1939 Gibson HG-00 Flattop Guitar

Before you get antsy -- it was warm out when I took the pics. A fresh 18" coat of snow was too good of a backdrop to resist, though, and it was a beautiful day out.

HG-00s are a 12-fret, slightly-heavier-braced version of the venerable L-00 design. When they were originally built, they were intended for Hawaiian stringing (like a Dobro with the strings raised above the fretboard on a tall nut for lap-slide playing), but over the years most have been converted (like this one) for regular or "Spanish" playing. This example probably dates to 1939, but the definitive Spann's Guide to Gibson disagrees with the "normal format" and suggests that the factory order number on this guitar could point to 1941, too.

This is a consignor's guitar and when it came to me it was in rough shape with many uncleated, coming-open hairline cracks, a need for a fret level/dress, an unmodified bridge (still retaining its uncompensated "straight" saddle), and a couple of loose braces. All that's been addressed (all the cracks are cleated, of course), and it's now setup on-the-dot with 1/16" DGBE and 3/32" EA action at the 12th fret, a good straight neck, and a new drop-in compensated saddle slot.

I have to admit that this guitar sounds amazing. It's like an L-00 but with a gutsier, fuller, more robust low end. It's like something that bridges the gap between a choice 1940s LG-2, early-30s L-1/L-0, and the "normal" L-00 sound. I love how thick the mids and trebles are and how satisfying the low-end growl is when crosspicking.

This has a new 1 29/32" width bone nut (feels like 1 7/8"), 12" radius Brazilian rosewood fretboard, and original frets with good height left after the fret level/dress. The truss works perfectly.

These Hawaiian models didn't have side dots originally so I added some in the Gibson pattern. I've got a set of 54w-12 strings on this. The neck has a medium, soft-V profile and despite its extra width, it's very comfortable. I like all that width for fingerpicking and clean crosspicking work, though it's not as attractive for up-the-neck chords.

Like an L-00, the top is solid spruce and the back, sides, and neck are solid mahogany. This one is finished in black all over except for the bit left natural under the pickguard so the firestripe look pops out.

This is the original bridge and it's been slightly-sloppily reglued in the past but is still healthy. When I cut the new saddle slot (at a compensated angle) I had to also touch-up and refinish the top. I also added new ebony pins and string-ramped behind the saddle for better back-angle.

I could've cut a "normal" through-saddle but decided to fill the old saddle slot and install a drop-in saddle so action height could be adjusted easily via shims.

I re-used the original bone saddle but, of course, had to totally re-shape it.

The most obvious flaw are the repaired cracks (unfortunately someone had mucked-up the top finish when trying to "touch-up" the look, and attempts to fix the funkiness worked so-so). They're all cleated and stable.

There are three more under the strings in front of the bridge and they're stable, too. The one next to the pickguard has a glob of old glue along its edge that is thankfully diminished by being under the strings.

The back has two, long, repaired hairline cracks -- again with a bit of "glob" along their seams from bad "touch-up" in the past. It's not distracting, though.

The original tuners are in good order and appear to have been a translucent cream-amber color when they were new.

The finish is all original and shows the usual weather-check and weather-cracking associated with Gibson finishes.

The EG factory order number dates to 1939 in most readings, but Spann's Guide states that the E is actually a prefix on the normal G number as opposed to the "letter year" itself. That would place this at 1941. It's confusing, though, since a lot of folks associate black-finished guitars terminating in the 1930s. I know that's absolutely not true, however, as I've owned a black L-30 that had to date to the 1940s due to some of its features.

Aside from the repaired cracks to the top and back, the only other one is here at the bass upper-bout. It's, of course, an old repair and stable.

The endpin is original.

It comes with a slightly-oversize, molded hard case.


Robert Gardner said...

Beautiful guitar Jake, and a great sound. What a pleasure to have these little beauties sail through your shop.

Jake Wildwood said...

Too true, Rob! See you at the jam!