Museum: Gibson Guitars

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1925 Gibson L-3

Gibson’s L-3 was offered through the early 20’s century up until sometime in the early 1930’s, and was the company’s most highly ornamented (and priced) small-body archtop.

This example dates to the early post-Loar period at Gibson, and features the ‘Snakehead’ headstock shape, adjustable-height bridge and adjustable truss-rod that were unveiled during Loar’s tenure with the company. It’s an incredibly unique and interesting guitar, and one of the coolest vintage Gibsons we’ve seen in a while.

Apart from a refret done here at Folkway, this L-3 is completely original and intact. It’s been well played and its finish shows the stories of its nearly 100 years, but it plays perfectly and sounds quite special. The top arch is excellent, tuners work well, bridge height is excellent, and neck angle is spot on. The bridge base still shows the hand-penciled serial number that matches the guitar’s.

Original engraved Waverly tuning machines, original nut, original pickguard and tailpiece, and original finish throughout. Finish is playworn and crazed, and there are water-damaged sections of lacquer on the treble side of the body. There are a few small sections of reglued side binding, and a pair of small repaired side cracks by the tailpiece that might possibly have been repaired before the guitar shipped from the factory back in 1925. No top or back cracks.

Refretted with a 10” Gibson fingerboard radius and modern acoustic guitar fretwire the guitar plays easily and cleanly. The neck has a rounded V-carve that’s immediately comfortable in the hand, and a nut width of 1-3/4”. Scale length is 24-1/4” and the string spread at the bridge is just shy of 2-1/8”. Action is 4-6 64ths with a full height original bridge.

A difficult guitar to describe in terms of tone, this L3 has an old timey voice that’s darker than we’d expect. It’s fairly pure and fundamental without many overtones, and has excellent balance across the strings. It’s quite well suited for chordal arrangements and melodic single note playing through chord progressions, and does it best under a controlled medium attack. A fun guitar to play in a small group setting, as its unique voice does well in breaking through a mix of larger-body guitars and rhythm instruments.

In twenty years of buying and selling guitars this is the first L-3 we’ve ever offered. Just a little bit of interesting trivia to go with the guitar.

With original hardshell case

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