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TeroK

1976 ES-345 knobs

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Hi everyone,

I'm looking for period correct volume and tone knobs for my '76 ES-345. They have been replaced at some point with speed knobs. I'm looking at the ones I've linked here  but am worried because of the price, good condition and numbers at the bottom which other vintage witch hats don't seem to have. Or did late 70's guitars have different knobs from the earlier ones? Any other identifying features for original vintage vs. repro knobs?

Thanks in advance!

https://reverb.com/item/31251777-gibson-les-paul-witch-hat-knobs-70s-black

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I never paid a lot of attention to 70's specs over the years, as I wasn't very interested in Norlin era guitars.  I've seen plenty, though.

First of all, it would help to know more about your motivation.  The reason I ask is that historically, witch hat knobs were never too popular aesthetically.  Probably because they came along at time (late 60's) when Gibson was beginning to go downhill in some respects.  In other words, most desirable vintage guitars had earlier style knobs of some type.  So, I've seen a lot of 70's guitars with replaced knobs, as is the case with your 345.  Now, if you're seeking witch hats primarily to keep the guitar more "original", I'd say that might not be worth the trouble.  On the other hand, if you prefer the look of witch hats, then by all means go for those.

I did some research online, looking at photos, old catalogs, and forum discussions.  Some people say that by the mid-70's, Gibson was no longer consistently using witch hats.  This kind of jibes with my own memories of seeing various 70's models over the years, and yet most photos and catalogs seem to show many 70's models with witch hats.  So it's all a little uncertain.  Anyway, if you like them, they're not going to look "wrong" on a 1976 345.

As you probably already know, the volume knob should just say "Vol." on the top, not "Volume".   One other fine point I would suggest is that witch hats should be tapered.  In other words, when viewed from the side, they should be wider at the bottom and narrower at the top.   This taper should be more obvious than what you would typically see on a early-to-mid 60's reflector cap knob.  When viewed from the top, the round reflective surface on a witch hat should therefore look smaller than the round surface of a reflector cap knob.  I could be wrong in terms of how they evolved from 1967 to 1976 and beyond, but this is how I remember them.

Finally, most original witch hat knobs appear less shiny than a repro will look.  Not only the black plastic, but the top surface will generally look a bit aged on originals.  The fact that the sides were grooved rather than smooth also made them more prone to wear (cuts, dents, scratches), so you could look for things like that in terms of shopping for original-looking examples.

In the Reverb item you linked, I'm not seeing the tapering I would expect, and they almost look too clean.  But they're not bad looking knobs.  I have no idea what sort of prices you should expect, so you're on your own to research that.  Hope this helps, and I'm open to anybody correcting me on any points I may have wrong.

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Thank you Jim for your insight and information! 

I am planning to keep the speed knobs because I prefer the look and usability, but if I can find original knobs at a reasonable price they might add to resale value if I decide to sell later on..or they might not. I've seen sets of four 60's witch hats with gold inserts sold for 200-250 USD but since I live in Europe they would cost nearly 350 with shipping and customs. 

Anyway, I'm skipping the ones I linked, nice repro knobs can be found for much less money..But if anyone knows a reputable dealer for vintage Gibson parts in Europe, please let me know!

-Tero

Edited by TeroK

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13 hours ago, TeroK said:

That's confusing..any way to date speed knobs?

Well, the earlier types from the 1940's and '50's are pretty well-documented.  I wish I had details in terms of the 1970's era, but I don't.  I would suggest that some extensive searching online might gradually reveal patterns that you can trace.  Try google searches using different terms, and be persistent.  There will be many exceptions and odd cases where you'll encounter instruments with knobs that were likely replaced, but if you look at enough examples, you should be able to get some idea of what types were in use on different models through a sequence of years.  In addition to searching on google for images and info (and don't forget about guitar discussion forums, where this may have been discussed in detail before), you can also through sites like ebay, reverb.com, and gbase.com.  You can search the inventory lists of dozens of online guitar dealers.

Edited by JimR56

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