1935 Gibson L-50 Archtop

Background: L-50 archtop production began in the early 1930’s. This 1935 example represents a unique design variant only produced in that year. Carved archtop with a 15′ radius back. These are some of the most beautiful Gibson bursted guitars, showing what was then a new “pear” burst in place of the earlier bullseye burst.

Like many instruments of this vintage, this guitar incurred a variety of failures in its life. Two structural top cracks, the back cracked in several places and complete split in two, the sides showing a half-dozen cracks as well. Rather than use a suspended Symphonic Mike pickup, a previous owner glued the control and pickup to the top. Internal back braces were mostly separated, and there was both water damage and an significant mold. Judging by the damage, this guitar had been in disrepair for 30-50 years.

Restoration: The back was removed, and original cellulose back binding saved. 3/4 of the back linings had to be replaced due to damage and mold which could not be removed. The top was brought back into alignment and the cracks repaired. New lining were replicated to match old, installed, and sized to the original height so the back could be reinstalled in original position. In most restorations, new binding is used, which allows for sizing binding once the top is attached to the sides. Instead, this instrument had a precise mold fabricated and closely fit so the sides would align perfectly with the back, allowing the original binding to be reinstalled.

Extensive finish restoration was performed, including lacquer replacement and aging where the pickup system had been glued. There was excessive nicotine damage as well as shellac applied by a prior owner or luthier. At some point long ago, shellac finish repairs were performed over the lacquer. Shellac was removed and selective lacquer touch-ups were performed. The instrument had original tuners in unusually useable condition. Those were straightened and restored. The end result is a superb sounding L-50 that shows the patina of having been owned by a professional musician while retaining its beauty in age.