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  1. #1

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    When I played the "photoshoot" 1960 L5 last week I was able to compare it with a 2007 L5 side by side. It was a bit of a sobering experience. The 1960 L5 was a much nicer guitar. It had a perfect neck, way more comfortable and less chunky than the 2007 one. It was of a much lighter build and more responsive so better sounding acoustically. The top on the 1960 was notably thinner. It was almost a different guitar that sounded different too amplified. The 2007 was built like a tank, just like the 1995 Wesmo that I demoed a few years ago.

    Same for my vintage laminates (1947 ES 300, 1964 ES 125). The difference in weight with my 98 Tal and 82 ES 175 is notable. Much heavier plates on them.

    Mind you, all the "modern" guitars I have mentioned so far sound great, in spite of their weight. That is not the issue. However, I notice that I prefer the feel of the vintage ones somehow. Vintage guitars feel less "plastic" and more vibrant/alive when holding them. Thinner finishes too?

    So why is Gibson still doing this? Preventing warranty issues? Feedback resistence? The VOS series proves that they CAN build lighter guitars.

    TIA,

    DB
    Last edited by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog; 12-15-2019 at 06:55 PM.

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  3. #2

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    Probably a combination of fewer warranty problems and more feedback resistance.

    Some players prefer the more modern build, others prefer the vintage build. When bringing a product to market, you cannot please everyone and company managers have to make certain decisions.

    I can say with certainty that no matter which style of build one prefers, there are great guitars and not so great guitars from both eras. Choose with care.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    Probably a combination of fewer warranty problems and more feedback resistance.

    Some players prefer the more modern build, others prefer the vintage build. When bringing a product to market, you cannot please everyone and company managers have to make certain decisions.

    I can say with certainty that no matter which style of build one prefers, there are great guitars and not so great guitars from both eras. Choose with care.
    I think this just about covers it.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

  5. #4

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    String hit it on the head. It can also be thought of as building more for the amplified sound than the acoustic. Even beyond the feedback issue, some folks really prefer the darker amped sound of the heavier VS the lighter build.

    I don't know how this subtle preference could influence Gibson's decisions though. Maybe it's also a matter of ease of build. In a production setting it's easier to over-build as the tolerances are not as tight. More room for error and variation, with less chance of wrecking a part during manufacture.

    This is the kind of thing that keeps the small shops in business. Buyer decides what they want.

  6. #5

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    If you want a new 1960's L5 buy a Campellone.

  7. #6

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    Mark's a good builder but apples and oranges.
    I've never heard any modern guitar w built in pickups that can touch a good paf Gibson, not even close.
    In DB's video, even w/ a reverb heavy sounding amp and less than ideal recording conditions you could tell how great that L5 sounds.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog
    Preventing warranty issues?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog
    Feedback resistence?
    Yes.

    Other benefits to Gibson:
    -Use of a less well-trained, specialist workforce, which lowers labour costs
    -Less time required to complete such instruments, which lowers labour costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    Mark's a good builder but apples and oranges.I've never heard any modern guitar w built in pickups that can touch a good paf Gibson, not even close.
    Disagree. I've played similarly-built archtops by contemporary builders that are essentially indistinguishable from Gibson carved electrified archtop Gibsons from the '40s/'50s/'60s, equipped with similar pickups (CC, P-90. AlNiCoV, PAF humbucker). There is no magic formula to these guitars - they are simply built right. With all the usual KrisKaveats - IMO, YMMV and so forth.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone
    Yes.

    Yes.

    Other benefits to Gibson:
    -Use of a less well-trained, specialist workforce, which lowers labour costs
    -Less time required to complete such instruments, which lowers labour costs.

    Disagree. I've played similarly-built archtops by contemporary builders that are essentially indistinguishable from Gibson carved electrified archtop Gibsons, equipped with similar pickups (CC, P-90. AlNiCoV, PAF humbucker). There is no magic formula to these guitars - they are simply built right. With all the usual KrisKaveats - IMO, YMMV and so forth.
    Agreed, I disagree completely

  10. #9

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    Could be true from a 1960's Gibson but as the 1960's went forward 10 years Gibson necks got really narrow. Not anywhere I want to go. Try one from 1995 to 2012.

  11. #10

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    What happened in 2012?

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    What happened in 2012?
    Nothing I just did not go all the way out to when the stopped production. Not sure when exactly maybe 2017? In any case I do believe the last ones built were made to high standards. While some think overbuilt really they are electric guitars, at least the CES versions so a little more beef not going to make any difference. I am just one to see the late 1960s especially as guitars to see in hand due to too many neck width variations. Nothing worse than a 1 9/16 neck of even a 1 10/16, those are a deal killer with my hands which are very large. I don't have fat fingers but they just get all bunched up on narrow necks. Give me a 1 3/4 of a good feeling 1 11/16 any day over any other factor. I have played D'angelico's with narrow necks and even getting past the sound it still was not something I could live with.

  13. #12

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    aside from the aforementioned reasons... much has to do with the wood itself...old wood has had time to completely dry out...new wood has moisture..and if not properly aged before being used the matter is compounded...

    it can also be argued that the wood used by luthiers of the past was superior to what's available to most these days...

    playing under tension and vibrating also helps

    so many brands of guitars are much lighter when vintage, than the new same model...not just gibby


    cheers

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    aside from the aforementioned reasons... much has to do with the wood itself...old wood has had time to completely dry out...new wood has moisture..and if not properly aged before being used the matter is compounded...
    cheers
    Interesting point. Some argue the oven dried woods used today are simply inferior to what was available in the past. Some argue the structure of the woods change when dried in an oven and that that change is not beneficial to the sound.

    But then, if you are selling an 8k guitar why not make sure your woods are naturally dried for your top models? How hard is it to create a limited supply of woods dried in the open air and use that as a selling point? It only takes some space ...

    DB

  15. #14

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    I'm 62 years old and have been playing professionally for over 40 years. I have played so many Gibson's it would make your head spin,LOL!
    I've also owned a number of Vintage Gibson's from Archtops to Thinlines,and Les Paul's as well

    That said I'm not infatuated with old instruments vs newer ones. And while there are some exceptional older ones, that is not always true.
    I think these are tools first and foremost not stock investments for me as a player.
    And using that criteria I couldn't disagree more with the OP.

    The Crimson Gibson's are probably the finest archtop guitars ever produced by Gibson. Also many luthiers like Mark Campellone produce equally fine Archtops.
    I also think you will find most professional use newer instruments for that very reason.

  16. #15

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    in the recent tim lerch/linda manzer guitar thread, linda wrote that some of the wood she uses, she's had aging for 40 years!!!...most big companies cannot afford to sit on lumber that long...if the companies even survive that long!!! it's not good business!

    old growth wood was far superior to the majority of what's around these days...

    older wood is invariably lighter and better grained...for me that signifies better resonance!

    rick kelly of carmine street guitars uses old woods sourced from buildings being demolished in nyc...some of the wood sources back centuries..hard to beat!!! pre pollution, acid rains, black holes, pesticides, etc etc


    cheers

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    in the recent tim lerch/linda manzer guitar thread, linda wrote that some of the wood she uses, she's had aging for 40 years!!!...most big companies cannot afford to sit on lumber that long...if the companies even survive that long!!! it's not good business!

    old growth wood was far superior to the majority of what's around these days...

    older wood is invariably lighter and better grained...for me that signifies better resonance!

    rick kelly of carmine street guitars uses old woods sourced from buildings being demolished in nyc...some of the wood sources back centuries..hard to beat!!! pre pollution, acid rains, black holes, pesticides, etc etc


    cheers
    Agreed, the Strombergs salvaged wood from demo'd buildings as well

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    Agreed, the Strombergs salvaged wood from demo'd buildings as well
    hah..good info...funny, when i was a kid wandering the guitar shops of manhattans 48th street, it was those stromberg archtops that always spoke out to me!! (wish i bought a few!!)...but such nice wood...and lots of it!!! haha..they were some big archtops!


    cheers

  19. #18

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    Like DB, I have played L5CES guitars from the 50s/60s with the thinner plates. I have also owned ES-125 and ES-175 guitars from the period with the thinner plates. These guitars are all wonderful, lively guitars.

    This being said, the more heavily built L5CES and ES-175 guitars from the 2000s are _also_ exceptional sounding/playing instruments. Get hold of a 21st century L5, or a comparable period ES-175 and you have an excellent jazz guitar. I like the neck carves on the newer instruments. And, although acoustically these guitars aren't much to write home about, as _electric_ instrument a newer L5 or ES-175 is just super.

    Either way, for me.

  20. #19

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    I have two modern built Gibsons, a 2011 L5 Wes and a 2009 Super 400. I have also previously owned a 98 L5 Wes. I can say for sure the 98 was built a bit lighter than the current two guitars, BUT I always had feedback issues in loud settings (like in a bag band) and I used to stuff the F holes so help that. I never used a 60s era Gibson in a live setting so I can't comment.

    The current guitars I own, are indeed a heavier build but I have absolutely zero feedback issues with either instrument in any setting. With a wood bridge top to help pull some acoustic properties they are acoustic "enough" but these are really electric guitars and that's how I use them. All this to say that they are built to work exactly how I need them to for my application.

    I remember seeing Kenny Burrell the first time around 2000 and seeing his Super 400 with the F holes covered up and thinking, aha I'm not the only one dealing with this! I think if one uses these guitars out in live settings, the heavier build could be more suitable. The amplified sound of either of my two Gibsons is just fantastic and as good as anything I've ever heard (for my needs).

    Playing at home or acoustic settings I have other acoustic arch tops that fill that role better.

    I have never had the chance to spend serious time with a good 60s Gibson arch top. I would love to do that eventually and gain a better perspective for the vintage builds.

  21. #20

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    Over the weekend I was lucky enough to have a play of a beautiful 1949 Gibson ES-5. I've played newer Gibson archtops but the ES-5 blew them away. I remember playing a new ES-175 and being really disappointed by it, it didn't feel or sound anything like I was expecting it to.

    The neck on the ES-5 was surprisingly slim, the laminates used were thinner for sure. It was a bit outside my price range (a huge understatement) but just to have a play of it was a thrill.

    All those T-Bone Walker licks sounded particularly authentic too!

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    Like DB, I have played L5CES guitars from the 50s/60s with the thinner plates. I have also owned ES-125 and ES-175 guitars from the period with the thinner plates. These guitars are all wonderful, lively guitars.

    This being said, the more heavily built L5CES and ES-175 guitars from the 2000s are _also_ exceptional sounding/playing instruments. Get hold of a 21st century L5, or a comparable period ES-175 and you have an excellent jazz guitar. I like the neck carves on the newer instruments. And, although acoustically these guitars aren't much to write home about, as _electric_ instrument a newer L5 or ES-175 is just super.

    Either way, for me.
    Greentone, that's it! Either way for me too I'm just happy to be able to own a good Gibson artchtop from ANY era!

  23. #22

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    I've read that Heritage archtops are lighter builds compared to the modern Gibsons. Is that what others have found to be true?

  24. #23

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    I have tops and backs in the shop that have been sitting around at least 20 years. They are stable as they come.

  25. #24

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    Gitfiddler,

    That's my experience. I got to play several of the late Patrick2's Heritage Super Eagles--and I bought one from him that I really like. Additionally, I used to go into "The Classic Axe" in Manassas, Virginia--a seller of Heritage guitars from the beginning. I played Eagles, Eagle Classics, Golden Eagles, and Johnny Smith "The Rose" guitars.

    All of the Heritage instruments had thinner top and back plates (judging from the carve at the f-holes, and from the overall weight) than did Gibson's of similar style and vintage--say, a 1995 Eagle Classic and a 1995 L5CES.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog
    Interesting point. Some argue the oven dried woods used today are simply inferior to what was available in the past. Some argue the structure of the woods change when dried in an oven and that that change is not beneficial to the sound.

    But then, if you are selling an 8k guitar why not make sure your woods are naturally dried for your top models? How hard is it to create a limited supply of woods dried in the open air and use that as a selling point? It only takes some space ...

    DB
    It's not kiln drying. It's forest depletion with little old growth remaining anywhere.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Soloway
    It's not kiln drying. It's forest depletion with little old growth remaining anywhere.
    yes! modern guitars are made with new growth still wet wood..especially in asia...not to burst the beloved yunzxx/eastmxx etc etc bubble..but if you look at the raw wood used..its terrible by compare as to what old master luthiers would use!!!


    kiln drying is not a preferred substitute for natural long term aged drying...just like great meals by master chefs are not prepared in the microwave! hah


    cheers

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    Mark's a good builder but apples and oranges.I've never heard any modern guitar w built in pickups that can touch a good paf Gibson, not even close.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone
    Disagree. ....bunch of stuff....
    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    Agreed, I disagree completely
    I agree with your agreement to disagree completely.

  29. #28

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    No shortage of spruce or maple in the world for carved archtop guitars.
    Good luthiers use good, well-aged wood.
    Some buy it as they need it from specialist wood suppliers, some buy it and stockpile it.
    Some even cut their own.
    It's a non-issue. Marketing noise.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone
    No shortage of spruce or maple in the world for carved archtop guitars.
    Good luthiers use good, well-aged wood.
    Some buy it as they need it from specialist wood suppliers, some buy it and stockpile it.
    Some even cut their own.
    It's a non-issue. Marketing noise.
    I think I'll also agree to disagree on this one.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Soloway
    I think I'll also agree to disagree on this one.
    Agreed.
    I've been close friends w a few prominent luthiers over the yrs. They all said that highly figured maple for example was more plentiful than ever. But they all also said they had a very difficult time securing properly seasoned woods, at least in the US.
    They might acquire a few sets and found the moisture content was typically too high.

  32. #31

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    nor was highly figured maple ever considered the best tone wood!!..despite it's visual allure

    cheers

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    Agreed.
    I've been close friends w a few prominent luthiers over the yrs. They all said that highly figured maple for example was more plentiful than ever. But they all also said they had a very difficult time securing properly seasoned woods, at least in the US.
    They might acquire a few sets and found the moisture content was typically too high.
    Highly figured maple is more plentiful because the supply has been augmented with large amounts of Western Maple.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic
    nor was highly figured maple ever considered the best tone wood!!..despite it's visual allure

    cheers
    True that, but bling sells.
    If you're having a custom 10K+ guitar built you're probably gonna want the anti mid 70s Gibson maple.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Soloway
    Highly figured maple is more plentiful because the supply has been augmented with large amounts of Western Maple.
    Yessir, agree completely.
    For example, the Michigan maple that Gibson used back in the day isn't nearly as plentiful these days.

  36. #35

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    As Mark Campellone told me once "Fancy wood doesn't mean it sounds better."
    In fact while wood quality is important, it's the maker carving it that probably is most important to the sound.

    That said, I prefer thicker carved tops to the lighter thinner ones in the Benedetto or Heritage archtop style. Those sound more like a flat top to my ears, and lack the midst of a heavier build.

  37. #36

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    In the end I have no doubt whatsoever that a given modern L-5 or Super, etc is at least as well built as any that came before, light or heavy build notwithstanding.
    But like Neatomic points out, a well played vintage guitar made w/ aged woods typically is going to sound better, it has those two advantages from jump.

    I've had many vintage archtops and their modern equivalents played side by side and the played in vintage ones typically sound better, not always but usually. There's no hype there, and a similarly built new Gibson would likely sound just as good over time if built w the same aged woods, pickups etc, and was played in, no reason it wouldn't, though old growth wood could be a factor.
    Now if we can fast forward 30 yrs we'd have a more defined answer.
    All that said, modern Gibsons can be excellent, I've owned and played some good ones, they are first class instruments, I still have one or two myself.

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog
    Interesting point. Some argue the oven dried woods used today are simply inferior to what was available in the past. Some argue the structure of the woods change when dried in an oven and that that change is not beneficial to the sound.

    But then, if you are selling an 8k guitar why not make sure your woods are naturally dried for your top models? How hard is it to create a limited supply of woods dried in the open air and use that as a selling point? It only takes some space ...
    And 40-50 years for them to dry out; the creme de la creme of luthiers have their own stocks of fine old woods, like Monteleone, Benedetto, Manzer, etc., which they have been safeguarding for decades. No doubt Gibson had those stocks too, but at the volumes they produce it's possible those have been used up a long time ago. Or maybe they're still flush, I really don't know. However, Benedetto made a point by building an arch top out of knotty pine suitable for rough carpentry... and it sounded fine. The skilled luthier can and does, to a great extent, adjust for the unique properties of the specific piece of wood as the construction of the guitar proceeds.

    And then as has been pointed out, wood changes over decades. My house was built in 1908 and in the course of remodeling I have had a chance to heft some of the old wood, which is now almost featherlight it is so dry. Not only does moisture migrate out of the wood, the structure of the remaining material changes- resins, etc. We've hopefully all picked up an old guitar and smelled the distinctive scent of old wood; some guitars you know they will sound good just from that smell.

    For tonewoods there are problems, one of which is that the old growth forests of suitable woods in the US and Europe have been by and large cut down long ago. For the good wood that remains there is competition from fine furniture makers, wood carvers, cabinet makers, etc. And much of that wood is in places where it is hard to get it out after harvesting. Some of those trees have become mythical beings in their own right- one is just known as The Tree.

    The Tree — Luthiers for a Cause

    As for why Gibson is overbuilding... one theory I have read is kerfed braces. To save labor and money, Gibson went to kerfed braces long ago which resulted in sunken tops. They don't have to be carved to fit the top because they're flexible. Because those braces are only as strong as the thin parts of the wood at the bottom of the kerfs, they provide little support against string tension. Some braces have a cap glued onto the tops of the braces, but often that wood fractures. So Gibson beefed up the tops, once they figured it out- a thicker top is stiffer, bearing more of the load and relying less on the bracing.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog
    When I played the "photoshoot" 1960 L5 last week I was able to compare it with a 2007 L5 side by side.The 1960 L5 was a much nicer guitar. It had a perfect neck, way more comfortable and less chunky than the 2007 one. It was of a much lighter build and more responsive so better sounding acoustically. The top on the 1960 was notably thinner. It was almost a different guitar that sounded different too amplified. The 2007 was built like a tank, just like the 1995 Wesmo .

    So why is Gibson doing this?
    One phrase comes to mind:

    "They just don't make'em the way they used to"

    /thread

  40. #39

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    easy - warranty

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by jzucker
    easy - warranty
    They actually prioritise warranty even for 10k guitars?

    DB

  42. #41

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    I doubt Gibson was using naturally dried wood towards the end of the 50ies: they would have needed to use wood that was already laid aside to dry in the 30ies and 40ies. Demand for guitars was rising fast and Brasil and Honduras were exporting large quantities of wood to the US. A '60ies L5 is probably already made from oven or kiln-dried wood? (Mahogany, rosewood and ebony that is, perhaps spruce is a different story?) (This is all very speculative btw, I can't really back this up with facts, but it makes sense to me ;-)

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog
    They actually prioritise warranty even for 10k guitars?

    DB
    Gibson began overbuilding in the '60s due to sunken top and other repair issues. Several luthiers have mentioned to me the differences in top thickness, bracing, etc. After humbuckers were introduced there were problems with the tops sinking. When folks tell me that the new guitars are "just as good" as the vintage ones I always think about this. The new ones *MAY* in fact sound good, but they are not made the same. This is also why many of the vintage ones have sunken tops and other issues though...

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by jzucker
    Gibson began overbuilding in the '60s due to sunken top and other repair issues. Several luthiers have mentioned to me the differences in top thickness, bracing, etc. After humbuckers were introduced there were problems with the tops sinking. When folks tell me that the new guitars are "just as good" as the vintage ones I always think about this. The new ones *MAY* in fact sound good, but they are not made the same. This is also why many of the vintage ones have sunken tops and other issues though...
    I've seen sunken tops on guitars like prewar Gibson ES-150s w /the heavy Christian pu's and some ES-175s, but never on a humbucker L-5 or Super 400, not even once.

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    I've seen sunken tops on guitars like prewar Gibson ES-150s w /the heavy Christian pu's and some ES-175s, but never on a humbucker L-5 or Super 400, not even once.
    I have on both gibson and heritage. However, it's less prevalent on L5s and IMO, here's why:

    On the 175, rather than cut the bracing to match the curvature of the top, gibson took the shortcut of kerfing the braces so they were more flexible and took straight pieces of wood with kerfs and glued them to the top. On the more expensive archtops, the bracing is hand carved to match the curve of the top. A lot of the '80s 175 braces are kerfed only in a few strategic areas. Not all the way through like the double cutaway ES-150 or the Heritage 550.

  46. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    I've seen sunken tops on guitars like prewar Gibson ES-150s w /the heavy Christian pu's and some ES-175s, but never on a humbucker L-5 or Super 400, not even once.
    I don't think I've ever seen a kerfed brace on an L5 or a Super 400. I've seen plenty of them on ES-175 guitars though. This might explain sunken tops on the 175--common--and not on the L5 or Super 400. This supports Jack's hypothesis.

  47. #46

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    60's guitars were already made with the "new" wood. Good, old growth spruce resources were already depleted by the 60's in North America because of the World Wars. Airplanes at the time, like guitars, required wood with high stiffness to weight ratio. Spruce is the soft wood with the highest stiffness to weight ratio. That's why war planes were built using instrument grade spruce.
    Guitars made after 30's all pretty much use the same quality spruce.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 12-16-2019 at 02:18 PM.

  48. #47

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    The bottom line is, we all gravitate to guitars that speak to us. Good thing there are so many great choices available for everyone.

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by DB's Jazz Guitar Blog
    They actually prioritise warranty even for 10k guitars?

    DB
    I would think it should be their highest warranty priority. Who wants to get returns from your highest paying customers? A guitar at that price can become devalued by repairs and then you have a really angry customer.

  50. #49

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    I don't have much to add. But I've discussed this with some of the original Heritage luthiers.

    It is much harder to carve a thin top and back than thicker ones. It takes more time and risks cracking the wood. Some people want the top and back thin and tuned, and they will pay for the most experienced carvers, like Aaron Cowles and Marv Lamb. Most people don't care. The default is a thicker top.

    Heritage used to make most of their floater pickup guitars lighter, especially up until about 2005 or so.

  51. #50

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    Pickup mounting holes are structural weaknesses. Tops are arched to structurally resist the downward force created by the tailpiece/bridge design. Putting a hole right near the bridge saddle eliminates a lot of the support from the arched design. Imagine putting a big hole right near the bridge of a violin.

    Archtop guitars were designed based on the knowledge transfer from the violin and the cello world. Initially they didn't put pickups in them, so light build design worked. I presume guitars that sink have pickup holes. Probably they realized that they had to adopt the design for this structural change. I guess that's also why L5 CES's are more heavily built than L5 WesMo's.