9/08/2015

1946 Gibson Southern Jumbo Slope Dread Guitar




Update: It was a nice sunny day so I decided to re-shoot this guitar and show it in more of its glory.

She's finally done! This guitar has been long in the fixing but it's turned out swell. The last owner of this guitar dated this to '46 and I concur on all the details: no factory order number, old-style Gibson decal, no "banner" decal, and the (before replacement) original Martin-shaped belly bridge all add up to that. It's seen a lot of use (and some funky repair abuse) but, thankfully, it's all gone back together ship-shape. Old Southern Jumbos are fairly rare beasts (for those not in the know: they're fancy J-45s -- solid spruce over solid mahogany) and it's fun to have one in the shop.

Work included a neck reset, bridge replacement, new nut and saddle, new pins all around, new (repro) tuners, fret level/dress, some crack repair and brace reglues, cleaning, and setup with a set of 54w-12 strings. It plays spot-on and has a taller-than-original bridge and saddle setup (Martin size and height) with a decent amount of saddle on it. Tone is big, huge, and wide open with that classic "dry, rich, and airy" Gibson thing going on. The 40s slope-dread Gibsons have been the best ones I've heard -- with a combination of that J-45 "rounder dreadnought" sound but a tighter, more flatpick-friendly big-sounding bass and trebles that are punchier and fuller (read: more like a D-18). It's a winning combination.


Compared to a J-45, the guitar has a higher level of trim with multi-ply top and back binding/purfling and fancy pearloid fretboard inlay. There's a reason these were popular with Grand Ole Opry (and the like) stars -- they look classy but they didn't quite break the bank in the same way a J-200 would.

The finish on this guitar is entirely original -- and so is the wear and tear.




The truss works flawlessly and is barely engaged even for 54w-12 strings. Part of that stability is the bigger C-shaped neck with 1 11/16" nut width. Update: checked with better machine rule -- nut width is just a hair under 1 3/4" -- consider it 1 3/4" if you're pondering as that's how it feels. This guitar had Grover Rotomatics installed on it at one point (I removed them) and that's why there are some marks around the ferrules at the headstock. The neck itself is one-piece mahogany.

The new tuners are StewMac repros of the originals ("Golden Age" units) and they work great and look right. The new nut is bone.


The frets are the original lower, smallish ones -- but they have plenty of life left. Some "wonderful repairman" had reglued a number of the pearloid inlays very poorly with KrazyGlue (ergh!) but I remedied that. There's general use-wear on the board with some wear in the first position of the board itself.



I'm pretty sure that pickguard is original.



This new parts-bin rosewood bridge is obviously not an original but it seemed the most-suited from my box of bits for the guitar. Its spacing is also almost exactly the same as the original and the drop-in saddle makes for easy on-the-fly setup adjustments (read: shimming for winter). The original (split and damaged) behind-belly bridge was about 1/16" thinner top to bottom (Gibson style) with a lower saddle. This one has plenty of bluegrass or old-time-player height for flatpicking or fingerpicking.

I added new ebony pins all around.


Update: There was talk over here about the bridge replacement not being ideal. When is bridge replacement ideal? Still... I've added the above pic of the original through-saddle bridge. It's rosewood that was black-stained and sprayed with finish, per Gibson fancy at the time. The shape is almost identical to the new bridge, though the new bridge does stick out a bit more because I didn't spray it and it has a drop-in saddle. I'm mostly interested in performance over time and the slightly-thicker bridge means more stability and a drop-in saddle means less effort at adjusting setup needs later-on.


Can't argue with yellowed multi-ply binding...



Here are those new (same footprint and look) repro StewMac tuners.






Lots of playwear on that neck!







A beat-up old hard case comes with it. If interested, I might be able to upgrade to something nicer.



So let's talk about the "bad old stuff." The heel was cracked and repaired a while back. It's stable and good to go. You can also see that the sides were hairline-split and reglued on the upper bout areas, too. All good. My neck reset popped the angle back to keep this guitar going for a long while (hopefully -- indefinitely). The fretboard extension dips down slightly past the joint but if you play above the 15th fret you're missing the point, anyhow...

Action is perfect at 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble with a drop-in saddle that can be shimmed or shaved easily.


Here's the bass-side repaired hairline crack (note excess glue marks -- these are long-ago repairs).


Here's the treble-side one.


The back has a couple hairlines (glued) here at the lower bout...


...and 3 tiny-ish smaller ones up here at the upper bout.



The top upper bout has two repaired cracks to the treble side of the pickguard and one next to the fretboard extension. They were all cleated where necessary long ago and are holding well.


These three tiny ones at the waist bass-side are glued and also either cleated or over braces so aren't an issue. Note also the hairline extending from the bridge to the soundhole. All good.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

How much.?

Jake Wildwood said...

$4900 -- just waiting to hear back from the first couple of folks who asked on it before listing.