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1939 Gibson Super 400N
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Serial #: EA-5831, white oval label, hand calligraphed. FON# 422E-3
Body size at lower bout: 18" Scale length: 25 1/2" Nut Width: 1 10/16" Neck depth: .875 to .998, 1st /10th fret
Materials: Handcarved bookmatched solid spruce top; solid bookmatched quilted figure maple back and sides; tiger flame maple neck with mahogany centerstripe; solid ebony fingerboard; mother of pearl block fingerboard split-block peghead inlay; fat script Gibson logo; 5 ply headstock and pickguard binding, 7 ply bound body; triple bound neck and f-holes.
Hardware: Original hardware includes hand-engraved gold trapeze tailpiece with Super 400 script logo, compensated Brazilian rosewood bridge with pearl wedge inlays. Vintage correct 5-ply bound pearloid pickguard, gold Kluson Sealfast tuners.
Notes: When it comes to the tone and volume of a stringed instrument, three factors are definitive. First, the material itself; older tonewood has been preferred since before the days of Stradivari, assuming it's been properly cured. As wood ages it dries and becomes lighter, improving its strength to weight, which enhances its responsiveness. The second is the design and construction. A skillfully graduated soundboard will optimize the acoustic potential of the instrument, and factors such as scale length and bracing combine to give each one its own distinctive voice. And the third is play. Instrumentalists and luthiers alike have long recognized that the amount of vibration a soundboard has sustained over its lifetime can significantly open up the voice of a stringed instrument, increasing clarity, resonance, and projection, often quite dramatically.
This remarkable guitar reflects an extraordinary confluence of all three factors. We know the wood has to be at least 80 years old, and may well have been harvested before the first World War. And given its substantial dimensions, both spruce and maple were most likely cut from old-growth timber. The construction itself represents a brief golden era for a Gibson archtop as well. Gibson X-braced the soundboards of their orchestra guitars for only 5 model years until WWII, producing more sensitive instruments with greater bass response and sustain. But it was not until around 1938 that their necks were finally extended to the longer 25 1/2" scale, which remains in use today, increasing their volume as well. This combination created instruments of unique resonance and projection, but lasted only two short years, before Gibson returned to parallel bracing in 1940, a very narrow window for these uniquely responsive guitars.
The third factor is most vividly demonstrated in this exceptional guitar. Clearly a bandstand veteran, the instrument exhibits thumbwear the length of the neck, and wear to the soundboard precisely in the sweet spot for rhythm playing, right where the neck joins the body. Its lucky owner evidently played it both expertly and vigorously, and the result is instantly obvious to the ear. Put simply, this lovely old warhorse is by far the most lushly resonant Super 400 we've ever played: we've never heard anything even close.
With serial # EA-5831, and FON# 422E-3, this rare early blonde was shipped on December, 19th 1939 to a customer named W. Turzy, according to the indispensable Andre Duchossoir. One of just 40 examples shipped in that first catalog year for the new blonde finish, priced at a premium over the sunburst models. Fittingly, the guitar exhibits utterly spectacular bubble maple in the back, with deeply figured tiger flame sides and neck. The gold hardware includes one of the very first adjustable Varitone tailpieces, ornately engraved in the prewar style, with Kluson Sealfast tuners of a slightly later vintage, and a marbleized bound ivoroid pickguard fabricated from an original template in our shop. A pair of grainline cracks near the tailpiece were professionally splinted years ago, along with another by the pickguard. The pickwear is visible in a patch near the fingerboard, and the original finish remains intact under some light clear overspray to the top many decades ago.
The neck, however, tells the real story. Worn smooth from a long career of continuous professional play, the intensely figured 3 piece maple neck has a remarkably contemporary profile. Strikingly different from some of the clubby or V necks of the era, this neck profile is notably contemporary: elegant and inviting, it's quite in keeping with the better handbuilt guitars today. Played in vigorously for decades, the voice is clear, open and deeply resonant, complex and juicy, with vibrant projection and an unusually wide dynamic range. Wide open and full throttle, this guitar is absolutely thrilling under the ear, and completely commanding out front.
The guitar has smooth low action over fine pro fretwork, with a fresh high precision setup over the solid ebony fingerboard. And all nestled in its original premium plush-lined brown pigskin case. An absolute pinnacle of design, tone and playability, this superlative Super 400 is the rarest of treasures for the serious player. Do not dawdle: 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. Action is 4 to 5/64" at the 12th fret, with medium gauge .013 phosphor bronze strings.
Case: Original Geib deluxe plush lined arched hardshell case, with original leather covering.