12/18/2016

1951 Epiphone FT-79 Jumbo Flattop Guitar





I never thought I'd work on two of these New York-made FT-79s -- and this one's even the same year as the last! They're a hard box to find. Just like the first one I worked on (a much more beat-up '51) and the similar FT-110 I worked on earlier this year, this FT-79 is all about power, rumble, and a throaty, full sound. The makers must've put some magic into these x-braced flattops because they dish-out like the Epiphone carved-tops of the 30s and 40s but have all the mwah and countrified, cowboy-chord-friendly tone you could ask for. If you're predominantly an engine-house chord-banger, something like this guitar will give plenty of spare power to drive a band and keep it together while affording you the opportunity to zip a few leads and fills in there when you want to.

Anyhow, this came in on consignment via an Epiphone collector and I've given it a good going-over. The neck's been reset, I repaired a hairline crack next to the pickguard, the frets are leveled and dressed, it has a replacement set of pins all around, and it's ready-to-go. The neck's straight, the original saddle is full-height, the action is spot-on at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret, and it's strung with 12s.


These FT-79s feature a solid spruce, x-braced top over solid maple sides and a laminate, arched maple back. The neck appears to be two-piece mahogany with a center strip of walnut and the bridge, fretboard, and saddle are all Brazilian rosewood.

This guitar is in pretty good shape but it does have some pickwear at the bass side of the soundhole, a hairline crack (repaired) next to the pickguard on the top, some missing veneer (and a missing logo!) at the headstock, and a small cracked-out area near the endpin (see later down the post), general finish weather-checking, and a small bit of over-hung/separated (from shrinking of the plastic) binding at the waist on the rear. That sounds like a long list but, in actuality, all of that is really minor stuff.


It sucks that the headstock veneer deteriorated in this way, but at least the original bone nut (damaged but repaired) and original truss rod cover are intact. The nut width at the top of the board is just a hair under 1 11/16" but the neck itself swells to 1 11/16" at the bottom edge of the board (it's a little rounded-over on the edges).

This guitar has a long, 25 5/8" scale length which is part of why it has such oomph and an almost bluegrassy sound to the lower-mids when alternating bass notes or doing runs within chords.


I love the look of those old Epi pearl inlays, don't you? The neck has a flatter radius at around 14" and a medium, C-shaped profile that's just a bit smaller front/back than comparable period Gibsons.



Check out the grain on the top. Tight! It's also nice to see an original Epi pickguard that's still intact.



I find that Epiphone botched the bridge-install process a bit at the factory. On the FT-110 I worked on recently, the string spread was way too wide for the board. On this one the holes were simply not aligned well with the neck's spacing and so I nudged the string path a bit by cutting string-ramps to realign them. It's worked just as I wanted it to, with even spacing and alignment.

The parts-bin pins are not original but they match, more or less, the remaining vintage original-style pins that came with the guitar. The saddle is full-height and original, though, and my only alteration to it was to compensate the B-string area for better intonation.



The maple back and sides are stained quite dark.


The original tuners are working just fine.


There's a bit of figure in the mahogany on the neck.



Oops! I forgot to mention that I replaced the missing heel cap (they almost always crumble on Epis from the 50s) with some tortoise pickguard material that matches the pickguard.






When I popped the endpin out, this tiny cracked area came with it. I'm assuming that it was already loose but not obviously-so, because the pin was only finger-tight in the hole. Anyhow, I reglued the bit back on. The damaged area is entirely covered by the endblock so it's absolutely not a worry for the future.



A no-frills, flat-topped, hard case comes with it.

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