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1940 Gibson L-47
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FON #: 1079F-66
Body size at lower bout: 14 3/4" Depth at endpin: 3 1/2" Scale length: 24 3/4" Nut width: 1 11/16" Neck depth, 1st/10th frets: .94/.1.06
Materials: Solid carved Adirondack spruce top; curly maple back and sides; one-piece mahogany neck; solid rosewood fingerboard, single-bound body, ebony nut.
Hardware: All original nickel hardware includes trapeze tailpiece, three-on-a-plate open back tuners, compensated adjustable rosewood bridge, contoured swirl tortoise pickguard, adjustable truss rod.
Notes: When we were first emailed photos of this guitar, it was described to us as a prewar L-37. On first glimpse, we felt it had to have been a refin, as this model was only ever available in sunburst, and Gibson reserved its debut blonde finish for its premium L-5 and S-400 models exclusively. Still, the photos were intriguing, and when it arrived, its factory order # pegged it to 1940. And the finish, much to our surprise, was quite clearly original, like everything else on this charming little guitar. Still, what was it?
In order to make a positive ID, we had to go to the archives, where our 1942 Gibson catalog had the answer. There, on page 10, we found 'A BRAND NEW GUITAR' (their caps), christened as the L-47. In over three decades of specializing in archtop guitars, we wondered how we'd never seen or heard of this model. Digging further into Gruhn's Guide gave us a clue: the guitar was only produced for two short years in the scarcest era of Gibson's production, between 1940 and 1942. And indeed, that lone catalog was this fleeting model's one and only appearance in print, before it disappeared altogether.
We knew that by 1940 Gibson had migrated the natural finish to the L-7 and L-4 models, but we'd never seen a blonde in this small body size. And indeed, from the humble L-30 right up to the L-50, the only finish options were sunburst or ebony. So this compact cutie stands alone, and not just for the lacquer. As natural finishes were renowned for highlighting curly maple to greatest advantage, the most extravagantly flamed tonewood was reserved for the blondes. And this one is no exception, with flame maple figure extending from rim to rim on its flat back, and deeply figured sides.
The hardware is all original as well, from the 3-on-a-plate open back tuners, right down to the lacquered maple endpin. The bright nickel trapeze tailpiece and compensated adjustable rosewood bridge are in gleaming condition, and the contoured pickguard is complemented with matching binding of dark marbled tortoise, a handsome accent to the warmly ambered body finish, topped off by the original solid ebony nut.
At a featherweight 3lb. 14oz. you'd better hold this guitar tight in a stiff breeze. And with its finely graduated, parallel braced Adirondack spruce soundboard, it has a notably bright, clear voice, with excellent volume and projection. Apparently unplayed for decades, the instrument has all original fretwork in excellent condition, and the body shows only light playwear, confined mostly near the pickguard and the back of the neck. Action is smooth and low over a fresh high-precision setup, with a classic prewar C profile neck.
If there's a scarcer Gibson archtop, we can't find it in any of the catalogs. And we'd be hard pressed to find a prettier one as well. If it was a bird, this guitar would be rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker. Call or email, but catch this rare bird while you can.
Setup: The frets have been precision leveled, recrowned and polished as required; trussrod tension and neck relief adjusted as required; 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; bridgewheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished.
This instrument is strung with medium gauge phosphor bronze strings. 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.
Case: Fitted black plush lined hardshell case.
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