6/27/2017

1976 Gibson Explorer Solidbody Electric Guitar





The history of the Gibson Explorer is well-documented elsewhere (a design ahead of its time that was tres cool but failed in the market), so I won't get into it too much, but suffice to say the original batch from the late '50s made from korina wood have a special sort of mystique, and this "limited edition" reissue from '76 is cut from the stuff and, well -- it sounds excellent. Korina is interesting in that it's like mahogany, but lighter-weight, and to my ears sounds more like a (good) solid pine guitar in that the notes are very fundamental, springy, and add response almost closer to a semi-hollow instrument.

Traditional guitarists may scoff at the unusual body shape, but deep down anyone who really loves the instrument acknowledges that something like this is pretty hip. Because of the long "tail," they actually sit in the lap halfway-decent, too, and lean a little bit up into the player so it's easy to see what's going on. I haven't had the chance in the past to play one with more vintage-wound humbuckers on it, and after overhauling this and plugging it in, I was greatly pleased with the tone. If you close your eyes, it can play anything from moody jazz straight through ugly, blistery, rock.


Anyhow, by now you've noticed the extra holes. This one was mucked-up by its previous owner at some point in time by way of an on-board active preamp tucked under the pickguard and a host of extra controls. Its new owner came to the same conclusion I had -- gut that stuff and bring it back to original spec.

My work on it was, thus, just that -- I yanked the harness out, stripped down the original pots, and rewired it to original spec. After that I gave it a fret level/dress and a good setup with 10s, and it's playing like a champ. The holes in the pickguard will be moot with a new repro one installed (he's ordering that), and the extra control holes in the body are going to be taken care of by a woodworker friend of his, who will match them spot-on.


Despite being a '70s product, the feel of the neck is definitely late '50s Gibson -- big, round, C-shaped, and chunky. The rosewood board has a 12" radius and the frets are short-height, jumbo stock.


I only really (personally) like gold plating on hardware when it's begun to wear off or discolor -- just like this!




A lot of people adjust the tailpiece on these guitars with pretty severe back-angle. I like to bring the tail up until the strings are just off of the back edge of the bridge itself, and that gives a freer, more relaxed and open tone and feel.






Note the extra control cavity on the rear. Too bad!





Eventually that jack plate will fail, but for now it's holding-up just fine.


Excuse the gobs of solder -- these were pretty sloppy by the time I got to them -- but the owner asked to see any pot codes. These were the only ones legible beneath the gobs of old ground-wire solder.

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