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1939 Gibson L-5

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Serial #: 95787, white oval label. FON: (5)38D-1

Body Size at lower bout: 17". Scale Length: 25 1/2" Nut Width: 1 11/16" Neck Depth .91/1.01, 1st/10th frets

Materials: Solid bookmatched curly maple back and sides; handcarved bookmatched solid spruce top; 2 piece flame maple neck with walnut centerstripe; quintuple bound solid ebony fingerboard with block mother of pearl inlay; quintuple bound peghead and body with bound f-holes; solid bone nut.

Hardware: Original gold engraved L-5 hinged trapeze tailpiece. Period gold Grover Imperial tuners, vintage correct five-ply bound tortoise pickguard, compensated adjustable ebony bridge.

Notes: Making it's debut in 1922, the Gibson L-5 was created by the legendary Lloyd Loar, father of the renowned F-5 mandolin. The L-5 is perhaps his most influential creation, and is widely regarded as the first successful commercially produced archtop guitar. Almost a century later, it remains the most famous jazz guitar of all time, and remains the gold standard against which all competiors must be judged.

One of just 101 examples shipped in 1939, this handsome instrument is inscribed with a factory order number from the previous year, and was the first in its batch of ten. A transitional instrument, it is an early example built with the elongated 25 1/2" scale neck, which Gibson began to offer as an option just the year before. The soundboard is also built with parallel bracing, which Gibson would adopt formally in this model year, to increase the power and projection of the instrument in big band settings.

The top of Gibson's 17" line, the guitar is constructed with back and sides and neck of handsomely flamed bookmatched Northern Michigan Big Leaf maple, and a solid carved soundboard of quartersawn Sitka spruce. Carefully maintained, the instrument is free of pick, buckle, thumb and fingerboard wear, with only a few random nicks on the back. The subtly shaded Cremona sunburst finish is protected by a coating of light clear lacquer, now old enough to show some very light scattered checking of its own. The instrument shows no structural cracks: a single short finish crack is visible adjacent to the bass fingerboard extension, but does not extend through the wood.

The guitar is fitted with a rare prewar hinged tailpiece engraved with vertical stripes on its retainer, a unique variant, and the only one we have seen to date. All original multi-ply binding remains tight to the body, the gold Grover Imperial tuners are correct for the model, and appear to be of 40's vintage. A compensated adjustable ebony bridge was crafted for the instrument by Roger Borys, and the guitar is fitted with a vintage correct five-ply bound tortoise pickguard, from an original template in our shop.

At just 5lb 10oz, the guitar is exceptionally lightweight and well balanced in the lap, and may be fitted with a neck button on request, with our compliments. The neck has a contemporary gentle C profile, neither clubby nor veed, with fine original fretwork and smooth low action over a fresh high-precision setup. The voice has the deep throatiness for which the prewar L-5s are renowned, with rich, singing overtones, an appealing warmth and resonance, and exceptional dynamic range and projection.

Finally, this gleaming instrument is accompanied by its original Geib striped tweed 'aircraft cloth' hardshell case, which remains in fine shape, with all latches and bumpers intact. Equally at home on the bandstand or the studio, this outstanding guitar is an exceptional player, and a remarkable find in a true prewar L-5. On consignment: one only, call now.

Setup: Trussrod tension and neck relief adjusted; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation set; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and recut as necessary; bridge foot contour inspected and fit to top as necessary; bridge radius inspected and recurved as necessary; bridge wheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished. Strung with .013 phosphor bronze strings, with action set to 4-5/64" at the 12th fret, with light neck relief.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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