The Gibson L-5 is a fancy f-hole six-string sporting, in this period, the “fat” mother of pearl script inlaid “Gibson” logo and a single flower pot on a peghead overlay. This particular guitar has a headstock overlay (veneer) bound in four plies of white and black with white outermost, that seems to be made from what might be ebony that’s been exposed to a lot of light over the years and so it has faded. This wood doesn’t look like what we’d expect, but it black lights in a color and texture that suggests that it's quite old. At the same time, upon close inspection, it appears oversprayed with lacquer or varnish. The inlaid pearl “Gibson” logo and pearl torch both appear original. The white bound black bell-shaped truss rod cover, if not original to this instrument, is an old Gibson part, and may indeed be correct. The black ebony fingerboard is inlaid with large mother of pearl block markers 8 fret positions starting Fret 1, and bordered with four-ply black-white purfling with white outermost; the top is likewise 4-ply and so is the pickguard; the back of the guitar and the heelcap, however, are bordered in two ply.
The bound fingerboard ends with a carat, or birdie’s beak, facing downward; the guitar has twin unbound f-holes, an ebony two-piece adjustable bridge and a gold-plated, hinged, trapeze-style tailpiece at bottom that has a geometric design etched on its center piece but does not say “L-5.” The tailpiece also has filigree etched on its bottom side. This guitar shows normal signs of use and wear including scratches, scrapes, scuffs, dings, chips, nicks, finish checking, and evidence of changes, prior repairs and alterations. For example there is a screw hole under the tip end of the pickguard, and the L-bracket that holds the pickguard to the side may have been foreshortened since the pickguard is now too close to the treble waist and so it is not parallel to the first string. The back of the neck, which shows some normal hand wear through the finish, also shows what might be overspray, and there is an added nickel-plated strap pin in the center of the neck heel; the area around it is disrupted due to contact with a strap and also from sanding marks.
The area around the heel cap has been touched up (and possibly glued); we are uncertain that both the bridge top and bridge base are original, since their color is mismatched, although both sections look old and each appears Brazilian rosewood, which is correct. The pickguard appears old and possibly original, however it is not positioned properly on the face, and there is that extra hole in the top below the upper screw, so maybe it’s not exactly original to the guitar but it, too, blacklights properly. The nut has been replaced – there is a gap in the binding on the bass side of the nut which is not original; the frets appear to be original; there is a binding separation on the back bass side near the waist which we will not be addressing; its tailpiece is original. The body finish black lights up luminescent green and thusly appears original; the case is original. When it came in there was a strap button hole on the lower treble side of the neck (13th fret) and we do intend to fill this hole but, as they say, “touchup will show.” The tuners are not original – they are gold-plated Schaller sealed-back. There is mild belt buckle rash on the back; the back and sides are bird’s eye maple. There are glue drips on the crème oval paper label inside the guitar. There is cork glued to a cleat inside the guitar – and two contiguous repaired top cracks (totaling around 11”) from the bass f-hole downward. There is a number (possibly military in derivation) etched by hand into the bottom side of the guitar (it has a letter in front and in back and 13 digits). Under this number are etched by hand the initials “H. J. B.”. There is a small patch of mismatched binding at the center back bottom side (around 3/16” square). The neck is slim at 1 5/8” at the nut, 2 1/16” at the 12th fret and with 2” bridge spacing at the saddle. Scale length is 25.5'. There could be an incipient seam separation below the tailpiece - not an opening, just the suggestion that there could, possibly, in the future, be one. There are finish aberrations here and there, including along the binding on both sides and elsewhere.
It may seem as though this guitar has more than its share of changes and issues of condition, but, in fact, to see it one is intensely impressed by its beauty and its quiet, dignified, simplicity and gracefulness. In addition, it sounds wonderful good and plays easily and would be a fine addition to any musician’s stable of high end (in this instance, top of the line in a 17” jazz guitar from 1937) acoustic archtops. It is, indeed, a jazzer's (or cowboy song singer's) delight that has another century or two of buoyant, joyful music-making ahead of it, and a prize of great significance and prestige that one can leave one’s heirs.
WAS $7475 BUT NOW ON SALE FOR: