4/09/2015

1951 Epiphone FT-79 Texan Jumbo Guitar




I've played a lot of nice flattops, but this guitar is exceptional. It's owned by a local state gov't official (so I call it the "Singing Senator's" guitar) and came in for some work last week. It's pretty beat-up but my eyes lit up on seeing it because actual Epiphone (New York) x-braced flattop guitars are quite rare. There are scores of the Gibson-made 60s models but these ones that share the Epiphone curvaceous archtop-body outline (this is a 16" mini-jumbo shape) are very hard to find.

In fact, the build is like a strange mix of Gibson-sounding x-bracing and top design, Guild-style (arched, laminate) back, and Epiphone curves and neck profile/scale length. The result is a very powerful, focused, and rich sound with plenty of tight bass and oodles of volume. I had to back it off from the mic so you lose a bit of the full definition of the guitar, but I think you can hear it alright.



My work included regluing/modding the bridge, a fret level/dress, new same-style replacement pickguard, general cleaning, adjustments, and setup. I also reglued a section of loose binding.

Materials are: solid spruce top, Brazilian rosewood fretboard and bridge, and laminate maple back and sides.


The "belled" truss cover is very cool. Original bone nut, here, too.

All the inlay is actual pearl.


The frets are low-ish but wide which feels like "home base" to me. This has a radiused board and a generous c-shaped neck. The nut is 1 5/8" across and the longer scale (25 5/8") coupled to that larger front/back neck profile gives it an interesting feel. It's fast and has a "healthy" amount of heft.


I love the amount of pickwear the owner has managed to drive into the top.

Whenever I see this I say: that's gonna sound great!


Epiphone used an ebony saddle. I added replacement ebony pins and an ebony endpin as the ones on there were softer plastic old replacements.

I shaved the front edge of this bridge a bit but left the saddle full height. I wanted to give the owner some room to come down if need be... in the future. The saddle hadn't been cut down at all, apparently, but someone had slotted it down some and it wasn't compensated. I recut it so the B, low E and A strings would play in tune up the neck.



You can really see the arched back, huh? It certainly gives a lot of focus/projection to the instrument.


One of these tuners is a 50s replacement from my own parts bin. The original was missing and a lame 80s-style import tuner had been installed. This old one at least matches the buttons a bit better and is the same type Epi used on this model a year or two later.

I forgot to mention that I also reglued the center seam (this is a multi-piece neck) of the headstock, too.


The neck set is good... but the missing heel cap isn't!





2 comments:

Art Drecko said...

The old Masterbilt Epiphone flat tops could hold their own with the Gibsons of that or any era. I have an old Epi Spartan flat top that's a canon.

The reason that the build reminds you of some Guilds is that Guild was founded in 1952 by former Epiphone managers, who brought Epi factory workers with them.

ipmala said...

VERY NICE GUITAR...BUT..I CAN TOP THAT.
I'VE GOT A 1949 EPIPHONE FT-79 (New York) TEXAN.
ALSO 'X-BRACED'....AND WITH MAHOGANY BACK & SIDES.
ADIRONDAC TOP, HIDE GLUE, BRAZILIAN FINGERBOARD & BRIDGE.
CHERRY WOOD NECK (WITH CENTER MAHOGANY STRIP).
NECK IS DEAD STRAIGHT--WITH PERFECT NECK ANGLE.
AND...ORIGINAL FINISH.
95% ORIGINAL (TUNERS ARE AN EARLY SET OF GROVERS).
I HAD IT RESTORED IN THE MID-'90'S BY SCOTTY JACKSON IN NASHVILLE.
GEORGE GRUHN'S HEAD REPAIRMAN BACK IN THE '80'S & '90'S.
THERE ARE ONLY MAYBE 5-6 OF THESE EARLY FT-79'S IN EXISTENCE TODAY.
AND...ONLY A FEW ARE PLAYABLE, IN DECENT PLAYING CONDITION.
THE MAJORITY HAVE MAPLE BACK & SIDES--NOT THE MOST DESIREABLE.
IN FACT, SOMEWHERE AROUND 2012, GEORGE GRUHN HAD AN FT-79 FOR SALE.
LOOKED ALMOST BRAND NEW (NEAR MINT) WITH MAPLE BACK & SIDES.
PROBABLY A 1951.
I THINK IT WAS PRICED AT $3000... OR MAYBE $3500.
I DIDN'T BUY IT, BECAUSE IT LOOKED LIKE A BRAND NEW GUITAR.
(SOMETHING FISHY ABOUT THAT--FOR SURE)

BEST WISHES,
IPMALA
ipmala888@netzero.com