Vintage Instruments: Gibson Guitars

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1939 Gibson J-35

An exceptional sounding 3-bar J-35, this 1939 model has almost everything going for it that one might want in a vintage guitar. Huge volume and headroom, clarity, presence, well developed bass, thick and bold trebles, and a wonderfully supportive mid range. The neck angle is perfect, frets are brand-new, and the set-up is a perfect middle-of-the road 5-7 64ths with ample saddle height available for adjustment. The neck has a classic late 30’s V carve with 1-3/4” nut, and the pin spacing is a spacious 2-3/8”. The tuners and nut are original, the braces are all perfectly well glued and the guitar is nearly crack-free (there’s a repaired top crack a ½” off the bass side of the fingerboard extension, and a few tiny repaired side cracks here and there. Sounds pretty dreamy – and it is.

But what’s not original is the guitar’s finish. The body has been very beautifully restored and sports a thin aged nitro finish that at first (and second) glance looks original. The neck finish has been refreshed as well, with overspray on the headstock and sections of the heel refinished. Again, the work is meticulous and of very high calibre. The original pickguard has been reapplied over the finish, and the guitar’s bridge is an original 30’s Gibson part that dates a few years earlier than the rest of the guitar. It’s a really nice touch, even if its lack of pearl dots gives its secret away. The bridge plate is original and perfect. Beyond that, the guitar’s top and back measure well within spec (which is always a concern with a refinished guitar), and the headstock’s original screened logo hasn’t been altered.

The only remaining flaws are filled-in inlay pockets on the guitar’s original fingerboard. The original owner had some fancy pearl triangles and snowflakes installed, which were removed during the restoration. The refret was done here at Folkway and we removed the original frets, so there’s no funny business with the fingerboard thickness and neck feel either.

We’d love to know who did the work to this instrument (so we can hire her/him)! This guitar has been lovingly and tastefully restored, and doesn’t at all scream ‘refin’. It sounds amazing, plays perfectly, and looks believable and beautiful. We love it.

And check out that original and/or period hardshell case...

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