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  1. #1

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    As I am researching various arch tops I keep reading that the L12 compares to a L5 but with less dressing and a L7 compares to a L12 with less dressing. However, I cannot seem to find out of that is infact the case as all the forum posts and websites are vague and don't really go into construction, etc.

    So, anyone know the differences? Thanks!
    Cheers,
    Steve

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  3. #2

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    The biggest difference between the L5 and the others would be the tailpiece (whicj some would take as a negative).

    I have a theory that the more expensive guitars got assigned to the more senior luthiers, but I have never seen any real evidence of that at Gibson (I know it happened at Gretsch). The consensus seems to be more bling on the L12 and L5, but no other important advantages. Tone-wise there is a bigger difference due to the years, since the bracing and other details changed over the years. All of these guitars (and the L4) are a big step up from the L50 level.

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by nopedals View Post
    The biggest difference between the L5 and the others would be the tailpiece (whicj some would take as a negative).

    I have a theory that the more expensive guitars got assigned to the more senior luthiers, but I have never seen any real evidence of that at Gibson (I know it happened at Gretsch). The consensus seems to be more bling on the L12 and L5, but no other important advantages. Tone-wise there is a bigger difference due to the years, since the bracing and other details changed over the years.All of these guitars (and the L4) are a big step up from the L50 level.
    So, the body materials are the same for L7, K12 and L5? Then let's try to compile some info on the various periods of construction... Which ones are X-bracing, etc?

    This could end up being a very informative thread!
    Cheers,
    Steve

  5. #4

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    You might find it interesting to get a copy of Adrian Ingram's book about the L5. Lots of info. Lots of great pics. Available on Amazon and elsewhere.

  6. #5

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    This is a big topic. I agree that the specs are more relevant when related to the time period rather than the models themselves. And let's forget about bling for the moment, as bling has no sound.

    The L-5 has always had a maple neck. The L-7 and L-12 had mahogany necks during the 16" years (until 1934), and the early 17" models did, too (until about '38-'39). Eventually they all sported maple.

    The L-5 has always had an ebony fingerboard - some oddball 1940s exceptions notwithstanding - while the L-7 and L-12 have had Brazilian rosewood fingerboards.

    Bracing coincided, with 16" models having parallel, early 17" having X-bracing, and later 17" returning to parallel. Same with scale length - 24.75" on 16" models and early 17" models, then 25.5" on later 17" models.

    A bit more esoteric, but 16" L-7 and L-12 models all have kerfed braces, while early 16" L-5s until about '28-'29 have carved braces.

    Ya gotta play 'em... then you'll know. Every single one is an individual, unique instrument.
    Last edited by rpguitar; 11-06-2015 at 11:09 AM.
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  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpguitar View Post
    A bit more esoteric, but 16" L-7 and L-12 models all have kerfed braces, while early 16" L-5s until about '28-'29 have carved braces.
    And as always, there are many discrepancies with Gibson. I have a line on an early 30's, 16" Gibson L-12 that has been confirmed to have solid braces. Go figure!

  8. #7

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    That is interesting, backdrifter. You are right, there are exceptions to many things. As usual, my outline is an attempt to give generally accepted characteristics. Each guitar is unique! But it helps folks to see what questions to ask about a particular guitar, and what things to look for.
    Permanent favorites: 2016 Gibson L-5 WesMo, 1999 Gibson L-5CESN, 1928 Gibson L-5
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  9. #8

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    Pre-war Advanced, x-braced, short-scale L-5 / L-12 / L-10 / L-7 are directly comparable instruments, IMO.

    There a few minor variations year over year - as Roger notes, the L-7 and L-12 had mahogany necks up to a point, then had maple necks. The heel shape evolved on these as well.

    There may be a correlation - mahogany w/pointed heel and maple w/rounded heel.
    - Hammertone - '38 L-12 - maple neck and a rounded heel.
    - campusfive - '35 L-12 - maple neck and a rounded heel.
    - rpguitar - '35 L-12 - mahogany neck, pointed heel
    Last edited by Hammertone; 11-06-2015 at 12:41 PM.
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  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpguitar View Post
    That is interesting, backdrifter. You are right, there are exceptions to many things. As usual, my outline is an attempt to give generally accepted characteristics. Each guitar is unique! But it helps folks to see what questions to ask about a particular guitar, and what things to look for.
    Absolutely! Your outline was spot on. I've learned a lot about Gibsons from your posts over the years!

    I just figured it was worth noting that if there is a specific characteristic that you're looking for, or an anomaly - a '34 L5 with a dot fretboard for instance, chances are that it does exist somewhere due to Gibson's inconsistencies.

  11. #10

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    So to the OP, I'd say - start with the vintage of the "L" series guitar as your initial guidepost. That's going to yield the most significant information about its characteristics. Follow that up by reviewing the specific model. And as you can see, the most substantive model differences are centered on the types of wood used in construction.
    Permanent favorites: 2016 Gibson L-5 WesMo, 1999 Gibson L-5CESN, 1928 Gibson L-5
    Play more, buy less

  12. #11

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    GuitarHQ lists changes in vintage Gibsons by year, and much more.
    http://www.guitarhq.com/
    It focuses on features that identify collectable instruments, so it doesn't address some details more important to the player (e.g., type of wood used for necks). It's a great resource though.
    Last edited by KirkP; 11-06-2015 at 02:34 PM.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulHintz View Post
    You might find it interesting to get a copy of Adrian Ingram's book about the L5. Lots of info. Lots of great pics. Available on Amazon and elsewhere.
    No offense intended, he s a great player, but I disagree completely. That book is one of the most disappointing guitar books ever. Such a great guitar and then such little info IMO the L5 deserves much better.

    Some great jazz guitar books: Guild Guitar book by Hans Moust, Epiphone House of Stathopoulo by Fred & Fisch, Acquired of the Angels by Paul Schmidt, with Strings attached by Jon Kellerman, the story of Selmer by Charle, Super 400 by van Hoose. Even if you dont own guitars of the respective brands all these books are written with great passion , filled with detail, and just fun to read. The Ingram L5 book for me does not fall into this category I found it a bit disappointing. Same thing for the Carter Epiphone book not really worth the purchase.
    Last edited by fws6; 11-06-2015 at 02:28 PM.
    "Oh, those jazz guys are just making that stuff up!" - Homer

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpguitar View Post
    This is a big topic. I agree that the specs are more relevant when related to the time period rather than the models themselves. And let's forget about bling for the moment, as bling has no sound.

    The L-5 has always had a maple neck. The L-7 and L-12 had mahogany necks during the 16" years (until 1934), and the early 17" models did, too (until about '38-'39). Eventually they all sported maple.

    The L-5 has always had an ebony fingerboard - some oddball 1940s exceptions notwithstanding - while the L-7 and L-12 have had Brazilian rosewood fingerboards.

    Bracing coincided, with 16" models having parallel, early 17" having X-bracing, and later 17" returning to parallel. Same with scale length - 24.75" on 16" models and early 17" models, then 25.5" on later 17" models.

    A bit more esoteric, but 16" L-7 and L-12 models all have kerfed braces, while early 16" L-5s until about '28-'29 have carved braces.

    Ya gotta play 'em... then you'll know. Every single one is an individual, unique instrument.
    Excellent summary Roger. I love my '44 L7 with a passion. There are a lot of L-7's available out there. It's one of the best deals going. Most old ones, unless already done, will likely need frets and a reset, but you end up with a seriously nice guitar, usually. I had the neck taken down a little from that era's baseball bat size to a more comfortable size. Love those old Gibson Archtops.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpguitar View Post
    This is a big topic. I agree that the specs are more relevant when related to the time period rather than the models themselves. And let's forget about bling for the moment, as bling has no sound.

    The L-5 has always had a maple neck. The L-7 and L-12 had mahogany necks during the 16" years (until 1934), and the early 17" models did, too (until about '38-'39). Eventually they all sported maple.

    The L-5 has always had an ebony fingerboard - some oddball 1940s exceptions notwithstanding - while the L-7 and L-12 have had Brazilian rosewood fingerboards.

    Bracing coincided, with 16" models having parallel, early 17" having X-bracing, and later 17" returning to parallel. Same with scale length - 24.75" on 16" models and early 17" models, then 25.5" on later 17" models.

    A bit more esoteric, but 16" L-7 and L-12 models all have kerfed braces, while early 16" L-5s until about '28-'29 have carved braces.

    Ya gotta play 'em... then you'll know. Every single one is an individual, unique instrument.
    Rp is basically nailing it, but I'd summarize it this way:

    The main, and most consistent differences were cosmetic (binding layers, tailpieces, plain finished backs or sunburst ones) and in fingerboard material (ebony for L-5's, rosewood for the rest). The neck wood was definitely different on the 16" versions, and perhaps on some of the early 17" versions (maple for L-5's, and mahogany for the rest). Eventually the neck wood became maple across the range, but there are many examples of Gibson not being consistent in spec. For example, my early 17" 1935 L-12 has maple neck, there are some early L-10's with maple necks, and there some odd L-5's with rosewood boards, but these are anomalies.

    Size, bracing and scale length all changed across the board, however exactly when varied, and Gibson made plenty of guitars out-of-spec as transitional models, prototypes, custom orders or just to use up old parts. All 16" are parallel braced and 24.75" scale. Early 17" guitar are X-braced with 24.75" scale, but by 1939 braces went back to being parallel and scale was lengthened to 25.5".

    After 1929 Gibson start "kerfing" the braces, i.e. cutting slits into them so they could be bent into position, instead of having to be carefully carved to match the inside curve of the top. Because the 16" L7/L10/L12 models didn't come along (at least en masse) until after this, their braces are usually kerfed. Pre-1929 L5's are never kerfed, and until everything was upsized in 1935, they were also usually kerfed. However, there are apparently many examples of solid braced 16" guitars post 1929 (my '32 L-5, the '35 16" L-5 on archtop.com, a L-7 somebody just wrote me about), so it's not an absolute. Plus, plenty of people dig their kerfed 16" guitars anyway.

    L-4's don't really fit into the scheme because the original round-hole L-4 is a totally different model than the 16" f-hole L-4 introduced to fill the hole for a professional 16" guitar after all the other models were "advanced".
    Jonathan Stout
    www.campusfive.com/swingguitarblog
    My new solo acoustic archtop CD, "Pick It and Play" is available NOW!
    Preview and pre-sales at jonathanstout.bandcamp.com

  16. #15

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    my buddy's L12 is x braced, non-kerfed, with additional cross braces running between the ends of the x braces. it also appears to have a low spot in the archtop where the bridge sits. he thought the top was sinking, but the bridge screws are as low as they can be, with the action pretty normal.

  17. #16

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    Gibson L7 vs L12 Vs L5?  Differences?-gibson-l-10-01-jpg

    L-10 with L-5 features. Gibson L-10 |

  18. #17
    Wow! Fantastic information. Thanks.
    Cheers,
    Steve

  19. #18

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  20. #19

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    L-10
    Jonathan Stout
    www.campusfive.com/swingguitarblog
    My new solo acoustic archtop CD, "Pick It and Play" is available NOW!
    Preview and pre-sales at jonathanstout.bandcamp.com

  21. #20

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    Gibson L7 vs L12 Vs L5?  Differences?-386731_10150472008819015_1245501529_n-jpgGibson L7 vs L12 Vs L5?  Differences?-385508_10150472009289015_896880680_n-jpgGibson L7 vs L12 Vs L5?  Differences?-392238_10150472009694015_2134909302_n-jpgGibson L7 vs L12 Vs L5?  Differences?-393504_10150472009524015_1652050062_n-jpg
    Pictures of a L12P I owned a few years ago and should have kept. I think of it of an L7 with nicer looking woods and gold hardware. On this one I imagine someone installed a pickup sometime in the late 40s early 50s. Both pickup and electronics were extremely old, but I'm sure not original

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by abelljo View Post
    ...I think of it of an L7 with nicer looking woods and gold hardware...
    That's because the L-12P WAS an L-7P with (different finish on rims and back) and gold hardware.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  23. #22

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    Did any of these ever feature laminated back/sides?
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone View Post
    Did any of these ever feature laminated back/sides?

    some L-7's had lam backs in the 40's

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    some L-7's had lam backs in the 40's
    ….and '50s.
    Self-evident, since Gibson did not use one-piece carved backs on these guitars.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  26. #25

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    I recently bought a 1947 L7. It is noticeably lighter than all of my other 17" guitars. I am not sure if that is just due to the lighter hardware (Compared to an L5) or if the wood is carved a little thinner, or both. The top sure doesn't look as thick as my other guitars. My father had both as well and he always said his L7's top was carved thinner than his L5. Whatever the formula is, my L7 is light as a feather and sounds fantastic. It has really changed my thinking. L7's are hard to beat and not that expensive. No experience with L12's though.
    Keith

  27. #26

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    I know this is an old thread but thought I would chime in.

    I have an early (Feb.) 1949 L-7P. The 'P' is for premier, which is what the 1st year or so cutaway L-7 used instead of the more common L-7C. The L-5 did the same thing when the cutaway version 1st came out years earlier.

    I know the L-7P has the top and back plates cut out with the cutaway shape before the carving is done. This is the prefered way to carve the top and back of an archtop guitar.

    The later models will most likely have the top cut out without the cutaway (like a non-cutaway guitar shape) and then carved. After the carving is complete the cutaway portion is cut out of the top. This is why one will see a significantly wider section of binding in the area of the cutaway on many Gibson cutaway archtop guitars.

    As a point of interest the reissued L-7, which is a cutaway model, the binding appears to be the same width all the way around but the guitar is actually produced the way the the later L model archtops were, with the cutaway done after the carve. If you look carefully at the cutaway section of a new L-7 you will see a small section of filler wood next to the binding. This was to make the binding look like an early L-7 without having to use the more labor intensive method of carving the top with the cutaway already in the shape of the top prior to the carve. The new L-7 also is a 24.75 scale length vs. 25.5 and is an X braced guitar. I do not know if the braces are kerfed.

    This leads me to the point of kerfed braces used on all L-7's. Like so much of Gibson that is not necessarily the case. My L-7P has solid carved braces. I have looked inside and verified this. It is a paralleled braced guitar.

    It is a nice guitar and I am thankful to have it.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by abelljo View Post
    Gibson L7 vs L12 Vs L5?  Differences?-386731_10150472008819015_1245501529_n-jpgGibson L7 vs L12 Vs L5?  Differences?-385508_10150472009289015_896880680_n-jpgGibson L7 vs L12 Vs L5?  Differences?-392238_10150472009694015_2134909302_n-jpgGibson L7 vs L12 Vs L5?  Differences?-393504_10150472009524015_1652050062_n-jpg
    Pictures of a L12P I owned a few years ago and should have kept. I think of it of an L7 with nicer looking woods and gold hardware. On this one I imagine someone installed a pickup sometime in the late 40s early 50s. Both pickup and electronics were extremely old, but I'm sure not original
    That's a very cool guitar, looks like someone tried to convert it to an ES350P.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by brm View Post
    I know this is an old thread but thought I would chime in.

    I have an early (Feb.) 1949 L-7P. The 'P' is for premier, which is what the 1st year or so cutaway L-7 used instead of the more common L-7C. The L-5 did the same thing when the cutaway version 1st came out years earlier.

    I know the L-7P has the top and back plates cut out with the cutaway shape before the carving is done. This is the prefered way to carve the top and back of an archtop guitar.

    The later models will most likely have the top cut out without the cutaway (like a non-cutaway guitar shape) and then carved. After the carving is complete the cutaway portion is cut out of the top. This is why one will see a significantly wider section of binding in the area of the cutaway on many Gibson cutaway archtop guitars.

    As a point of interest the reissued L-7, which is a cutaway model, the binding appears to be the same width all the way around but the guitar is actually produced the way the the later L model archtops were, with the cutaway done after the carve. If you look carefully at the cutaway section of a new L-7 you will see a small section of filler wood next to the binding. This was to make the binding look like an early L-7 without having to use the more labor intensive method of carving the top with the cutaway already in the shape of the top prior to the carve. The new L-7 also is a 24.75 scale length vs. 25.5 and is an X braced guitar. I do not know if the braces are kerfed.

    This leads me to the point of kerfed braces used on all L-7's. Like so much of Gibson that is not necessarily the case. My L-7P has solid carved braces. I have looked inside and verified this. It is a paralleled braced guitar.

    It is a nice guitar and I am thankful to have it.
    Best regards, k