12/15/2015

1965 Gibson J-50 Slope Dreadnought Guitar



This pretty old Gibson was brought in by a consignor and it sat around for a good while until I had a chance to get to it. I'd initially thought it looked like a '67 with the (ebony? -- rather than ceramic) adjustable saddle and yellowed-darkish finish, but it turns out via the serial that it dates to '65 and that makes more sense with the neck profile (1 11/16" rather than 1 5/8") at the nut. It's a big-sounding guitar with that classic, deep low and emphasized mids -- and I actually "stole it away" for a quick recording session the other night after I'd just finished it up.

After work it's now in good health, plays spot-on, and has some nice bearclaw figure on the edges of the top... not to mention some hip "country-western" double-pickugard action going on! There's also some sort of pickup installed that attaches through the bridge on a post-style setup -- it sounds relatively faithful but needs a bunch of preamp gain to make it useful, at which point there's a bit of background hum (at least on my Apogee). I think a swap-out to a K&K would be a huge improvement, though someone with a good acoustic pre would be able to tame it easily.


Work on this one included a fretboard extension reset (Gibs from this era tend to get a small ski-jump up there and I've found this to be often due to the fact that a lot of them don't have enough glue to keep the extension pat and get a bit loose or travel), fret level/dress, saddle intonation, new tuners, and those new vintage-style pickguards that I cut specifically for this guitar.

Action is 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret, the truss works, and it's good to go. There are three older repairs including sloppy brace reglues to the back (x2) and a repair to a small hairline crack on the back (x1) but they're in good stead.


The nut's original -- and the neck is that fast C-profile with a just-barely 1 11/16" nut width.

I replaced some replacement Grover Rotomatic tuners with these Kluson-style repros... and got better tuning stability and a lighter headstock as a result.

This is the first guitar I've strung with my custom "balanced tension" lights set (~160lb tension overall) and gauges-out to 54w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 17, 13. I'm really happy with the sound and feel as the instrument definitely has a more "even" response throughout the range and the plains no longer have the dropoff/weaker sound of regular "lights" due to the imbalanced tension of those sets.


The frets, despite getting a pretty big level/dress, are still in good order and have a good amount of life left. This has a 12" radius to it and the board and bridge are Brazilian rosewood, by the looks of them. Those are faux-pearl dots.



The new pickguards are in the style of the original Gibson ones, though the material is a lot thinner and thus the top vibrates a lot more in this area. If you've ever been able to A/B one of these guitars with an original (or period) thick pickguard vs. a modern thin, sticky-backed pickguard... the change is quite dramatic.


I forgot that I added ebony bridge pins, too, to replace some older black plastic ones.


The finish shows the usual weathercheck and there's a bit of usewear here and there, but overall the guitar is pretty darn clean.

The spruce top on these 60s J-50s always seem a little bit thinner or lighter and slightly less-stiff than their 50s counterparts. Part of that might simply be the variety and/or quality of spruce but I think it was perhaps a conscious choice to open up the bass on the instrument. Compared to the 50s ones which have a much flatter "EQ," these 60s ones emphasize a lot more bottom end. This is excellent for singing/backup but not as punchy for lead flatpicking in a group setting.



Woods, right! Solid mahogany back, sides, and neck...



I removed the strap button below the heel -- but it can always be reinstalled if desired. Personally, I like them right on the back of the heel on these Gibs with the flattened rear heel.




Here's that old repair to the back crack.




There's plenty of adjustment available at the saddle.






While the back-brace repairs (x2) are solidly done, there's a lot of excess glue yuck smeared around the inside. Fortunately you can't see it unless you're peering down into it to inspect.


Here were the thick, black pickguards that came with the guitar (they were starting to peel off and were quite heavy). The treble side one was actually cut incorrectly for the top "curve" and I reprofiled it a bit to make a template for cutting my own pickguards for this guitar.


Let's not forget to mention the nice, old, blue-lined "Canadian" arched-top case.

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