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ramseyrails

eBay Advanced Jumbo... Why so high?

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Brazilian Rosewood is most likely the reason.

 

That's the back and sides material they used to use pre 1970's and thereabouts.

 

Nowadays, its all Madagascar or East Indian or Amazon [biggrin]

 

Harmonics101

 

Added : Besides that, its a limited edition blah blah blah sort of guitar with papers and stuff. A bit more hooplah than your modern classic, red spruce top would also be an upcharge.

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Brazilian rose wood costs a lot of money. Martin gets $10K and up for a BRW guitar. What's strange is the listing says the guitar has a BRW neck? I find that very hard to believe. Rosewood in general does not make a good neck wood. I wonder if the seller is just mistaken about this fact.

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Brazilian rose wood costs a lot of money. Martin gets $10K and up for a BRW guitar. What's strange is the listing says the guitar has a BRW neck? I find that very hard to believe. Rosewood in general does not make a good neck wood. I wonder if the seller is just mistaken about this fact.

I suspect he means fretboard rather than neck, as Brazilian would be a poor choice for a neck wood. He doesn't sound really knowledgeable, and he has been selling off his father's guitars for some time. The price is high, but not ridiculous for Brazilian.

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The irony here is except for maybe an early protype, the original AJs were EIRW -- so you are paying more for non original materials.

.

 

Let's plck,

 

-Tom

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The irony here is except for maybe an early protype, the original AJs were EIRW -- so you are paying more for non original materials.

.

 

Let's plck,

 

-Tom

 

I dont think its a Proto... Its Not Branded,, I would like to see the label too.., If Im not Mistakin,,,there was a Year where you could buy a Brazilian AJ that was Not a Custom Shop I believe that was 2001 and 2.... they made a limited Number of those...

 

But for Canada... I think these were a special order.. Not in the catalogs..

 

I think New up here they were in the 6500.00 Range...

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If Im not Mistakin,,,there was a Year where you could buy a Brazilian AJ that was Not a Custom Shop I believe that was 2001 and 2....

 

Those Luthier's Choice AJs were actually Custom Shop guitars, in that they got the Custom Shop decal on the neck. The list price on these varied significantly, for some reason. I don't know whether it was raised over time or they charged more for the later ones -- I'd like to think the latter, because the list on mine was around $9.2K, the highest I've seen, and I've seen some that listed for under $8K.

 

BTW, there is no guarantee these are great guitars. Mine's is the best AJ I've ever played. (FWIW, Ren told me about 5 years ago, in front of a crowd of witnesses, it was his favorite among all the guitars he'd even built. Of course, he'd spent the previous evening playing it, and we all know how serial infatuation goes. :)) However, some ... well, let's just say I've played standard EIRW AJ's that I thought were much better. Species matters less than the individual piece of wood, IMHO.

 

-- Bob R

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I dont think its a Proto... Its Not Branded,, I would like to see the label too.., If Im not Mistakin,,,there was a Year where you could buy a Brazilian AJ that was Not a Custom Shop I believe that was 2001 and 2.... they made a limited Number of those...

 

But for Canada... I think these were a special order.. Not in the catalogs..

 

I think New up here they were in the 6500.00 Range...

 

I think Tom was probably referring to prototypes back in 1936, when the AJ first came out.

 

While opinions vary, Tom seems to come down on the side that the original AJ's were EIRW, rather than Brazilian. In "...Fabulous Flat-Tops.....", Whitford et al come down on the side of Brazilian.

 

Me? I don't have a clue. Whether it's EIRW or Brazilian, the AJ is a spectacular guitar.

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Those Luthier's Choice AJs were actually Custom Shop guitars, in that they got the Custom Shop decal on the neck. The list price on these varied significantly, for some reason. I don't know whether it was raised over time or they charged more for the later ones -- I'd like to think the latter, because the list on mine was around $9.2K, the highest I've seen, and I've seen some that listed for under $8K.

 

BTW, there is no guarantee these are great guitars. Mine's is the best AJ I've ever played. (FWIW, Ren told me about 5 years ago, in front of a crowd of witnesses, it was his favorite among all the guitars he'd even built. Of course, he'd spent the previous evening playing it, and we all know how serial infatuation goes. :)) However, some ... well, let's just say I've played standard EIRW AJ's that I thought were much better. Species matters less than the individual piece of wood, IMHO.

 

-- Bob R

 

I was told when the Custom Shop Stopped Making Guitars.. .. I just forget when... would you know?

 

I know the Custom Shop AJ I had Done was up over 10..

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While opinions vary, Tom seems to come down on the side that the original AJ's were EIRW, rather than Brazilian. In "...Fabulous Flat-Tops.....", Whitford et al come down on the side of Brazilian.

 

Me? I don't have a clue. Whether it's EIRW or Brazilian, the AJ is a spectacular guitar.

 

I don't really know from first hand evidence either, but there is a lot of history here. The "Fabulous Flattops" was a very early book where the authors more or less assumed that when they had seen a particular version of a Gibson model, then they had seen them all. That would have been a rational approach, and it would have worked well for Martin. However, what has since become abundantly clear is that Gibson in the 30s was very inconsistent -- their specs varied almost continually, resulting in a stupefying array of (often wonderful) instruments.

 

A lot of early information on AJs came from Gary Burnett, who has a very early model (maybe a prototype) that he (and others) claimed to be BRW. I have talked to him about it, and the reason he said it was BRW is that Gibsons ads starting in the late 30s claimed they "got rosewood from Brazil." I guess two points have been pointed out about these adds. First, they did not say what they did with the rosewood -- it is well known they used BRW for bridges and fingerboard. Second, these adds seldom changed and seldom matched the actual instruments all that well. Gary never claimed to be able to identify BRW. However, people who I think probably can identify BRW have seen Gary's guitar and said it looks like BRW.

 

Here is what the back of our '36 AJ looks like.

 

ajbacks.jpg

 

By comparison, the BRW on our '35 D-28 looks like this.

 

spotbacks.jpg

 

For years, the AJ RW was referred to as "mystery" rosewood. Then the German guitar maker Willi Henkes sent a small piece of RW from one of these AJs to have it tested -- the test came back as East Indian Rosewood.

 

What now appears to have happened is that Gibson had a source for BRW early in the 1930s, and they did use it for the back and sides on the 1932 L-2s. At some point in the early 30s, they got a source for East Indian Rosewood, which they used for the rest of the 30s and early 40s -- the original rosewood SJs also used this wood. This rosewood is very easy to identify -- it all looks like the AJ above. Whether one (or more) early AJs used wood from the earlier BRW source is unclear -- I am going to see Gary Burnett soon, and I may be able to form an opinion for myself. Don't forget the AJ above is very early, from 1936. But "prototypes" may indeed have preceded it.

 

All of the quarter sawed EIRW from the 30s is easy to identify. If it is slab sawed, it is more difficult for me. Here is our '35 Roy Smeck Radio Grande -- what do you think?

 

AG5723b.jpg

 

Now you know what I know -- and what I don't know.

 

All the best,

 

-Tom

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Ive seen Ajs with Both... Not all just had EIR.. Heres a picture of my 34, L2 14 fret back... Its Brazilian...

 

DSCF9692.jpg

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I think Tom was probably referring to prototypes back in 1936, when the AJ first came out.

 

While opinions vary, Tom seems to come down on the side that the original AJ's were EIRW, rather than Brazilian. In "...Fabulous Flat-Tops.....", Whitford et al come down on the side of Brazilian.

 

Me? I don't have a clue. Whether it's EIRW or Brazilian, the AJ is a spectacular guitar.

Actually, Amazon was a popular guess too until Willi Henkes actually had samples analyzed by a lab and the answer came back "It's Indian". There's not really much doubt about it anymore.

 

-- Bob R

 

P.S. added later: I just noticed Tom already mentioned Willi's tests. The Rosewood he had analyzed was actually from an SJ-200, but it had the appearance of typical Gibson late-'30s "mystery rosewood" (as does Tom's '36 AJ pictured above, for those of you who aren't familiar with the stuff).

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I was told when the Custom Shop Stopped Making Guitars.. .. I just forget when... would you know?

 

I know the Custom Shop AJ I had Done was up over 10..

I think the separate Custom Shop up on the second floor was closed in 2001.

 

-- Bob R

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Now you know what I know -- and what I don't know.

 

-Tom

 

Tom,

It's an odd story, to say the least. The questions I have are:

 

With a ready supply of Brazilian rosewood, already used for bridges and fingerboards, why would Gibson seek out a different supplier in order to use East Indian rosewood, which we normally think of as coming from the other side of the planet? Was EIRW seen as a more desirable wood for some reason? Had Gibson used EIRW for any other purpose prior to this? How sophisticated was species analysis back in the 30's, when the first AJ's were made? Specifically, how easy is it to tell the different Dalbergia species from each other? As I understand it, EIRW (Dalbergia latifolia)is also native to parts of South America, to confuse matters further.

 

Usually, in order to get the greatest mileage out of materials, you try to use as few different types of materials as possible. For example, you can get fretboards and bridges out of parts of the log that you wouldn't use for sides or backs, so there is less waste. I assume that unlike today, Gibson was buying at least their imported woods in the log or in large slabs, so they could saw them and dry them in the most efficient manner possible.

 

Wood grain of most species will look dramatically different depending on whether is is plain sawn (slab sawn) or quarter-sawn. Plain-sawing gets the most mileage out of a log, as there is a lot more waste when you turn a log to quarter-saw it. In fact, it is getting hard to buy quarter-sawn exotic species because of the waste involved in the process. The best you can do is hand-sort the sawn wood when buying, as a certain percentage of it will be quarter-sawn by default. This is what I used to do when buying the mahoganies and teak I used in boatbuilding. I even had a little holster for my block plane, which I carreid on my belt to plain sections of planks to evaluate color and grain. The importers didn't particularly like to see me coming, but I made a deal with one to help unload and stack containers in exchange for picking over the wood.

 

In the case of Brazilian, plain-sawing has the bonus that it brings out the wood's sometimes-extraordinary grain patterns. By the way, I am not an instrument maker: I was a boatbuilder for some years, and we face exactly the same issues with regard to optimizing wood use.

 

Was the evidence confirming EIRW in the AJ based on a single wood sample sent to a single lab for analysis, or were multiple samples sent to multiple labs for independent confirmation?

 

I have a several vintage Gibsons that presumably have Brazilian boards and bridges. Both the grain and the color vary dramatically. Some is almost as black and fine-grained as ebony. Other has what you would call the "classic" rosewood color and grain. Some appears to be plain-sawn, and other bits quarter-sawn.

 

I'm not for a moment questioning anyone's analysis of the wood species, but the whole concept seems a bit counterintuitive.

 

In any case, it's a great mystery that I'm not sure has been fully resolved.

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With a ready supply of Brazilian rosewood, already used for bridges and fingerboards, why would Gibson seek out a different supplier in order to use East Indian rosewood, which we normally think of as coming from the other side of the planet? Was EIRW seen as a more desirable wood for some reason? Had Gibson used EIRW for any other purpose prior to this? How sophisticated was species analysis back in the 30's, when the first AJ's were made? Specifically, how easy is it to tell the different Dalbergia species from each other? As I understand it, EIRW (Dalbergia latifolia)is also native to parts of South America, to confuse matters further.

 

I did not say that Gibson did that -- Willi Henkes just suggested that might be a way that the ads could be right while they were still using EIRW for backs and sides. I think that is over analyzing the data. My guess is the marketing department just recycled materials -- remember, this was the depression. Also, be careful not to use 21th century reasoning on early 20th century business practice. Unlike today when data access is almost trivial, then it was nearly impossible. I only brought that up because of its connection to Gary Burnett and why anyone thought it was BRW in the first place.

 

The other thing to remember is that Gibson had always proclaimed mahogany and maple as the ideal tone woods -- just as Martin had always used rosewood. In the early 30's, times were desperate and they were (both) trying lots of new stuff to try to create a market.

 

I think it is pretty clear that Gibson just swapped RW suppliers and the species change came with the swap. They tried, liked it, and the rest is history. The other fact that I forgot to mention is at a number of other builders in the Chicago were using the same quarter sawn RW in the mid 30s on into the 40s, probably from the same supplier. I always thought it was probably a Chicago supplier, but Joe Spann said (I think) it was probably from NY. I think that information is in his book.

 

Wood grain of most species will look dramatically different depending on whether is is plain sawn (slab sawn) or quarter-sawn. Plain-sawing gets the most mileage out of a log, as there is a lot more waste when you turn a log to quarter-saw it. In fact, it is getting hard to buy quarter-sawn exotic species because of the waste involved in the process. The best you can do is hand-sort the sawn wood when buying, as a certain percentage of it will be quarter-sawn by default. This is what I used to do when buying the mahoganies and teak I used in boatbuilding. I even had a little holster for my block plane, which I carreid on my belt to plain sections of planks to evaluate color and grain. The importers didn't particularly like to see me coming, but I made a deal with one to help unload and stack containers in exchange for picking over the wood.

 

I'm not expert here, but I am aware of a clear bias among some builders that quarter sawn is less likely to crack. In any case, as I am sure you know, quarter sawn is more common that slab sawn, but slab sawn does certainly occur -- as in our Radio Grande above.

 

Was the evidence confirming EIRW in the AJ based on a single wood sample sent to a single lab for analysis, or were multiple samples sent to multiple labs for independent confirmation?

 

The story was that two samples were sent. On the first one, they simply asked if it were Amazon rosewood, and were told "no." On the second they asked what it was, and they were told they both were EIRW.

 

I have a several vintage Gibsons that presumably have Brazilian boards and bridges. Both the grain and the color vary dramatically. Some is almost as black and fine-grained as ebony. Other has what you would call the "classic" rosewood color and grain. Some appears to be plain-sawn, and other bits quarter-sawn
.

 

I think they certainly had both types of RW, and Gibson was a "floor sweep" company. Unlike the guy above, however, I have never seen an old AJ that had anything but the characteristic back like ours. That is why I'm going to see Gary Burnett and maybe see one (or more).

 

In their 1932 catalog, they do talk about using BRW for fingerboards.

 

1932fingerboards.jpg

 

I'm not for a moment questioning anyone's analysis of the wood species, but the whole concept seems a bit counterintuitive.

 

In any case, it's a great mystery that I'm not sure has been fully resolved.

 

I'm not an easy guy to convince, but I am 90% on this one. I don't agree with Willi Henkes on everything, but he is certainly a wood junky and a true international expert on Gibson guitars from the 30s. There is no way he did not understand what he was looking at and no way he would report anything but the actual results. I don't know about the likelihood of false positives in wood testing, but this was done by a University research lab -- which is where I get my personal 90%.

 

Could it be wrong? Sure. Is it likely to be wrong? I certainly personally don't think so, but I would not kill myself if I were proved wrong [unsure] .

 

All the best,

 

-Tom

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