1926 Gibson L-0
first flat top
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This guitar was sold to me under the assumption it was a 1926 Gibson L-1 but after some investigation and expert examination it looks like a 1926 L-0 instead. It originally cost 35.00 dollars instead of the slightly more deluxe L-1 which was around 50 bucks. A pretty big sum in those days considering a nice Stella cost about 9 dollars a fiddy cents. The L models had always been sold to the public as archtop guitars in the past but this was the introduction of flat top Gibson guitars to the public. They had been sold as an even more plain jane model during WWI around 1917 and sold to the military and probably issued to military posts. Let's just confirm that the L model numbers could be completely different guitars depending on the era. These are not the earlier archtop models from 1925 and earlier. These are also not the same shape and size as the later L-0 models from the late 1920s and 30s.
Ralph Luttrell a very good luthier was available so I had him examine the guitar today and he said the wood used on the back and sides is more than likely maple due to the grain patterns, possible birds eye spots and other technical details. He said it might look a little different than I expected because it's not bookmatched and it's slab sawn mediocre quality wood. Sure hasn't hurt the tone, we both laughed and commented.
After all this work I think the main differences in these models would be as follows. The L-0 has maple body and natural finish, ebony bridge and ebonized fretboard (we think is maple with black dye), 2 white ring rosette. The main differences for the more deluxe L-1 is a real ebony fretboard, 3 ring rosette, dark brown stain on mahogany back and sides.
This is a great guitar and I will go through some other details below that you may find interesting. One thing to keep in mind is that Gibson specs could also vary within similar models. If I find any new information I'll update and correct this web page. I'm using a vintage guitar blue book and a few other guides you can buy. Here is a link to some pretty accurate specs on vintage guitars including the Gibsons. Vintage Guy's Web Page on Gibson Specs
Sound Samples - Compare the opening notes on this original sample MP3 of Robert Johnson to the sound of this guitar MP3 .While there is no proof which guitar he played in those original recordings it's nice to compare the similar voices. Other than the modern microphone I have and new strings they sound pretty close don't they? I'm guessing his mahogany L-1 would produce deeper bass. Maple usually contributes to a punchy bass which this guitar certainly has along with an explosive response.
The sound of this guitar is warm and full yet has a remarkably dry sparkling high end. The ladder H-shape bracing and small body size are probably one reason it has such a nasally punch and bluesy midrange. The guitar responds like a rubber band snapping back when you pluck a string with bare fingers and it requires very little effort to get a nice full sound. Explosive is a good word to describe how this guitar reacts to fingerpicking with bare fingers. That combined with the short scale make this guitar play like butter and it's hard to put down. You wouldn't think a guitar of this era would play so easy but it's such a light balanced and delicate feeling guitar. A total experience and not just one dimensional. Even the neck profile is a shocker for me. It's medium rounded shape much like many modern fingerstyle builders favor. It's not the typical chunky V profile found on many guitars of the era. This is clearly a fingerstyle guitar in every way. The action on is pretty low so my little slide was pretty difficult to demonstrate at the end of the demo video. The good thing is anyone can hear what a fantastic slide sound this guitar produces. This guitar certainly represents one of the many famous vintage guitar tones people are after.
Bracing - Special notes on the bracing. There are 4 lateral braces on the back. The two toward the front are lighter, low and A shaped. The two aft back braces are pretty massive with a round shape. The top has one lateral brace in the neck area and two others behind the sound hole before and after what appears to me as a spruce or maple bridgeplate. There are two H braces running lengthwise on either side of the sound hole connecting all the top bracings. The top braces are all pretty much carved in a tall A profile and don't appear to arch the top in either direction. There is not much top bellying going on and the guitars top is nor deforming and the bridge is not leaning forward.
L-0 DETAILED SPECS as measured by me and not by the vintage guides. Total length 37.5", Scale 24.25", 12 frets to the body, 1-7/8" nut, 2-5/16" neck width at body join, 2-5/16" string width at bridge, 13-7/8" width lower bout, 8" waist, 10-1/8" upper bout width, 3-7/16" depth upper bout, 3-3/4" depth lower bout, 3-7/8" depth at butt, sound hole diameter 3.5". Neck profile round C shape and 0.800 at the 2nd fret, 0.880" at fret 5, 0.940 at fret 9. Fret size is approx 0.080" wide and 0.45" tall. Dovetail neck joint,H ladder bracing, mahogany neck, slab sawn maple back and sides, spruce top, ebony pyramid bridge, ebony pins and nut, 2 white ring rosette, bound sound hole, ebony or possibly ebonized fretboard. 3 dot markers on 5-7-9, straight scroll Gibson logo. Medium frets with flat fretboard with no radius. the top appears to be about 0.120" or less thickness at the sound hole. Total weight about 3 lbs.
BELOW: CRACK ON REAR along with a few other finer ones that are all tight.
BELOW: REPAIRED HAIRLINE CRACK ON UPPER WAIST AREA
BELOW: MORE SIGNS OF POSSIBLE REFINISH, SANDING
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