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1996 Lebeda L-5CES

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Label: dated 1996, hand signed by the builder.

Body size at lower bout: 17", Scale length: 25 1/2" Nut: 1 11/16" Neck depth: .87/.97, 1st/10th fret

Materials: Solid bookmatched handcarved fine grain German spruce top; solid carved bookmatched Bosnian flame maple back, sides, and neck; solid ebony fingerboard with split-block mother of pearl inlays; pearl vase and headstock logo; curly maple body and neck binding.

Hardware: All original gold hardware includes Gibson '57 Classic PAF humbucking pickups, sealed tulip key tuners, compensated adjustable ebony bridge with Tuneomatic style saddle, solid ebony tailpiece, three-way pickup selector switch, gold barrel volume and tone knobs.

Notes: An L-5CES style guitar with hand graduated, highly figured European tonewoods. At a fraction of the price of an original? Meet Jiri Lebeda.

We've long noted that some of the finest archtop guitars have been crafted by luthiers who got their start building mandolins. Monteleone, Andersen, Gilchrist all trained in the exacting art of tap tuning mandolin soundboards, in the same fashion as Stradivari, Amadi and their followers have done for centuries. Indeed, both D'Angelico and Benedetto themselves built violins early in their careers. And that same expertise shows vividly in the unmatched tonal quality of the archtop guitars from these master builders.

Since at least the 16th century, the Czech republic has been a center for fine violin making, with their bass viols particularly prized among discerning jazz players. And when traditional American bluegrass gained a following in that country in the 1970's, a small band of highly trained crafstpeople began fashioning hand built instruments otherwise unobtainable behind the Iron Curtain. Today, Czech built mandolins, banjos and other acoustic instruments have become highly prized in the bluegrass world, for their superlative Old World quality.

Trained as a mechanical engineer, Jiri Lebeda built an international reputation as one of the finest builders of pro-quality mandolins, created in the traditional style of Gibson's F-5 Master Model instruments of the 1920's. Turning his considerable expertise to the guitar world, Lebeda has on occasion directed his considerable skills to the production of meticulously carved archtop guitars. And this splendid example is one of those rarities.

Crafted of premium Alpine tonewoods, the Lebeda L-5CES shows classic features, including the highly flamed curly maple body and neck, a full-width 1 11/16" ebony fingerboard, carved ebony tailpiece and pickguard, and '57 Classic PAF humbucking pickups, as fitted on Gibson's own top tier guitars. The split-block pearl fingerboard inlays are a nod to the classic Super 400 models, with gold barrel speed knobs an echo of the fabled early 50's electrics. Even Gibson never spared the time and expense of installing the solid curly maple binding seen on this handsome instrument.

At just 6lb 4oz, the guitar is substantially lighter than most of its contemporary Gibson counterparts, and well balanced on the lap or the strap. The Cremona sunburst finish is remarkably free of pick, buckle, thumbwear or checking, and the original medium fretwork remains high and undented. Apart from a bit of fogging on the pickup covers, the instrument shows few signs of age or play altogether.

String action is smooth and low, with a fresh high-precision setup on a classic full C profile neck. Warm bop tone from the finely graduated German spruce soundboard, with solid, knife-edge parallel braces, and extremely clean interior construction. And most remarkably, like a fine violin, the body is soundly joined entirely without kerfing, a remarkable feat of luthiery, and a likely contributor to the instrument's vibrant acoustic voice.

A handbuilt pro-quality European instrument, at a price below many popular plywood boxes? Leave your vintage L-5 at home and take this stunner to the gig. You can brag about your bargain on the break. One only, call now.

Setup: This instrument is strung with medium gauge flatwound nickel 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 light relief. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.







































































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