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bayoubengal1954

Just Did Something Financially Irresponsible.

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Some of you may remember that two years ago I bought a beat up, stained '48 J-50 which has a tone that I love. As you know the nut is purported to be 1 11/16" with a full rounded neck (post Banner). The neck does look to be original with the block logo and tapered headstock, however when I measure the nut it really is closer to 1 5/8" than 1 11/16" and the shape of the neck does not feel "full" to me. I love the tone, but actually playing the guitar is not as pleasurable as I had hoped.

 

I can't help but feel that the nut is a bit small for one (or both) reasons:

 

1.) One must allow for the human factor when the neck was made,

2.) The neck was shaved down a bit by a former owner and then lacquered over and stained quite heavily.

 

I've always thought if I ever got a hold of an older Gibson neck with the wider nut and V shaped neck I would talk to my luthier about switching out the neck. In a perfect world it would be either a Banner Neck or one from the 30's. A J-35 or J-45/50 would be best, but a neck from a small bodied 30's or Banner would work as well.

 

Before I go any further of course I know I would destroy the re-sale value of the instrument and some may be offended that I am "desecrating" the original work, however I am a gigging New Orleans musician and I buy these instruments as tools to play. I would of course keep the original neck in case someone in the future wanted to re-attach the original, although I could probably never sell it for anything close to my investment. And yes, I could have commissioned my Luthier to make a new neck to my specs, but I did want the entire guitar to be Vintage, even if the components are from different years. Remember the Johnny Cash song about his car called "I Built It One Piece At A Time"? [biggrin]

 

I figured I would never find a neck that I wanted and I would carry on, but lo and behold, a guy in Southern California had a neck from either a 1938 L-00 or a L-0 (notice the French Heel in the photos) and I bought it. The FON imprinted on the back of the headstock confirms it to be a 1938. Never saw that coming. Of course it has the same standard Gibson 24.75" Short Scale. Well, I had it done and I couldn't be happier with the results. The '38 V shape on the neck with the 1 3/4" nut is a huge improvement for me. You will see some work had to be done where the neck meets the body, but I don't mind the looks of it. The neck also needed new jumbo frets. I have been playing it for three days straight (some sleep took place) and it sounds as good as before and is so much easier to play!

 

I'm guessing there may be a mob coming at me with torches and pitchforks, but since this would be a Frankenstein Guitar the imagery seems appropriate. [biggrin]

 

Special thanks to John "Kalamazoo Gals" Thomas. We have been corresponding about this and he has been most helpful in talking me through the process. Thanks John for the support and encouragement.

Now the pictures...and I will be hiding in my Laboratory:

 

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Edited by bayoubengal1954

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Yeah...torches and pitchforks, to TAKE it from you. COOLASS X 10! I have that neck on my '35 L00 and it is indeed the most comfortable for my hands, though the baseball bat on my J50 is neck and neck (yukyuk) for comfort.

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That is presumably the same neck that is on my L-OO Legend. If so, I like it a lot.

 

It's your guitar, so do what you want.

 

To my never-ending dismay, Gibson shaved the neck on my '48-'50 J-45 down to the then-fashionable 1 9/16" nut width when they did me the "favor" of re-topping my guitar in 1968, rather than re-gluing the original top. Maybe someone did something similar to yours at some point.

Edited by j45nick

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I would suspect the neck had been shaved down which should tone down any feeling of acting irresponsibly.

 

But yeah, the most comfy Gibson neck I own is slapped on my 1935 Capital. 1 3/4"nut V neck with the French Heel and in this case a skunk stripe inlaid down the center of the board albeit no truss rod as it is a Depression-era special.

Edited by zombywoof

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Looks great! It really looks like it belongs.

 

 

My old L-0 had the V shaved off between the 1 and 5 frets, more like a 'dip'...but that was the least of the problems when I got it.

 

 

I also bought an old 93 Lowden LSE1, which has a thinner body and 1 11/16" nut over the usual large Lowden neck. I got my luthier to make another nut with wider spacing between the slots and then the strings are closer to the edge of the board. They do this a lot, he said. He could have taken it a bit wider but played it safe for me. It gave me more space and made it more playable for fingerstyle, but it is a 'custom' spacing I suppose and takes a few tunes to get use to it. In other words, it is weird. [mellow] The nut seems a whisker higher than the old 93 one too. I still have the old nut, so may slip it back and try it...can't remember what it was like, really.

 

 

BluesKing777.

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How does it work structurally in terms of the dovetail neck joint, ie the old wide dovetail vs the narrow French heel dovetail?

 

I’m all for doing whatever it takes to make a guitar work for you, and I applaud your bravery for “going there” with this one. I wouldn’t have had the cojones to do it, myself.

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A very cool project, invho! Thanks for sharing the story with us. Glad I could participate, if from a distance, in the project.

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How does it work structurally in terms of the dovetail neck joint, ie the old wide dovetail vs the narrow French heel dovetail?

 

I’m all for doing whatever it takes to make a guitar work for you, and I applaud your bravery for “going there” with this one. I wouldn’t have had the cojones to do it, myself.

 

I asked them (Benjamin Strange and Aaron Younce of Strange Guitarworks) about that and they said they had ways of making it fit and retaining the tone (above my pay grade). I had faith in these guys and took the plunge. They have worked on a bunch of my guitars with stellar results.

There is supposed to be a blog with photos of the process posted on the Strange Guitarworks website. When they get around to it, I will post the link.

 

I will admit my first strum on the guitar came with some trepidation. Fortunately after hearing it, I thought "There is the tone I have been hearing for two years and I enjoy the playability so much more". Whew! 😀

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With a little bit o help from an A-dapter kit.....

Love it! Let’s hear it.

 

Sal, I don't have any fancy recording equipment. These quick and dirty recordings are from my iphone. When I listen with earbuds it sounds somewhat okay, but still not doing justice to the actual tone, yada, yada. There are five tracks clocking in at a total of 6 minutes (Strumming, Basic Lead Run, Fingerpicking, Basic Flatpicking, and one of me singing one of my original Robert Johnson inspired/ripped off songs to feature how the voice is supported). Listening to the tracks again I noticed the fingerpicking sample clocked in at 90 MPH and I wasn't even on coffee. [biggrin]

 

https://soundcloud.com/nolamericana/sets/gibson-frankenstein-guitar

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Hey- those are some pretty good little clips you've got there. 'Found myself reaching for the volume knob (~) upwards on Happy Boy Blues (and was oversinging Crossroads to it), that's always a good sign. Don't Think Twice also came through well on Finger Picking 2. What has to be done to have the SoundCloud give a handful of little clips like that? Sounds like you've already bonded with a "new" old guitar.

The Green Day clip "Strumming" had me wondering what strings you had on there.

 

Prediction: within the next year, as the neck joint settles in, and the glue cures, that guitar will sound even better. One day, it'll just hit you when you least expect it.

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Hey- those are some pretty good little clips you've got there. 'Found myself reaching for the volume knob (~) upwards on Happy Boy Blues (and was oversinging Crossroads to it), that's always a good sign. Don't Think Twice also came through well on Finger Picking 2. What has to be done to have the SoundCloud give a handful of little clips like that? Sounds like you've already bonded with a "new" old guitar.

The Green Day clip "Strumming" had me wondering what strings you had on there.

 

Prediction: within the next year, as the neck joint settles in, and the glue cures, that guitar will sound even better. One day, it'll just hit you when you least expect it.

 

Thanks, Burst! On the SoundCloud question if you download all of the files at the same time it will ask if you would like to make it a Playlist. Then a click on the one link will take people to all of those files.

 

Yes, there is a slight (okay, not so slight) resemblance to "Crossroads" in my song "Happy Boy Blues".

 

As Woody Guthrie said, "I only steal from the best". 😀

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Hey- those are some pretty good little clips you've got there. 'Found myself reaching for the volume knob (~) upwards on Happy Boy Blues (and was oversinging Crossroads to it), that's always a good sign. Don't Think Twice also came through well on Finger Picking 2. What has to be done to have the SoundCloud give a handful of little clips like that? Sounds like you've already bonded with a "new" old guitar.

The Green Day clip "Strumming" had me wondering what strings you had on there.

 

Prediction: within the next year, as the neck joint settles in, and the glue cures, that guitar will sound even better. One day, it'll just hit you when you least expect it.

Oh, on the strings...

I usually use D'Addario PB Lights (EJ16), but my Luthier is a Dunlop Dealer and put Dunlop PB Lights on them after he finished the work. I notice the low E on their lights are 56. I may have to see how long they last and try some more. Kinda like them.

Edited by bayoubengal1954

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How does it work structurally in terms of the dovetail neck joint, ie the old wide dovetail vs the narrow French heel dovetail?

Despite heel shape differences, the shape of the dovetail would be the same. The difference is that the 1930s joint would have been cut with a bandsaw. The later joint would have been cut with a router. So, the earlier dovetail would be longer. The repair folks would simply need to shorten it (cut off the lower 1/2 inch, or so) and slide it into place.

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Despite heel shape differences, the shape of the dovetail would be the same. The difference is that the 1930s joint would have been cut with a bandsaw. The later joint would have been cut with a router. So, the earlier dovetail would be longer. The repair folks would simply need to shorten it (cut off the lower 1/2 inch, or so) and slide it into place.

Ah Ha! Thanks, John. Here is hoping some pictures get posted by Benjamin and Aaron!

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It's your guitar, so do what you want.

 

 

I agree. 100 %.

 

Now, I DON'T believe in destroying a guitar onstage just to try to look cool and because I'm a millionaire.

 

I would probably rather give it to a 9 year old kid without a chance of ever affording one.

 

But a working musician customizing a tool to make it work better for him/her.

 

Heck yea.

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Ah Ha! Thanks, John. Here is hoping some pictures get posted by Benjamin and Aaron!

I once had x-rays of 1943 and 1946 Gibson dovetails on line. Alas, they've evaporated from cyberspace.

 

In any event, when heels got wider in the early 1940s, Gibson continued using the same dovetail jig. The only change came in mid-1944, when, flush with cash from CMI, Gibson bought a router to cut the dovetails. Earlier dovetails, cut with a band saw, run nearly the entire length of the heel. The router-cut dovetails are about a half an inch shorter.

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I agree. 100 %.

 

Now, I DON'T believe in destroying a guitar onstage just to try to look cool and because I'm a millionaire.

 

I would probably rather give it to a 9 year old kid without a chance of ever affording one.

 

But a working musician customizing a tool to make it work better for him/her.

 

Heck yea.

 

I could not agree with this more! I feel physically in pain when I see footage of anybody smashing up a guitar. Customising an instrument so that it plays better? Whole different ball game.

 

Funnily enough I am looking for a J-50 and suspect I’ll want a narrower neck!

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