Museum: Gibson Guitars

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1935 Gibson L-50

Gibson’s L-50 archtop was introduced in 1932 and went through a number of design changes early on, finally landing at its final specifications in the early 1950s. The first incarnation of it featured an oddly short small body with an oval soundhole and a flat back. Gibson was constantly experimenting with the model, and some early L-50s were built with F holes, others with carved backs. By sometime in 1933 the L-50 was given the L body shape and a flat back, and by early 1935 the body shape was changed to the company’s 16” size, like their other archtops but still retaining a flat back until later that year. By the end of 1935, and forever after, the L-50 featured a carved spruce top with an arched (sometimes carved) back.

This example dates from early 1935, and is built with a flat maple back, parallel-braced carved top, and a 14 fret mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard and an elevated extension. The flat back and 16” body combines to create an archtop guitar with a lot more low end warmth than a fully carved version, making this archtop one that will appeal to folks who traditionally play flat-tops, but who are hunting for something a bit different. The 14 fret V neck is carved identically to every other neck Gibson was carving at that time, but the strings have a taper that sets them at 2-3/16” wide at the saddle.

Original tuners and nut, frets, bridge, tailpiece and finish. Nicely made reproduction pickguard. The neck has been cleanly reset, there is a repaired top crack heading north from the bass-side F-hole, and the back’s center-seam has been reglued. It’s otherwise quite clean, and it plays beautifully.

With modern hardshell case

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