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  1. #1

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    I did some looking around the forum and really only came up with this thread so I figured I would start one of my own: Gibson ES-175 - Neck Shave

    I have a 1935 L-50 I got around 6 months ago. I am including pictures I just took below as the morning sun hit the 'burst just right. I love the look, sound, everything of this guitar except the enormous V neck. I have waited around 6 months to see if I could adjust but so far no luck. It's actually beyond a preference thing, as it is that anytime I play this guitar for any amount of time, say 45 minutes to an hour, I get pain in the base of my thumb and the knuckle in the middle. I don't think it is a technique problem as I am consciously thinking about the keeping light pressure of my thumb when playing it. I will add that I have never had this with any guitar I have owned in 20 years, including acoustics, archtops, 175's, Fenders, 335's, etc.

    I feel like I am left with two choices, either selling it and moving on, or seeking a luthier to adjust the neck shape. Obviously, for such an old guitar that brings up a lot of concerns as well. I wanted to gauge what you guys thought of the situation. I know that I cannot deal with it and risk further injury to my thumb, so its really one of those two choices.

    Gibson L-50 and Thumb Pain-img-9671-jpg
    Gibson L-50 and Thumb Pain-img-9670-jpg
    Gibson L-50 and Thumb Pain-img-9669-jpg

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  3. #2

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    Time to sell

  4. #3

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    Some thoughts.....

    Many 30's Gibsons have some seriously extreme V necks....others are shallower and rounder but still retain the V shape. I see these most often on the lower tier instruments but have had circa '33 and '34 L-7's and L-12's with mahogany V necks.

    The degree and prominence of the V profile can vary quite a bit. And depending on the guitar and where one puts their thumb (and the length of the player's thumb)....makes all the difference whether a V neck will be workable or not.
    With me it always ends up with a "where to put my thumb?" problem....but I do have such a neck on a '36 Black Special that I enjoy enough to stay with and find a way.

    Players that place the neck in the palm of their hand and use a thumb over technique often like the V.

    To modify and reshape it is a risky thing to do.
    Some awareness of the location of the adjustable truss rod is important to know as one needs to be sure reprofiling
    the apex of the V will not yield surprise discoveries.
    And the sides of the neck cannot be made fuller or rounder....so one ends up with a shallower V which might still be uncomfortable.

    Sometimes all one can really hope to do is adapt their hand and thumb position to the V necked guitar.
    And some hands just aren't suited for some necks and vice versa.

    Tough call, but I'd let this one go or try to adapt.
    Last edited by zizala; 09-30-2020 at 05:11 PM.

  5. #4

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    I had the same exact problem with my Loar LH-300. Pretty pronounced V-shaped neck. The more I played it, the more pain I experienced at the base of the thumb. I sought the counsel of forum members here and there were recommendations to sell and to shave down the neck. In the end, I decided to sell it and haven’t looked back. And, my thumb pain disappeared.

    I don’t know anything about the collectibility of an L-50 from that era, but I guess it would come down to how wedded you are to the guitar and how much of a hit you would take by having it altered when or if you ever sell it. You are obviously struggling with playing the guitar so my guess is that perhaps you haven’t bonded with it and it would be best to sell it. There are other vintage archtop guitars out there with more comfortable neck profiles.

  6. #5

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    My experience is that removing wood from the neck will alter the tone of the instrument. You might not like what you hear, or you might like it better. If you don't like what you hear, and what you feel, you're stuck with a guitar that is worth far less than what you currently have. I'd recommend finding a guitar you like, and selling this one to help fund it.

  7. #6

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    "I see these most often on the lower tier instruments but have had circa '33 and '34 L-7's and L-12's with mahogany V necks."

    Actually many if not most of the blockmarker 16" L-5's I've seen are V'd

  8. #7

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    Thanks for that.....

    I've never had an early 30's L-5 in hand but it doesn't surprise me!

    A '32 L-10 I once owned had a nice rounded C shape.

  9. #8

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    Jazz, blues, and country players back then used a thumb over technique. Played that way, the big v neck is quite comfortable.

    I play a 1938 L50 and enjoy it. If I used classical technique it would annoy me.

  10. #9

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    I have a L-00 reissue with a pronounced V neck. I play with classical technique and use the pointy edge as a guide for the inside of my thumb joint. I like it. It's not my main guitar however, I don't use it daily.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    Jazz, blues, and country players back then used a thumb over technique. Played that way, the big v neck is quite comfortable.

    I play a 1938 L50 and enjoy it. If I used classical technique it would annoy me.
    Interesting, I guess I play with the classical technique? I try to have the pad of my thumb in the center of the neck. I just picked it up and tried the thumb over way and it was pretty comfortable, but I don't think I can play that way

  12. #11

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    Another neck design that accommodates the folks who use the thumb to fret strings was the old Gretsch asymmetric neck. My main acoustic archtop used to be a 1950 Gretsch Synchromatic. For 40s style rhythm playing the Gretsch was a champ. It displaced the L50 in my lineup for a long time.

    Note: I typically utilize a classical technique, but when playing Freddie Green rhythm the thumb slides around.

  13. #12

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    modifying the guitar will lessen it's value to prospective buyers. I would just sell it.

  14. #13

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    Instead of shaving the tip of the V, I wonder if glueing a thin stip of wood on the upper part of the V could be an option? A strip that's flat on one side that glues on the upper surface of V and round on the other side. It'd make a fat asymmetric neck and the mod would be mostly reversible.
    Does anyone aware of such a mod that was actually done on a guitar?

  15. #14

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    Hi, P,
    Beautiful instrument. IMO it would be criminal to alter the neck when it has survived so long in its original condition. Sell it or keep it as a collectors piece. I will provide one comment: when I began to study Classical Guitar in '92, I had a difficult time with the fingerboard and the neck shape after playing electric guitar for so many years previously and had similar problems with pain. However, with concerted effort and limited daily practice sessions-- it disappeared. Today, I move freely between CG and EG daily with no problems. I hope this helps you. Play live . . . Marinero

  16. #15

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    I just went through the process of buying an archtop. Because I am in Canada and because of CITES, there were a lot of choice guitars that I could not even consider. But there is no shortage of great archtops out there, especially in the US. Many dealers have a return policy and in my experience, serious sellers don't mind going a little further, giving you the neck profile and other measurements. Using a length of fairly stiff solder allows one to get an accurate picture of the profile. I know that this sounds a little goofy, but several sellers have done thisfor me so that I could see the profile and neck dimensions at the nut and higher.

    So my advice would be to sell it and move on, now knowing what kind of profile you DON'T want.

    Another possibility is to consult a physiotherapist who is knowledgeable about such problems and hand injuries. Even a sports therapist can be helpful. I speak from personal experience with a therapist who helped me with a hand/guitar problem ages ago.

  17. #16

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    Thanks everyone for weighing, you have convinced me to keep this 85 year old beauty as-is and sell to someone else who will enjoy it. I love this guitar, but the risk of changing an instrument this old and still not being happy with it is just too much, and I simply can't play if this thumb pain increased.

    Anyone interested in it go ahead and send me a message!