Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums
Sign in to follow this  
Hannu

Reconditioning my Super 400 CES - PART II

Recommended Posts

There has been so much conjecture and conspiracy theories (and photos of other guitars) stated in this thread, I can no longer tell the fact from fiction, but... I'll add my 2-cents anyway (you knew I would).

 

IF the guitar has been refinished (or repaired), this can generally be determined by examining it under black-light.

 

According to my published sources, the 200,000 series numbers were used again in '73, '74, and early '75 (not just 1973).

 

I'll say it one more time - POTENTIOMETER CODES! They do not lie. Adding this piece to the puzzle, along with many of the features that have been discussed above, and you will determine within about 6-months (or less) when this guitar was built.

 

The ONLY real mystery I see in this guitar is the orange label pasted over the Norlin label.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

According to Van Hoose the Volute was added in '74/'75 until around 1980 so that gives a small clue?

 

DG

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The pot codes are usually on the bottom of the pot cans (some, but not many, are on the side). You can view this area with a dental type "inspection" mirror (available at any hardware or auto parts store) through the treble side f-hole. You will also need to have a small "penlight" type flashlight. Stick the mirror in the f-hole and shine the flashlight into the mirror to reflect the light (and view) up toward the bottom of the cans.

 

There should be two sets of numbers, one is a part number, the other is a mfg/date code. You are looking for a 7-digit number usually starting with "137". This code number gives you the manufacturer (in most cases "137" for CTS), and the following four numbers are the year and week the pots were made.

 

So, the pot code format is MMMYYWW. M = mfg, Y = year, W = week. For example, a pot code of 1377401 was made during the first week of 1974 by CTS Corporation. This gives you a "born after" date, for obviously a guitar with 1974 pots could not have been made in 1973.

 

Since Gibson buys parts is large quantities, it's not impossible to know when their stock is used up and reordered (or a few left at the bottom of the bin for years), but it is generally accepted theory that a 6-month supply of parts is a reasonable assumption.

 

So a guitar with pot codes of the first half of the year, and maybe even through the third quarter (into the fourth?), would have been made same year as the pots. In any case, this puts a "date" on one of the parts of the guitar.

 

Now here's the kicker.... in many cases the pots codes have been covered up by the solder connections of the ground wires. You've got four chances to get an entire code off one pot, or partials off more than one, that add up to the proper format Even just get the last four or five digits off one is better than nothing.

 

Let us know!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps the label was applied by Gibson

after a warranty repair.

 

And perhaps the DMW code

has something to do with "warranty".

 

IMHO, anyone attempting to deceive

would not leave the original label exposed.

 

However, a new owner, even in the late '70s,

could easily understand the added value of

this being a '60s rather than a '70s Gibson.

 

I certainly was already well aware of the

'Norlin Era" stigma in the late '70s.

 

Add in the serial number confusion,

and it would be easy for someone to say,

or want to say, it's from the '60s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry if it's been mentioned & I missed it,

but one of the quick tell tale signs is the

lack of a dot on the headstock logo's "i".

 

At least through '69, the Super 400

had a dot on the "i" from what I've seen.

Good point, bob, and no I hadn't mentioned it.

 

According to Van Hoose the Volute was added in '74/'75 until around 1980 so that gives a small clue?

Perhaps he mentioned it in more than one part of the book, but the page I referenced said '73/'74. Anyway, small difference there.

 

Larry probably gives the best advice of all here with regard to checking the pot codes. The problem I have with that is... it's too easy, and no fun! [tongue][smile]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Perhaps he mentioned it in more than one part of the book, but the page I referenced said '73/'74. Anyway, small difference there.

 

 

 

Page 44?

 

DG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Page 44?

 

DG

Correct. And on page 71, he says '73/'74. In both cases, he says "approximately", so...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a thought - could DMW be the luthier's initials?

I was trying to remember the names of the guys who left Gibson to start Heritage.

The Van Hoose book must answer a lot of questions.

Anyway - beautiful guitar!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A beautiful guitar (I'd love to own one!) and an absolutely fascinating discussion.

 

Thank you Gentlemen!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The pot codes are usually on the bottom of the pot cans (some, but not many, are on the side). You can view this area with a dental type "inspection" mirror (available at any hardware or auto parts store) through the treble side f-hole. You will also need to have a small "penlight" type flashlight. Stick the mirror in the f-hole and shine the flashlight into the mirror to reflect the light (and view) up toward the bottom of the cans.

 

Let us know!

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

 

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

post-47860-009236100 1365346579_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hannu, the term "PAF" refers to the "patent applied for" (early) version of Gibson's humbuckers. The "patent applied for" designation was gone by the mid-1960s, so your guitar would never have had PAF pickups. At any rate, the pickup info you posted is interesting. Where did you find it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hannu, the term "PAF" refers to the "patent applied for" (early) version of Gibson's humbuckers. The "patent applied for" designation was gone by the mid-1960s, so your guitar would never have had PAF pickups. At any rate, the pickup info you posted is interesting. Where did you find it?

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jim;

The link is above your post by Jabberwocky.

Ah, okay. When I was here yesterday, Jabberwocky's post just read "deleted". I guess he was in the process of searching/editing the link.

 

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.

I'm no PAF expert, but I even question whether the info above is 100% accurate. That website is wonderful, and I use it often, but I have seen errors there. Anyway, I'm not aware that the issue of "narrow-poled" pickups was a long-term thing at all. Clearly, they would belong on the narrower-necked models he mentioned (Byrdland, ES-350T), but I've not heard about this issue coming up very often (if at all) on post-PAF era Super 400's. Maybe a real pickup expert will come along and share an opinion.

 

As for your guitar, I wouldn't worry about pickup originality, but as you say, focus on functionality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was indeed editing the link and posted after JimR56 posted. So, instead of cluttering up the forum, I posted it where I had left a holding place in the thread.

 

Functionality trumps all. If it sounds great and plays well, Hannu, I won't put too much stock in it. Did you check the string spacing at the nut? Perhaps the previous owner had the nut cut for a narrow string spacing 25 years ago and hence the bass E string does not line up with the pole piece now. Since your Super 400CES is from the 70s, it wouldn't originally be fitted with the narrow spaced neck humbucker because those would have gone out by the Norlin era.

 

As long as you did not pay a vintage 1964 price for the Super 400CES in the belief that it was a 1964, I think you did well. $2000 in 1988 dollars translates into $3441.22 2012 dollars. That is a great price for a Super 400CES of any era.

 

There is some question about the originality of its finish. How about that? You got yourself a player so play it and enjoy it. And if you do intend to sell it down the road, worry about it then.

 

Your guitar looks great. Norlin era never did bother me where archtops are concerned. I think the Gibson archtop department always made great archtops or maybe my standard of acceptance is lower than others. They weren't the money-spinners in the Norlin era so the archies were left alone, pretty much.

 

Your axe looks great.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Did you check the string spacing at the nut? Perhaps the previous owner had the nut cut for a narrow string spacing 25 years ago and hence the bass E string does not line up with the pole piece now. Since your Super 400CES is from the 70s, it wouldn't originally be fitted with the narrow spaced neck humbucker because those would have gone out by the Norlin era.

 

As long as you did not pay a vintage 1964 price for the Super 400CES in the belief that it was a 1964, I think you did well. $2000 in 1988 dollars translates into $3441.22 2012 dollars. That is a great price for a Super 400CES of any era.

 

There is some question about the originality of its finish. How about that? You got yourself a player so play it and enjoy it. And if you do intend to sell it down the road, worry about it then.

 

Your guitar looks great. Norlin era never did bother me where archtops are concerned. I think the Gibson archtop department always made great archtops or maybe my standard of acceptance is lower than others. They weren't the money-spinners in the Norlin era so the archies were left alone, pretty much.

 

Your axe looks great.

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right on, brother, right on.

 

I love Super 400s of any era. I wish I could find one for $2000, OK, $3500 in today's dollars, as you did! Somebody up there likes you, Hannu.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have read this thread with much interest and would agree with JimR that the guitar is not 60's.

However I can't make out if there is a volute or not...does not look as if there is one. What does that tell us ito dating it ? Surely early 70's at the latest ? But then there is the absence of the varitone hole in the tailpiece which dates it (from Jim's post) to 1975 and later. Surely one would expect to see a volute then ?

 

But all in all, I love Hannu's S400,refin'ed or not....I think it's a stunning looking axe.....and I bet it sounds great !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have read this thread with much interest and would agree with JimR that the guitar is not 60's.

However I can't make out if there is a volute or not...does not look as if there is one. What does that tell us ito dating it ? Surely early 70's at the latest ? But then there is the absence of the varitone hole in the tailpiece which dates it (from Jim's post) to 1975 and later. Surely one would expect to see a volute then ?

As mentioned earlier in the thread, the volutes first appeared somewhere between '73 and '75; and the non-varitone tailpiece first appeared around '75. To me, this suggests that the guitar dates to circa '75. There is still the possibility that the tailpiece may have been changed (as were the pickguard and vol/tone knobs) for some reason, so the guitar could have been made slightly earlier.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have read this thread with much interest and would agree with JimR that the guitar is not 60's.

However I can't make out if there is a volute or not...does not look as if there is one. What does that tell us ito dating it ? Surely early 70's at the latest ? But then there is the absence of the varitone hole in the tailpiece which dates it (from Jim's post) to 1975 and later. Surely one would expect to see a volute then ?

 

But all in all, I love Hannu's S400,refin'ed or not....I think it's a stunning looking axe.....and I bet it sounds great !

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi guys,

I bought my first gtr  Super 400, one of ,5 brought to Seattle by two reps from Gibson , I picked it up at the distrubiters. I picked the 2nd one, but I left with the 1st one. The serial number is 543100 up to 104, in 1968. It was the original issue of that round cutaway. I actually bought a '54 Les Paul first, but a week after I bought it. the seller Chris Larson (Gary's brother), asked me if he could get it back and sell it to Neal Young, yup, that black LP with the Crome P-90's & pick guard, it was Randy Backmans originally. Sooo, back to Super 400's, I got two... But let's stick with 'Blondy'.  Gibson say's it is a '69 model, but I still have the paper work dated '68, bank loan 'n receipt. Two years after I bought mine, my roommate says I want one of those... I say I know where there is one in the window of Seattle Music on 1st Ave. He went there and bought it. We thought it was a later model, it wasn't. It is a '64 (according to Gibson). That SN is 822084, very light sunburst, I call Her 'Honey'. Honey is very beautiful, the wood is spectacular tiger stripped everywhere, just beautiful. I noticed a flaw at the boot of the heal on the neck, looks like a file mark, they fogged it in darker than the rest of the body. I 'think' Gibson left it in the back till they figured out what/how to deal with it... But Blondy is better looking, great tiger striping, but the back... The back, they said was called monkey fist, it looks like wrinkled saten... Do not worry about where or when your awesome 400 was made, if you love it, it does not matter what it actually is, enjoy it. I paid $1500 for Honey in 1980. All I know is they are all great. Put one next to any De Angelico. No comparison, the Gibsons are way better in every aspect. A rich man enjoys what he has.

I used a Fender Twin, one of two original 15" models built for the 'Angel of the Morning', but way, way to loud. I traded for a Pro, it was awesome, still is. Did plenty of recordings with it 'n Blondy, then found the AC 30, great till I found a Gibson GA 40, But just found a '58 mint Silvertone 1394. I rock those 400's, turn it up and rip. It is also very nice for jazz.

I found this thread looking for pick guards for both 400's. I think I can make a replacement that will stay whole for way longer by just not gluing the baking plate to the guard. All the pick guards I've seen die, start where the glue is. I might be wrong...

Oh, but, till I tuned down to 432 = A, the girls never sounded better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...