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onewilyfool

Early '30s Gibson L-00 HG-conversion

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My friend, who has converted a Roy Smeck from slide to regular guitar, has played a few of these and I think knows what he is talking about. This L-00HG, was originally built for "Hawaiian" or slide (slack key) guitar playing. This means carving the square neck down to a curved neck, new nut and frets, new or altered bridge, etc. So this is not REALLY a Gibson, but a "hot rodded" Gibson, and the sound and playability of the guitar depends a lot on the luthier who did the conversion. Like the Roy Smeck, the bracing was tall and beefy on these Hawaiian Gibsons to allow for heavier strings used in slide playing, SOOOOOO, unless the guitar was "voiced" (bracings scalloped or made narrower) by a luthier who knows what he or she is doing, it is a hit an miss prospect. The ones like this my friend played were at Eric Schoenberg's guitar store and he remembers them as being very stiff, and dead sounding, and also remembers them NOT being voiced. SOOOOO, this guy is not talking about voicing, BUT, his price is pretty much what 30's L-00's sell for. (one true L-00, last week was offered at $3200 and is no long on CL) There are two guys here locally who do voicing, John Mellow, and Alan Perlman. I think RAR and a few others have Roy Smecks bought from Steve Swan, with work done by them. Both these guys are VERY good at what they do, and voicing is a rare art for most luthiers. They are constantly pressing down on the top to make sure they don't take out too much, often tapping to make sure the top rings close to pitch, many tricks of the trade. A voicing costs about 250 bucks locally. I'm thinking about getting some of my modern Gibson's voiced even. But back to point, this little L-00HG is priced at what an L-00 from the same period would go for, may or may not be voiced, and in a sense, is NOT a true Gibson, at least as it came from the factory. A comparable Roy Smeck from this period would be $7-8,000, based on what my friend told me....so this one is a bargain by comparison....BUT.....would YOU get it? Just curious......

 

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/nby/msg/3791702666.html

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Those are always interesting conversions, but I'd tend to go straight to either a vintage or modern L-00, if that's the character you're after. Too many variables in conversions to generalize about them, as you implied.

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I couild see somebody putting graphite rods in the neck of a Kalamazoo or something. I can see somebody replacing a flat board with a radiused one. I could see it if somebody was doing something like taking guitars that only came with ladder bracing and was converting them to X bracing. There is just no such animal as say an X braced Harmony Sovereign. But an HG conversion - if done well - just nets you what is already available. It would be worth it only if you could snag the converted guitar for substantially less than the stock guitar. And I would say about 50% to 60% less. I just don't see where the money is in buying a converted HG for the same scratch a stock L-00 would run you. You would not even pay as much for a refinished L-00 as a stock one never mind one which has been "gutted" (for lack of a better word).

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Now WHY would anyone give me a -1 for this post???? Man, I hope this guy goes back on his meds soon.....lol....I mean really.....What in this post could be offensive even to the most dogged Gibson fan????? Too much....

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The HG00 are from the late 30s. They have round necks 1 7/8 with frets. They are heavier braced. On many there isn't anything to the conversion than lowering the saddle. The one I owned was not dead, in fact very lively and loud. The 12 fret neck gives the bridge that spot you don't get on the 14 fret. They can be great guitars. More like three tone bar J35, a bit raw.

 

Terry

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We have several of these. The converted ones include -- 34 HG-C, 39 HG-00, 35 RSRG, 36 RSSD, 40 00-40H, 37 00-18H (2) and 41 00-18H. IME, all of these (Martin and Gibson) are very lightly braced by modern standards and like the other guitars of the period they are all exceptionally loud and responsive. The bracing on the Martins seem to be identical to the Spanish models and the GIBSON SMECK models seem to be more lightly braced than either the JUMBO or the TROJAN. It seems to me it would be nuts to fool with the bracing -- like all of the guitars of that era they are already on the hairy edge of being too lightly braced for long term stability and they certainly don't need it for sound reasons!

 

We are short of bandwidth where we are right now -- I'll give a more complete report when I return.

 

LET'S PICK

 

-TOM

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OK, here are our conversions -- all from 1934 to 1941.

 

hs1.jpg

 

Top row

 

1935 Gibson Roy Smeck Radio Grande

 

This is one of the two most expensive of the guitars. We had this converted by Randy Wood by removing the old neck and making a museum quality replacement and a new bridge. This was done so the guitar could be returned to original specs later if desired.

 

1934 Martin 00-40H

 

This is the relatively famous guitar we got from Norman Blake in 2005. It was converted for Norman by John Arnold. Refret, radiused the fretboard, and extra marker at third fret. One of the great Martins ever IMHO[biggrin].

 

1936 Gibson Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe

 

Original radiused neck, resloted bridge, 2 1/4 " at the nut (a big boy for sure) -- once owned by Garnet Rogers.

 

Second row (standing)

 

1939 Gibson HG-00

Bought years ago -- radiused original neck, resloted bridge -- all done before we got it.

 

1941 Martin 00-18H

 

Converted by Jay Rhyne. New bridge and bar frets.

 

On the floor

 

1934 HG-Century

 

New bridge only as near as I can tell -- it was converted when we got it.

 

Two 1937 Martin 00-18Hs

 

These are only 10 serial numbers apart. Both were converted for us by Randy Wood. Bar frets are built up and dressed, fretboard radiused, compensated bridge.

 

Here are some videos

 

 

There was a time when some guitars from this era were "voiced" -- thinned tops and shaved braces. By and large this was a disaster -- most of the instruments became unstable, and often the top was lost. I am not a ideologue on originality, but with a lot of close examination, I have never found any sign of "heavier" braces and I certainly never found anything like a dead guitar. If fact, they are clearly some of the best ever built -- their structural elements should be left alone IMO!

 

In fact, both kinds of Smecks have two tone bars while the Jumbo, Trojans, and even the very early AJs had three.

 

Let's pick,

 

-Tom

 

 

 

 

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I've got a 1935 Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe and a 1937 HG-00 with maple back and sides. I've also got a Roy Smeck Radio Grande that I'm having converted to Spanish style now, and I've played Derek Trucks 00-17H Martin that's a converted Hawaiian guitar. They're all great guitars. The HG has got a wonderful sparkly sound. In my experience the Hawaiian conversions seem to be louder, and generally have had better tone than a lot of their non-Hawaiian cousins. It may be that they are 12 fret guitars rather than 14, but also seems to have a lot to do with their BIG necks. As a general rule big neck=big tone in my experience. You do need to find someone that knows what they are doing to do the conversion, and obviously buying a converted guitar lets you know what you're getting before you spend your money.

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Here's one of my HG-00's.

 

FullFront_zpsdb319735.jpg

 

I've never come across a round neck version...I have three and they are all soft V necks.

 

You cannot compare these to their L-00 brethren. These guitars have enormous volume and sustain. They are one of the truly undiscovered jewels on the vintage market. Lots of folks shy away due to the wide nut but I don't have large hands and the adjustment period was hardly worth mentioning. In short...incredible instruments well worth the investment.

 

If you can get one that's unconverted just make certain you send it to a luthier who is familiar with vintage Gibsons.

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I have to go along with Tom & Rich. The HG-00's are fantastic. I have only played two. I bought one on eBay and returned it because of some "undisclosed buggering", but it sounded great. The big reason I sold it was that I was in Elderly and they had an unconverted one sitting on the floor for over 2 years. It was in spectacular shape and only a few hundred dollars more than I paid for the "over-buggered" one. So I haggled a bit with them, bought it and returned the eBay sale.

 

HG-00 The asking price is still there, but I got it for less. Even at the price they asked, it was a great deal.

 

I can not believe how great this guitar sounds. Elderly had already replaced the cheap, ugly tuners with Golden restorations (I had planned on it). All I did was lower the saddle (and radius it) and make a new nut. Even with straight saddle, the intonation is very, very good- I can't hear anything wrong. I also think the 1 7/8' board feels and plays smaller. I have a '32 L-00 which is completely original and sounds stupendous, but the HG-00 is more sparkly, more sustain and volume.

 

"They are one of the truly undiscovered jewels on the vintage market." I couldn't agree more.

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I just bought a 1936 Gibson L00 and I noticed the bridge looked like it was changed with quite a larger one. My luthier found absolutely no evidence of a smaller bridge ever on this guitar. He then found another guitar near exactly the same, with the same larger bridge. He doesn't believe a bridge of different dimensions ever being on this guitar. Nobody seems to know for sure.

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I just bought a 1936 Gibson L00 and I noticed the bridge looked like it was changed with quite a larger one. My luthier found absolutely no evidence of a smaller bridge ever on this guitar. He then found another guitar near exactly the same, with the same larger bridge. He doesn't believe a bridge of different dimensions ever being on this guitar. Nobody seems to know for sure.

 

 

Photographs would be useful.

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I just bought a 1936 Gibson L00 and I noticed the bridge looked like it was changed with quite a larger one. My luthier found absolutely no evidence of a smaller bridge ever on this guitar. He then found another guitar near exactly the same, with the same larger bridge. He doesn't believe a bridge of different dimensions ever being on this guitar. Nobody seems to know for sure.

 

I have seen lots of 30 Gibsons -- except for SJ200, J-55, etc. I never saw a big bridge. I have seen lots of oversized replaced bridges -- there are historical reasons why this is true.

 

Best,

 

-Tom

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Hello,

I'm a new member here so bear with me.

I have recently become the owner of a couple of pre war Gibson Hawaiian guitars, one a lap steel and an H-00

Spending some hours trying to research it. I have been a guitar and mandolin guy for a while and have owned a few vintage instruments but I am not really a vintage guy so some of the subtleties get lost on me. Like why a warn original finish is more valuable than a nice professional refinish in a guitars life.

Anyway it looks like I could use some help identifying the some things about this original un-converted H-00.One question I have is weather there is a better market for it as original or converted for regular playing?

 

So I guess my first question is weather I should post this here or start a new thread??

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Hello,

I'm a new member here so bear with me.

I have recently become the owner of a couple of pre war Gibson Hawaiian guitars, one a lap steel and an H-00

Spending some hours trying to research it. I have been a guitar and mandolin guy for a while and have owned a few vintage instruments but I am not really a vintage guy so some of the subtleties get lost on me. Like why a warn original finish is more valuable than a nice professional refinish in a guitars life.

Anyway it looks like I could use some help identifying the some things about this original un-converted H-00.One question I have is weather there is a better market for it as original or converted for regular playing?

 

So I guess my first question is weather I should post this here or start a new thread??

 

I would start a new thread, since most of this thread is several years old. At the same time, there is some very good input in this thread.

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I would start a new thread, since most of this thread is several years old. At the same time, there is some very good input in this thread.

Thanks, good idea. I was kind of wondering about that.

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