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  1. #101

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    Fred - Congrats, that lookes lovely. Play it long and well! But it wasn't "crafted by James Hutchins" - he did not build the guitar. It's a factory produced guitar built by a group of employees at Gibson of which he was a senior member, and he signed a label that not only honoured his service to the company but was a simple marketing tool.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #102

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    Woo-hoo! First natural L-4CES I have seen, IIRC. I really like that one. Solid spruce top, with the 'hog sides and back are a GREAT combination. Your clip sounds great, to prove the point.

    And, no convexity funny business between the pickups they way you often get with a 175.

    This is a JAZZ guitar, alright.

    Nice get.

  4. #103

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    People in the know, know how great a L4 Mahogany is. I love mine. A big CONGRATS Fred.
    As always stellar playing and I love the tone of your new L4. A real sweetie indeed.

  5. #104

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    James Hutchins headed up the department that built your guitar. And his hands were on it when he approved it. The perfection that left the plant under his watch gained him the notoriety he so richly deserved. And you have every right to be proud of this guitar. It is beautiful. And you.. gorgeous playing. Thank you sharing this experience with us.
    Joe D.

  6. #105

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    A great acquisition. having for years maintained that the L4CES , with
    mahogany back and sides, knocks an ES175 into a cocked hat, here you
    have proved conclusively that is the case ! .... and a "James Hutchins" to
    boot. Thank you for posting this video, the L4 has a superb tone and in a
    league of its own.

  7. #106

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    Excellent playing … great tone

    and the guitar looks and sounds great

    I have an ebony '88 L4CES

    These are great guitars …

    They seem to be starting to get the recognition they deserve

  8. #107

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    A great find ! Beautiful tone and some fine guitar playing. The Gibson L4 really bridges the gap between the ES-175 and that L5 carved tone. When it comes to amplified jazz tone - “ Only a Gibson is good enough”. Do enjoy - and thanks for sharing your NGD and the video - much appreciated.

  9. #108

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    So help me with not doing something stupid. I have thought about a ES 175 for years. Then about 3-4 years ago the L-4 became apparent to me. Then this one popped up.

    Gibson L-4 CES Owners-iiwpnrofqbzufxyocijc-jpgGibson L-4 CES Owners-ve0flhnfqo7ma7m0s8ja-jpgGibson L-4 CES Owners-yatcajmxrl4bqrjzy9im-jpgGibson L-4 CES Owners-o3bamhlprtpjxcysyylo-jpgGibson L-4 CES Owners-aotmbv1jkvef33zr9snl-jpg

    One of a Kind! Gibson L-4 CES Master Model Custom Shop 1997 | Reverb

  10. #109

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    If anyone deserves that guitar, Wildcat, it's you. Don't let it pass into lesser hands...

  11. #110

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    That's a serious blues-oriented guitar right there.
    So do you have a chance to try before you buy?

  12. #111

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    Not too fond of blue guitars ...

    But that one looks really nice

    Did you buy it?

  13. #112

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    And she's relatively lightweight and has a bit of a thick neck, just the way some of us guys prefer. She's been listed on Reverb for three months, over 1,000 views, 34 watchers and no takers. As soon as the seller drops the price, all of the watchers will get notified.
    This color doesn't appeal to some folks, but you view it as sexy. Make the shop an offer they can't refuse.

    Weighs in at 7.25 lbs

    .838" at the 1st fret

    1.130" at the 12th fret

  14. #113

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    I really like it. If the shop has a reasonable return policy (no ?'s asked-right of refusal) I say go for it unless that that particular finish costs more than $100 above factory finish.

  15. #114

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    How would one know if the finish price is $100 above factory on a used guitar?

    Also, the standard model has a mahogany back, not highly figured maple, so...

  16. #115

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    That is a beautiful shade! In case oyu didn't notice, there are some nicks on the guitar. Between the tail & knobs, etc. Wouldn't bother me at all, but maybe to some.

  17. #116

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    Keep in mind that it will slowly turn green as the nitro ages. That's not a bad thing, but it's a thing.

    L-4s are fine guitars.

  18. #117

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    Wildcat it’s a beautiful guitar. I’ve wanted an L4 for a while now. Vinny says they are worth every penny.
    The only thing I would like to see different on the L4 is bound fHoles. Other than that, if the 175 shape and size fits you, you will be doing cartwheels with that L4.

  19. #118
    My prized possession, a 2005 Gibson L4 CES has always played fast, never needed any setup, tuneup, except from minor post height adjustments and intonation, With GB 13-52 flatwound. Has been remarkably stable, sits in the case after use with a dampit. It's been very cold here in Quebec, Canada for weeks and I noticed my string height higher than I like. I turned down the screw posts about 3 half turns, and it helps, no buzz, no fretting out. Still looks like the neck is very slightly bowed out. Do I wait for spring, room humidity is 55%. Or do I give the truss rod a half twist, strings loosened, which this guitar has never experienced. My hands are shaking!! Sam from Austin, Quebec

  20. #119

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    Press the e string down at the first and twelfth fret. Look at the space in the middle of the neck under the string. It should be minimal.For me the closer the better but we each have our preference. Tighten the truss until it is. Quarter turn at a time should work fine.

  21. #120

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    The first question is whether you really want to do anything. If it's playing well, leave it.

    Here's what I do when I adjust the truss rod. I loosen the string tension a bit. I then back turn the truss rod nut maybe half of a turn, enough to loosen it. I then put a drop of oil between the nut and the plate under the nut as well as some oil on the threads. The oil reduces friction and therefore wear on the threads and twisting of the whole rod. Then I put the nut back into it's original position by giving it half of a turn. I then retune the guitar. All of this should be perfectly safe.

    I use a StewMac straight edge and lay it from the first fret down to as far as it goes, maybe the 16th, down the middle of the fretboard. I place a 3x5" card under the straight edge and above the frets maybe around the 8th fret and slide it up and down the fretboard. I then tighten the nut maybe 1/10th turn. Generally when that card can move only about 5 frets, it's tightened enough for me.

    I play it a bit and may make some subtle adjustments thereafter but usually not.

    Some truss rods respond to very little turning of the nut. I don't think you can use any rule as to how many degrees to turn the nut to get the effect you want. Sometimes 45 degrees is too much.

    I've never broken anything yet. But I don't go looking for trouble either.

  22. #121

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    It all depends on the situation. Naturally you need to know the neck relief and see how tight the truss rod is now. Finally no matter what anyone else says or does I never tighten truss rods with strings at concert pitch, I loosen them to no tension, then make truss rod adjustment.

    I suggest a pro show you how in a set up and you pay him more for the lesson. Then you are trained.

  23. #122

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    In my opinion, NEVER ever use oil on the truss nut, threads, or bearing surface.

    (Sure oil is used, so do as you wish of course.)

    Lube viscosity is best matched to the speed and pressure of the moving surface - which is very slow in speed. And somewhat notable in pressure in the case of the truss rod nut.

    In the case of your truss rod nut a VERY small amount of a grease will be far better.

    If you want to drop some money, the Stewmac “Guitar Grease” is a weird mix that would be perfect, even if intended for other uses. It is far less messy than a petroleum grease, and it stays where you put it even when warm. It bears up well under the pressure of the nut and thread surfaces.

    Oil can go to woody places you do not want it to go. It can creep slowly into end grains even when used sparingly.


    As mentioned, go easy on the turns. 1/2 turn is a huge, often absurd, amount. Seasonal changes can often require more like 1/8 of a turn.

    Use the strings themselves to check relief as already mentioned by skiboy. The use of straight edges is common, but can give quite misleading results. If the straight edge deviates from the string path even slightly, you can “see” notably less relief than you actually have.

    An arguably typical amount of relief would be about the diameter of your B string as observed between the string and the 6th or 7th fret with the string pressed down at the first and 14th frets.

    Many prefer less relief. Much more is really for hard strumming in low positions.

    But to each his own on relief preference.

    Good luck with this, and please say how it all works out.


  24. #123
    Will follow all your good advice... My bet is I'm my own worst enemy and may have over soaked my dampit, combination of too much humidity and cold, my guitar room was way colder than normal.

    My 1961 Epiphone b5 bass always does the same thing this time of year.

    I'm taking her (L4) to the bedroom, where it's nice and comfy!

  25. #124

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    Sounds like the wood of the fingerboard has contracted a bit. This is simple physics and tends to occur in places where dry winter air is present. However, you say that your humidity is at 55% which is not very dry and should be fine for the instrument. If it was my guitar, I would check the relief and adjust the truss rod as others have mentioned. You can find lots of good information about this including video demonstrations. IIRC Gibson even has published specs about relief to work from. It's your prized possession but it is not a fragile egg- it is a robust instrument made of strong wood and steel, able to withstand hundreds of pounds of tension for decades.

    An archtop guitar changes in a couple of ways with changes in humidity. The wood fibers contract when drier; the top sinks slightly (IME causing lower action and string buzz), the fretboard shortens slightly resulting in increased relief in the middle of the neck (which can raise the action). Turning on the humidifier- or spring when the air becomes more moist naturally- swells the wood fibers which raises the top and lengthens the fretboard. So some of my guitars I have to tweak twice a year by adjusting the bridge to compensate and maybe tweaking the truss rod.

    I use a straightedge and an automotive feeler gauge, I like about 0.010" relief at the 8th fret with the string fretted at the 1st and 15th frets ideally. I play with a pretty soft touch. But no neck is perfect that sometimes I find buzzing elsewhere and have to compromise. I would not oil the truss rod nut or threads as noted for the reasons above- I would use a very sparing amount of heavy grease (removing the nut once and then applied to the threads with a toothpick, that's how sparing. This is not a part in constant movement like a wheel bearing and you just need enough lubricity to prevent twisting the truss rod. A dry lubricant like graphite would work, too) to avoid lubricant soaking into the wood.

  26. #125

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    This kind of discussion is always interesting. I've seen professional luthiers do this a lot of ways.

    I use oil, and only a drop of it, because I don't have to back off the nut more than a half a turn to open up a gap that allows entry of the oil. Grease makes more sense, and I have a can of that nearby, when there is a big enough gap to get the grease in. For seasonal adjustments, I don't go through that much trouble. Maybe I should.

    Usually the nut turns pretty easily with the strings at full tension. If not, I lube more seriously and work the nut with loose strings. I then try again with full string tension. While that may sound brave (or stupid), I'm pretty cautious. When I adjust string sets that are heavy, like Labella 15s, I loosen the strings before tightening the nut. I then have to tune the guitar and check the relief. That adds a few more minutes.

    The luthiers I learned from were all Gibson builders. So there was some inbreeding among them. I know there are other ways and some strong disagreement. What I added is the note card sliding under the strings. That's empiric and gets me close to where I want to be. The Gibson greats, like Aaron Cowles, just sighted down the neck. I do that, too, but it really takes a lot of experience to pick up the nuances that Aaron could see. To be really honest, it would take hundreds more for me to start to approach his sighting skills. A note card is quicker and works well enough if the neck isn't twisted. I can get a decent assessment of neck straightness and whether there is a deviant fret.

  27. #126

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    One thing I find interesting is most all my guitars I not made a truss rod adjustment in years. I use the same basic string gauges and some don’t travel beyond the house, but maybe I a fluke. I have never touched the truss rod on Dad’s old Barker since I got it 1982ish. I guessing my dad never touched it either when bought new from Barker in 1965.

    Normally you have to adust the truss rod when you dress frets but not always, depends on what happens when you take tension off the neck. In the case of non adjustable necks you cannot do it period. I guess I find it interesting that a lot of players say they tweek the rod seasonally. I do find action can change seasonally.

  28. #127

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    I mostly avoid the truss rod, but sometimes it's obvious that I need to go there -- and I don't really trust the shops around here.
    When I mess with the truss rod, I do the maybe a drop of oil treatment and line of sight adjustment.

    Or as I was taught -- press the 1st frett and the 12th (or 14th) frett and look at the 5th frett . . . or something like that.

    All that being said, I'm not too picky about super low action. But then again, I don't think I've ever had to take a guitar into a real luthier for a set up.

  29. #128

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    I catch a lot of flak but I am mostly in the leave the truss rod alone camp UNLESS you know what you are doing. Have seen too many broken Gibson truss rods that I say to leave the damn things alone.

    It is not sending a rover to the far side of the moon but if that is true, there would not be so many broken truss rods.

    Lube the nut, lube the threads-I use the graphite dry lube used for bicycle chains-and go gently into the night, an 1/8th turn at a time but WAIT for the neck to settle before adjusting it further. It bears mentioning that the truss rod is for setting neck relief, not so much playing action although it has some secondary effect on it.

    If it does not buzz, leave it alone. You mention "bow" and I guess it is forward bow. A little less tension is not harmful; don't add more unnecessarily.

    Torsion on the truss rod due to a binding nut is the source of almost all truss rod problems. Just because you feel it turn does not mean that the nut is turning; it may be torsion on the truss rod.

    I don't think you should panic. Back off 1/8th turn and sleep well.
    Last edited by Jabberwocky; 01-31-2019 at 02:22 AM.

  30. #129
    Decided to wait and see what effect after a few days/nights in the bedroom, where temps are in mid to high 60's, much warmer than my guitar room. Spent a few hours cleaning frets, removing golden retriever dog hair from about every possible nook and cranny, dunlop45 wipe down.

    Noticed for the first time in 10 years the James W. Hutchins label! Never saw it before. Sept 13, 2007. Also noticed very fine vertical lines at the upper fret binding, can't feel them, just see them.

    And also, like I never opened my eyes in 10 years, I was surprised to see what looks like a rough splotch if glue or brown stain on the edge of the pickguard, near the upper bout, near the hold down screw. Also some very rough sanding marks there... Strange?

    Otherwise plays well, sounds great on the polytone 212 or katana 100,212

    Thanks again for great discussion! Sam from

  31. #130

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    Even if you haven’t needed to adjust it it is totally normal for a neck to change and need an adjustment so hopefully that should set your mind at ease. As long as you don’t force it and don’t over turn you will not damage the neck making an adjustment. I know some don’t agree (and I don’t agree with them) but you need to adjust the truss rod with the strings at tension if you want any accuracy. If you detune it and then adjust the truss rod then not only are you taking away and reintroducing tension, probably multiple times, but you can’t accurately gauge what the neck will do when the tension is put back on. So what I and many others do is simply turn the truss rod a small amount, check the neck and keep doing that until it is where you want it. For me that means virtually flat as I like low action with no curve in the neck even if it is slight. It’s good to know how to do this yourself but if you are really worried about it then take it to someone. If you feel like you are really applying a lot of force (like so much that you can barely turn it) then you might want to take it in to get looked at. I’ve done this with dozens of guitars for about 25 years with no issues and they put in truss rods for this very purpose so just be careful and go for it.

    However, if you like how the guitar plays then you don’t really need to adjust it. You liking how it plays is the most important, not that it has reached some universal standard of neck curvature or anything like that.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  32. #131
    So in further cleaning up my L4, I decided to take the pick guard off. It was indeed splotches of glue on the edge, and all kinds of it on the back side, obviously from how the white/black binding was applied to the tortoise shell. Very dissapointing. I took some 3M 1000 and 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper and smoothed out the glue splotch, nice and clean now, baby butt smooth. Now to vacuum out the golden retriever hair...

  33. #132

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    Truss Rods are great things but they are not like guitar machine heads made to be turned all the time. A well made neck should not really do any moving after it is made and set up for maybe 3-4 months. If you drastically change string gauge then they might need a turn of some sort. I personally was taught by archtop guitar makers about truss rods. Here is a situation that should remain constant generally.

    If you take all the string off the guitar to change them at once when you put them back on the guitar without doing anything to the truss rod then the guitar should go back to is "set point." If you take the strings off the guitar for a longer period of time maybe a week and then string it again, it should return to set point. The longer the strings are off the guitar generally the farther away from "set point" you get but it is completely normal for this to never really change on a stable guitar if the strings are off the guitar for months.

    The main reason I never adjust the truss rod with tension is that you have 2 opposing forces working in the opposite direct. Realizing that guitars are built this way it is true they can be adjusted with tension and 9 times of 10 you are probably fine. By why take really any risk. We know the limits of many things but no need to go where not necessary. The fact is most guitars are not nearly as fragile as some think and truss rods will take a lot of abuse believe me I have seen this as they are brought in the shop. If you adjust the tension of the rod to tighter with no tension on the neck and you over shot the mark, then that is easy just back the tension off under tension. No opposing forces are at work.

    One thing I do all the time even if I think it really is not needed. If I see a neck that has large amount of relief I will put in in my neck jig and put the neck to the proper amount of relief without even turning the truss rod. This then allows me to simply snug the rod to where it needs to be instead of force. The analogy is the truss rod acts as a set point just like you are winding strings on a tuner. In fact I have been know to remove all the tension from a truss rod to see where the neck goes under no stress. Then using the neck jig I will even over compensate and put a concave bow in the neck. Then tighten the rod and see what I get. In effect this allows for a new "set point. Naturally for a two way truss rod this does not work.

    The way to look at this is simply like detuning your strings. The worm gear changes when you take all the tension off the machine head and rewind. A string that is fully stretch and broken in and bought up to pitch and all the slack pulled out of the tuner will hold proper pitch much longer.

    I just wanted to clarify why I do not advocate adjusting truss rods with strings a tension. I know some very big and important luthiers who disagree with this but everyone has do what they think is best for the patient. I know Bill Barker would get pretty irritated at guys fooling around with the truss rod like is was a cure all for action and how the guitar played. I say this because he said a broken truss rod was not worth any effort large or small a person put into breaking the rod.

  34. #133
    After further cleaning and polishing the pick guard glue splotches, I decided to do the truss rod. The truss rod cover was stubborn, seemed glued on, but popped off with some gentle prying with a pick. Didn't have a key supplied bought it 2nd hand, but my recent purchased Gretsch had the proper fit key, I loosened the strings and did a 1/4 turn, which was very smooth, no creaks or noises. Seems all is where things ought to be. Sure would like to talk to that Mr. Hutchins about that glue slop....

  35. #134
    When putting back the pick guard, I always had the problem of the lower end slapping against the bridge pup plastic case. I used a small felt furniture pad, about 3/4" cut in half in between to touch the pg and pup case. Otherwise it flopped free in the air about a 1/4" and would click on the pup case when I palmed it. Anybody else had that problem?

  36. #135
    Thought I share what this beautiful guitar sounds like through an old polytone 212....

    The Flat Tones.mp3 - Google Drive

    Sam from Austin

  37. #136

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    Wanna lubricate the truss rod?



  38. #137

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    I don't trust the in case just ad water humidifiers. What an opportunity for disaster, IMHO. Also, Looks like you've gotten good advice. Especially, don't panic. It will be ok, and, if you do decide to turn the truss rod nut, easy does it. A quarter turn all at once would be extreme. Also, give the guitar time to adjust before checking and readjusting. Relax.

    Think about getting a room humidifier, and putting it in a small room where you (can) keep your guitars. A room that you can isolate by closing doors. It would help.

  39. #138
    I've used Vaseline for years, with or without pencil filings for the nut, but you're gonna laugh. What I use these days is a little swab of "Chapstick". seems to lube well and stays in place much longer. Great on lips as well....

  40. #139
    Not a big fan of the dampit. I usually find it bone dry. I have a Honeywell humidifier running now. I Did give the L4 a 1/4 turn the other day and lowered bridge, all is now well. Thanks.

  41. #140

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Samborsky
    I've used Vaseline for years, with or without pencil filings for the nut, but you're gonna laugh. What I use these days is a little swab of "Chapstick". seems to lube well and stays in place much longer. Great on lips as well....
    Definitely go with chapstick over Vaseline - much like prefering the Stewmac (absurdly expensive, but a tiny amount is a huge supply) guitar grease vs. a petroleum grease.

    Sounds like things are calming down with your L4, great news.

  42. #141

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    The previous owner bought it and either broke the headstock or bought it after the accident. There was a visible line down the treble side. Also... somewhere in the history of the guitar an owner also added a Bigsby. So I had to address both issues. The guitar was sitting in a pawn shop that was going out of business and they were willing to be flexible. I bought it for around $1500 and set about fixing stuff. I gave it to a renowned Luthier here in Middle Georgia (Tom Dodson) and he set the headstock straight. He replaced the tuning pegs with Vintage style Klusons and gave it a setup. The guitar plays like a dream if you want a rockabilly guitar that screams with 10s. (And with a Bigsby through a Super Deluxe.) But I think this is a Jazz guitar and I'd like to find a decent tailpiece for it. Does anyone have any ideas ?? I read once that Gibson would replace the tailpiece for a thousand dollars if I mailed the guitar to to the custom shop. Ha, Ha.

  43. #142

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    Steve Holst makes solid wood tailpieces (cocobolo or macassar ebony) with solid brass brackets for $120 or so. They give your L4CES a D'Aquisto look. Steve could even make a T-style, if you ask him.

    Otherwise, the ES-175 style 3-rhomboids T-bar or zigzag-wire tailpiece would have to do. Genuine L5-style tailpieces don't come cheaply.

  44. #143

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    I have a blank (so no laminated wood “badge”) L4-CES tailpiece here.

    It has the unfortunately typical extremely thin gold from Gibson in the mid 2,000’s so is a very pale gold overall and nearly through to the nickel plating in places.

    This all from a tailpiece that was on a guitar for only a while at a dealer.

    Anyway, if you are very serious about getting a stock tailpiece and can get some one to make the ebony-faced badge for the front, it will cost FAR less than $1,000.

    PM only if serious, and can get a badge made. Not interested in making a badge here.

  45. #144

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    Thanks all for the input. I'll probably go the ES175 tailpiece route. If it weren't for the broken headstock, I'd worry about making it all correct but as it is, I just want it set up properly and playing like a true jazz guitar. Bebog

  46. #145
    The family heirloom.... But afraid to take it out of the case, been dropping things lately. Over 8$ k Canadian these days... 120$ plus tax to replace those tuners. Hard when all you have is an 80$ give lined up...

    Here is what it sounds like, in my humble hands...

    Crystal Silence.mp3 - Google Drive

  47. #146
    Just wanted to thank everyone again for their comments and advice. Its been almost a year since I posted and thought I should say that my 2007 L4 CES is playing perfectly, in the dead of winter. I have installed a room humidifier, bought a set of feeler gauges and mechanics ruler. Neck and 13-56 Chromes set at near factory specs. The problem I had was I thought it was neck relief originally, but it turns out it was my wound G string had a strange "nasal" choking tone, unlike the rest of the strings.

    The problem was my neck pickup was too high. Just by lowering a mm or 2, that tone problem fully resolved, Guess those magnets were pulling the G string . Weird..but happy.

  48. #147

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry M
    I had a 2001 that was maple.
    I'm surprised that a maple back on an L-4 CES, instead of solid mahogany, is a laminate. Is this correct?

  49. #148

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    John Samborsky's issue, pickup too high pulled strings, is common--especially on Fenders moreso than Gibsons. Those pole pieces will really pull the strings and choke them. With Fenders it can be so pronounced it pulls the note sharp.

  50. #149

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    John Samborsky's issue, pickup too high pulled strings, is common--especially on Fenders moreso than Gibsons. Those pole pieces will really pull the strings and choke them. With Fenders it can be so pronounced it pulls the note sharp.
    Greentone, the magnetism? Never thought about that, but my '55 175 P90's should come with a warning to people with pacemakers too! Man, are they strong.

  51. #150
    Quote Originally Posted by tomvwash
    I'm surprised that a maple back on an L-4 CES, instead of solid mahogany, is a laminate. Is this correct?
    yes I believe they’re commonplace. I’m sure someone here will advise when the laminate back for maple on L4’s came in vogue.