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Everything posted by Hannu

  1. My Gibson Super 400 CES came with two bridges when I got it. The Tune-o-matic is sitting on a ebony base, then there is an ebony bridge in the case. I do not know if the guitar was shipped that way to the original owner, or, if he had the ebony one made for it. It is nice to have both, I can easily change the bridge and experiment with different sounds. With flatwound strings the Tune-o-Matic gives a lot more sustain, and is preferrable if your style involves legato, long sustained notes. The ebony bridge is at its best with roundwound strings and played with little stronger right hand - with this setup the guitar is as loud acousticly as a good flat top. Does anybody if Gibson ever shipped S-400 CES or L5 with two bridges? Hannu
  2. This works for me on a similar type guitar (Super 400 CES) for that type of playing: - Addario Chromes 12-52 with the high E and B string from a 13-56 set - or Pyramid Flats 13-52 - then, turn the neck pickup tone down to 3-5 I find that with round wounds or even half rounds, the guitar is too loud and "accoustic" sounding, whereas the flats will give a smoother jazzier tone, yet no noise from hand action. Hannu
  3. The S400 size is a mixed blessing. There is also an advantage: the size and depth of the guitar makes it very stable, so your left hand (playing right handed) can be very relaxed, little further out from your body - helping your technique. But, if the right hand struggles to find the strings, then it is hard to play soft. I am 5'11" and I am using all of my frame to get around the S400. There are also mental factors. Player laziness dictates, that if you want to pick one guitar out of several to play just a few casual licks, it won't be the S400. It seems like a big deal to lift the S400 and sit down with it, as if you are preparing for a Grand Concert of some kind. This is a good thing... Great photos, Danny. These also reveal that the thin Super 400 neck is a different design. It appears to be a three piece maple/walnut/maple where most S400's are 5 piece, maple/walnut/maple/walnut/maple. Hannu
  4. Very interesting guitar! Makes you wonder what the idea is with this design? The regular S400 body is large in order to produce a loud acoustic sound, and the depth of the 18" width body is also considerable, about 31/2" to 4". As Danny pointed out, it is not likely much easier for a player who would find the regular S400 less comfortable to get your right arm around. Has anybody heard this guitar being played, acoustic or electric? Hannu
  5. It pretty well got concluded that mine is 1973, and the one remaining way to get a little more confirmed is to take the electronics out and see the dates on the pots. I have not bothered to do that, but if there comes a reason to service the pickups or pots then we'll see. I am glad to hear your CES is working out well. Effortless is a good expression, these guitars are easier to play than one would expect. Yes, the 12's D'Addarios works well, also Pyramids (flat or round) are worth trying. .12's or 13's seem right for this guitar, .11's don't quite get the big body fully vibrating. There is something very special about the Super 400, the whole playing experience is different from anything else. Again, enjoy! Hannu
  6. Kleinman, I didn't notice your thread until now ... You did well! Congratulations on your beautiful guitar! You may remember the discussion about my Super 400 CES some time ago, the one with two labels and confusion about the year. Mine looks so exactly like yours that I had to go to my guitar room to make sure it is still there. The flamed pattern on the neck and back, the color of the burst is exactly the same. How does your S400CES play? Could you describe the sound? What kind of strings do you use? Hannu
  7. Kleinman, thank your for interest! There is no volute, and, no hole in the tailpiece. Tailpiece was on it 1988 when I bought it, but the pickguard was made for it and added to it 2013. At some point I will have the pots numbers read, which may give some clues to the year of origin. Yes, the guitar sounds and plays great. It keeps its truss rod settings and tune, the action is low without rattles. The sound is big, bright and loud with roundwounds, sweet like honey dripping out of a jar with Pyramid flatwounds. Hannu
  8. Thanks, Larry. Just out of interest: how does your L-5 sound with the 14-67 set? Are they flats or rounds? Hannu
  9. I recently put Pyramid 11-48 flat wounds on my Super 400 CES - at first they seemed just perfect, beautiful creamy sound. However, now after playing a little more, I find them a little dull and too quiet, as if the low tension does not resonate the large CES body enough. Both Pyramids and Thomastiks seem to have a configuration where the G,D,A strings are thin compared to the equivalent D'Addario Chromes. I am guessing that the CES needs the little more tension in the middle strings to have its large body vibrated. I have had all kinds of strings in this guitar over the years. Any round wounds give lots of volume and tone, but the guitar begins sound more like an old Martin flat top rather than a jazz guitar. That's why I keep coming back to flat wounds. I am thinking of going for Chromes 0.012 but I am little concerned about the tension. The 0.011 Chromes have 137 lbs of tension, and I know that the CES handles that well. The 0.012's have 155 lbs of tension. Pyramid also has a 0.013 set that has the same 155 lbs of tension. I do not have any problems with the neck, it is always perfect and the action is low and clear. Should I be worried about the extra 18 lbs of tension, or is it irrelevant with these guitars which are meant to played with medium to heavy strings? Hannu
  10. Jabberwocky; I checked the nuts and bridges, mine comes with two bridges, wooden and tune-o-matic. The spacing is different enough that the E-string would line up differently. Also, I looked at pics of several 70's models, they seem to have the same normal width neck humbucker. So that is not an issue any more. I spoke again with Joe Agnello, who installed the new pickguard and cleaned the guitar. He said there is no sign at all that the guitar would have been refinished. But if that was the case, it would have happened in its early years, most likely by Gibson. My experience of the Norlin era was not to make too many conclusions out of generalizations. Out of the 7 Gibson guitars that I have owned, the best three of them were Norlin Gibsons. I did not find my two 60's Gibsons all that special at all. For somebody else, would have been different story. Now it is time to stop the paranoid investigation and use the guitar for what it does best. However, at some point, if the pots become more crackly, we have somebody lined up to take it apart, check the pot codes and pickups. But for now, who cares. I am considering of posting a picture of myself on the forum. Maybe somebody will point out that I am 10 years younger than my label says. :-) Thanks again for all your help, Hannu
  11. I have more information about the pots. They appear just about identical to Gibson part SKU:PPAT059 "Historic Potentiometer" which have no code on the bottom, but on the side of the cylinder. I cannot see the code, but at least this indicates that the pots are Gibson (CTS). These pots are for sale today: store.gibson.com/historic-potentiometer Hannu
  12. Jim; The link is above your post by Jabberwocky. What maybe coming out of this is that regardless of what generation of an electric Super 400 we are talking about, the neck pickup should be one of the "narrow pole" ones. If the pickups should be changed, then it will next to impossible to find the correct neck pickup, since Gibson does not sell parts for Super 400's, new or old. The spec for the 2013 Super 400 just say "Classic 57" which are for sale, but there is no "narrow" option of it. However, from the playing functionality point of view, it makes no difference. The wider (standard) humbucker works perfectly balanced, including the bottom E string, which is most affected. Obviously this guitar cannot be put back to a "historically correct" state, but it should be at least "functionally correct" where all the parts are Gibson and counted for. This way I can document it myself so that there is no misunderstanding in the future of what it is. Now, if anybody there has a 70's or younger Super 400 CES or any of the L5's, information about the neck pickup would be appreciated. Hannu
  13. I am already finding another concern. I have always wondered why the neck pickup screws do not line up with the strings. The low E string screw is not under the string at all. Now I find that the Gibson archtop neck pickups are not the regular PAF's but a narrower version of it. Jazz Guitar PAF Versions. The hollowbody jazz guitars often used a slightly different PAF in the neck position which had different (narrower) string spacing, where the bridge position jazz PAF was identical to the neck & bridge PAF in say a Les Paul Standard. The models that used this narrow spacing neck PAF was the Byrdland, ES-350T, L-5CE, S-400CE and some Barney Kessel models. The distance on a narrow PAF from center to center of the two "E" adjustable poles is 1 13/16", compared to 1 15/16" on the "normal" spaced PAF pickup. Also since most of these models had gold plated parts, the narrow spaced PAFs would be gold plated (except on some Barney Kessels). If the pickup cover is removed from a narrow spaced PAF pickup, the "normal" pole position tooling marks can be seen on the narrow spaced PAF pickup. My neck PAF is not one of the narrow ones. This combined with the failed attempt to find any codes on the pots makes me wonder if any of the electronic parts are original, or even Gibsons. It will take some time now to get this confirmed, I will take the guitar to the shop and have the harness pulled out. Again, thanks to Jim whose hawk eyes got us to look into this guitar little more in detail. I am just lucky that I had no intention of selling or trading this guitar getting myself potentially into big trouble. Hannu
  14. I managed to get a better look inside, cleaned the bottoms of the pots, and also looked at hundreds of pics of CTS pots used in Gibsons and Fenders. I can see the bridge volume pot bottom quite well, there is absolutely no codes, stamps, labels on it. It does not look like a CTS pot. The others same thing, nothing on the bottom. I removed the knobs, and the shafts look like plain steel rather than bronze or brass which I see in many of the CTS pots. Now, the next step is to the technician to pull out all electronics, and see what we can conclude then. This of course casts a shadow of doubt on the pickups. Do Gibson pickups of that era have serials or any code that we should be looking for? Hannu
  15. Thanks Larry, I got the inspection mirror, however, it was too large to go in there. I cut most of the mirror blade off, and got it in. I could see the bottoms of the pots, but cannot make out any numbers, though there is something on the surface that looks like 5. The pots are mat gray, and maybe dust covered so the numbers don't show. They look very old. My Spying Device broke down, a piece of mirror got stuck inside, but at least I got it out. I will regroup and come up with a new device, but it could be that the thing to do is to have my repair guy pull out the harness, look at the whole thing. In the meanwhile, to summarize a little, is this about where we are: - the guitar is 1970's Norlin era because it has a Norlin tag, shape, "made in usa" etc. - the possible years by the serial numbers are -73,74 and -75 - lack of of volute points to 1973 Hannu
  16. Dave; That is a good point, there is no volute. The neck tapers smoothly to the headstock, I looked at pics of Gibsons with volute, this does not look like that. Larry, where are the pot codes, could you see them by inserting a small mirror through the f-holes or do you have to take everything apart? Hannu
  17. Confirming that the lower label is a Norlin label. I was able to lift the loose end of the orange label and see the corner of the Norlin label. The orange label is almost ready to fall off, only attached on one side. Also, I researched the serial numbers again from two sources, both show the 200 000 being used -64 and reused -73. There is an explanation for this in one of the old documents. Even though new serial ranges were issued, some people at the Kalamazoo factory continued to use the 60's six digit numbers for no other reason that's what they had been doing for a long time. This happened again 1977-78 when a number of random 60's serials were used again. 1973 would make sense. The guitar would have been 15 years old at the time when I laid my hands on it. So to me at that time it was old enough to look, feel and sound old, more so than a 10 year old guitar, which I think I would have noticed. The refinish does not look likely, or, if it was done, maybe the whole body was refinished. I looked at it with a powerful magnifying glass in all places. The color of the darker part of the burst is absolutely identical. The way how the nitro finish joins the bindings is identical on top, sides and bottom. Still weird, why would anybody try to "age" a guitar by 9-10 years by adding an older style label in such a clumsy way. To deceive, would you first removed the Norlin label, the glue the orange one in there properly. Even if it was a hasty job, it would have been easy to drop the larger orange label to cover all of the Norlin label ? I am thinking now about how to get the orange label out of there without damaging the Norlin label. If that was gone, the guitar would be the way it should have been all along, a 1973 Norlin era Super 400 CES. I will have more pictures, the upload feature of the forum tells me that I have used my 500k to upload. I'll figure out how to embed the pics to the HTML like others seem to be doing. Hannu
  18. I took yet another look at the finish of the top and back. In my earlier pics they look different because one pic is taken with flash, the other under natural light. Looking at it now I could not tell any difference other than the top is spruce, the back maple. The guitar above appears to have near white bindings, whereas mine were aged yellowish already in 1988. At that time I had a 15 year old Les Paul (1972) and the S-400 looked older than the Les Paul already then. The top looked like it had years of playing on it, very fine hairline pick marks by the hundreds on the lower side. If it was refinished, it must have been done really well, the color and detail in the "burst" is consistent from the back to the back binding, the side, to the top binding, then the top itself. Maybe the refinish was done very early, which would also explain the "shade" that was under the bridge. And of course it does not help that I kept the guitar for 25 years in a sunny room, with the back looking into a dark corner ... Of all Gibson guitars that I have had, 2 LP's, 2 SG's, one ES, all of them 60's and 70's models, this one felt the oldest and most played already then. Of course, that is just a players "feel" kind of thing. So, the puzzle continues ... It would be nice to get the story of this guitar figured out. I don't plan ever to sell it, but would be nice to pass it to the next generation with clear identity. I tried to research for the Gibson label codes, maybe decoding the DMW would explain something. The mysteries remain: why a 1964 serial number in headstock and label? Why a Norlin 70's label under the orange label? Let's look at it from the sellers point of view worst case scenario. You have a broken 1977 S-400. You fix it in order to sell it as a 1964, figure out the serial numbers, have a luthier change the veneer of the back of the headstock, forge the serial of the headstock, obtain somehow an orange label, forge it, and glue it on top of the 70's Norlin label. Then use some chemical to age the bindings, make it look more worn. Then take it to be sold as a '64 and ask $2000. Huge risk, the shop is a large music store, they could have had somebody expert to inspect it right away, and called the police. Yet, the person could have brought it in as it was, with its original Norlin labels and serials, maybe a document of repairs if any were done. Still could have asked $2000 for it. All solid carved top Gibsons, S-400's and L5's were much more expensive than that -88, new or used. I'll take some new photos, this time with a better camera, maybe outside if we get a cloudy day. Thanks for your help again, Hannu
  19. The plot thickens ... First, the serial number stamped in the headstock is same as the one on the red label. Also, it is definately stamped into the wood so it would have been difficult to modify with the "made in USA". The red (orange) label has become loose on the sides. The square label is also loose. This square label does not look like any kind of printing paper, it is brown, about the same color as the interior of the guitar. It just comes to mind that it is a piece of a dehumidifying bag that fell in there from the guitar case, or something that used when the guitar was cleaned. I don't remember seing it before, and I have looked in there many times over the years. The red (orange?) label does not look photocopied, it definately looks printed. The notes are made with what looks like two different pens or pencils. If the identity was forged, it would have done a lot of work for not much gain. The original owner who brought the guitar to the shop to be sold on consignment, wanted fair price because he had retired from the band, and the guitar had served him well. That's what the salesman told me. He wanted $2000 for it, which I believe wasn't much at a time when collectibles were very expensive. I walked by the store minutes after it was brought in, saw the people hang a Super 400 up on the vintage row of guitars. I went in and bought it after a 5 minute test, they said it was the shortest lived inventory they ever had. It was an easy decision for me, the guitar spoke for itself when it plugged into that Fender Twin. I will try to come with an instrument to see if I can pull out that piece of paper out of there, maybe that will reveal something. Hannu
  20. Jim, Thank you for your expertise, this is no shock at all, I value the guitar more as a playing instrument rather than for its vintage origin. Amazing the things you pointed out, I would never have discovered the differences. I think the dating may have gone wrong because it was done by the serial number. The guitar was sold to me 1988 on consignment by a reputable Toronto music store, and I don't believe that the original owner made any claim about its vintage. All that was known about the original owner that he had "played it for a very long time as a guitarist of a Toronto based big band". The guitar looked rather old in 1988, but of course 13 years or so would be enough for the bindings start getting yellowish etc. The store checked the serial from a Gibson book, and came up with 1964. Later on I got a Gibson book myself, and also found the serial dating it back to 1964, no other check has ever been done. What is the deal with the serial number (205810)? Can it not be used to date any Gibson at all? And if not, is there any other way to accurately find the year? In your opinion, are we now somewhere around 1973-1975? Hannu
  21. Jim, the camera I am using is not very good for this type of work, the flash keeps flashing and the colors go wrong. Also, the close ups are wide angle, which distorts proportions. I should actually get use of a manual SLR camera and document this guitar better. Here are more shots:
  22. Some forum members may remember when I posted part one of this topic about half a year ago, fall 2012. Now, after waiting for the replacement pickguard, my 1964 Super 400 CES is in wonderful shape. The only thing wrong with this guitar that I bought in 1988 was the missing pickguard, but I was also worried about fret wear, worn tuners and some clouding of the nitro finish. The Gibson Repairs department in Nashville referred me to Tony Dudzik, who makes pickguards for these old Gibsons. We decided to go for the 1964-1965 spec pickguard, though it is possible that this guitar may have had the "marble" style one. We had the pattern of the pickguard available, but it does not help much since all Super 400's are slightly different. My pickups are 2 mm futher apart than those of previous S400 that had a pickguard made. We send a mock-up pickguard a few times between Ohio and Ontario but eventually got the holes etc. to match. Everything else was easier than I thought. The crackling pots started working better and better as I started to use them even if not needed. Much of the "wear" that I was worried about turned out to be dirt or oxidization of the hardware. The guitar was cleaned professionally by Joe Agnello of Georgina Music, he also attached the pickguard with its hardware. When I got this guitar 25 years ago, I used Martin Guitar Polish very generously and that was a big mistake. The guitar had layers of guitar polish which had become softer over the years, then got transferred to the fretboard and elsewhere and petrified to a hard layer. The frets looked much more worn than they actually were, the tuners started working fine after the cleaning. Now the ebony of the fretboard is ebony again, and there is no scalloping between the frets. The tuners are fine. The gold plating of the tailpiece is almost 100%, the pickups have some wear. The Kluson tuners have lost most of their plating, or, they are brass and have faded. I asked for advice from several sources before I had anything done to the guitar, and the general advice was to do as little as possible, let the guitar show its age, don't try to hide the fact that the pickguard is new ( which is very hard to tell by the way). So, we did nothing to the electronics, pickups. We tried if the truss rod still turns, but didn't make any changes to the setup. This guitar seems to always hold its neck straight and action low and clear for 0.011 or 0.0.12 stings. I have Pyramid 0.011 flatwounds on it, also tried with D'Addario Round Wound .012's. Both worked well, the rounds give a loud majestic sound, almost like an old Martin flattop. The Pyramid Flats sound a little more quiet, elegant and jazzy. I now have two amps for the guitar, my old Roland JC-120 which also was reconditioned, and a brand new Wholetone WT-80, which with its 15 inch speaker seems to be the first amp that really produces the lower register of the guitar. Thank you for all on this forum who gave me good advice! Hannu
  23. Jim, Thanks for asking, I will post pictures of it soon (I hope). Right now I am waiting for the custom order pickguard to arrive from Ohio, then the guitar will go to Long & McQuade in Toronto where their pickup expert will overhaul the guitar's electronics, fix or change the pots, clean the pickups, wiring, and fix the bridge pickup that is out of phase. Then, we have another guy lined up to take a look at the lacquer conditioning and give his recommendation. He will also attach the new pickguard. Then - it is recommended that the guitars truss rod is turned - even if there is no obvious reason for it, to make sure that the truss rod is not stuck which can happen for a guitar this old. After all this we should be ready for a photo op. :-) Hannu
  24. Some time in the early 90's I used Martin Guitar Polish on my Super 400-CES and my old Stratocaster. They looked great, but three years later I noticed that both were strangely sticky to touch. I eventually got most of the polish off the CES, but some of it is still there. I wouldn't bring a furniture polish even close to the guitar, if in doubt, don't use anything, just play. I didn't play my CES hardly at all for over ten years, and when I started again, there were slight buzzes here and there, very slight, only audible when played acoustic. I changed the strings from .011's to round wound .012's and played it a lot, and all buzzes stopped in two days. It seems that you can actually feel the vibration of the .012's in the neck, whereas .011's, not so much. I have a friend who collects guitars but does not play them, at all. I have played his highly valued old hollowbodies and they all buzz and rattle. My CES (1964) belonged for its first two decades to a big band player, who played it just about every night. It was completely buzz/rattle free when I got it in 1988, and now that I am playing it daily, it's back to that. Hannu
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