pickguard is (thankfully) a transparent tortoise style.

The Martin-shaped rosewood bridge has a replacement bone saddle and I've replaced the bone pins that came with the guitar with ebony as that's just my preference. Note the weird little inset "block" (of ebony?) inserted into the middle of the bridge. I'm assuming that's to cut down on slot-wear from the strings.

The back actually doesn't look grey... but the sun blasted it out a bit. It's pretty well black.

There's some top-coat finish loss at the heel. I'm not crazy about that strap button location (it's original equipment) so I may move it to my usual place in the center of the heel and simply add a second screw to fill the old strap button slot.

Here you can get an idea of the ergonomically-designed back... it's thinner on the treble side than on the bass side and has a bit of a "scoop" ala electric guitar styling which means this fits your body perfectly. It's kind of nice to have a thinner depth but still the big 16 1/8" lower bout size... it's a good compromise between full round bottom end and mid-range cut and pump.

Here you can see some of that molded shaping in the body.

A guitar like this isn't for everyone but I find this a very practical guitar for someone interested in banging out chords to sing to. I can see why it only had a very limited run, though: it's not quite an Ovation and it's not quite a Gibson and it's definitely not that prototypical "old J-45 sound." The round-shoulder body shape and Gibson scale and feel get it about 3/4 of the way, though, and it has a familiar overtone sequence and response style if you're used to that sound. Overall: I like it!


Deltapuppy said...

A new one to me - I have not come across these on e-Bay as yet. Thanks as always for the schooling, Jake!

Anonymous said...

I recently had a J25 come through my shop for a second bridge repair. It was separating from the body. I managed to pry it free without too much damage. Now I need to decide: High finish or natural. Any thoughts?

Joe from CT USA