Home / Instruments /Accessories / Ordering / Tips / Friends
1931 Gibson L-5
Price and Status: For pricing and hold status of this instrument, please check here. If this instrument does not appear on the Instruments page it has been sold. To be notified of examples of this or any other model in the future, please email your specific requests to [email protected].
Serial #: 87998, white oval label. FON#: 9965
Body size at lower bout: 16". Scale length: 24 1/2" Nut Width: 1 3/4" Neck depth: .85/1.00, 1st/10th frets
Materials: Handcarved bookmatched solid spruce top; solid bookmatched tiger flame maple back and sides; solid three piece maple neck with walnut centerstripe; solid ebony fingerboard; mother of pearl script peghead logo, torch peghead inlay, and fingerboard dots; triple bound fingerboard, body, peghead and pickguard, solid bone nut.
Hardware: Original gold wraparound trapeze tailpiece Pat. stamped July 19, 1910, with replacement prewar crossbar. Period adjustable compensated ebony bridge. Vintage correct aged gold 18:1 Grover G-98 Sta-Tite tuners and triple bound tortoise pickguard.
Notes: Making it's debut in 1923, the Gibson L-5 was created by the legendary Lloyd Loar, father of the renowned F-5 mandolin. One of the most influential instrument designers of the 20th century, Loar pioneered a number of key innovations, including very early work on the electric guitar. The Gibson L-5 is perhaps his most influential creation, and is widely regarded as the first successful commercially produced archtop guitar. Now approaching its centennial, the L-5 remains the most celebrated and influential jazz guitar of all time.
This guitar's serial number, #87998, would previously have been assigned to 1929, but is now more accurately dated to 1931 in the most recent Spann's Guide, which also records this guitar's factory order number. The features of this instrument represent the most desirable combination for the serious player: the solid flame maple body, the hand applied varnish finish, the 1 3/4" dot inlay fingerboard, and most notably, the slimmer, more contemporary 'C' profile neck. Seen only for a few years during this era, this neck profile stands in contrast to the larger V necks more common to the model, both before and after this brief period.
Uncommon for dot neck L-5s, the original mounting holes show that this guitar was originally built with the longer pickguard, and the triple bound dark tortoise guard now in place is utterly faithful to the factory original. The original gold Pat. # wraparound tailpiece is fitted with a later prewar crossbar, with the compensated adjustable ebony bridge of prewar vintage as well. Completing the package is a set of genuine Grover G-98 Sta-Tite tuners, with solid, precise 18:1 gearing, and custom aged vintage style gold plating.
At just a hair over 5 lb., the guitar is happily lightweight, and perches effortlessly on the lap or the strap. The lustrous Cremona varnish finish is applied in the formal dark 'teacup' sunburst, which highights the deep tiger flame maple in the body and neck to great advantage. The smooth neckwear and some scattered buckle worming testify to a vigorous professional career, though the body shows no apparent cracks or repairs and little in the way of pickwear altogether. The binding is original and tight to the body, and the neck angle is excellent, with ample clearance for bridge saddle adjustment.
The generous 1 3/4" nut is ideal for both pick and fingerstyle play, and the action is smooth and low over a fresh, high precision setup, and fine traditional style fretwork. With its solid, carved tone bars, the tap-tuned soundboard has the profound resonance of an instrument well-played and well loved. Deep and throaty, with extended dynamic range and clear, balanced response across the entire fretboard, the instrument is simply thrilling under the ear, or across an auditorium.
What a remarkable tribute to the genius of Lloyd Loar, that to many players his first archtop guitar remains his most desirable, nearly a century later. The real deal: call now.
Setup: Trussrod tension and neck relief adjusted; frets leveled, crowned and dressed; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation set; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and recut as necessary; bridge wheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished.
This instrument is strung with medium gauge bronze strings (.013-.056). The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 4/64" to 5/64" at the 12th fret, with moderate relief for acoustic playing with medium strings. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.