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  1. #1

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    Hi there, i played many guitars all over the years, and found the the L-5 is my cup ot tea, but i found it uncomfortable to play really tricky things in such a narrow space for fingerpicking. What are the chances to widen the space between strings in a Gibson archtop? Did anyone tried?
    Is there such a thing as a wider TOM? Widening the nut is possible without falling out of the fretboard? (i think it can be possible but it would need a refret, since part of the fret is occuped by the binding on such models and i believe that the fret could be extended a little bit more until the end of the border of the fretboard). Any ideas? I dont bend and use 12 caliber strings.
    I know that someone could tell me to build a new guitar from a good reputation luthier. I love the sound of my guitar and i know that someother luthier builds amazing copies, but the weight and the construction of an Gibson archtop really contributes to the very fat amplified sound we all love.
    Thanks to everyone.
    Gus

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  3. #2

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    some people put a new nut w/ slot spacings cut slightly wider.
    or you can get lucky like forum member ThatRhythmMan and myself and be lucky enough to own late 60's models w/almost 1 3/4" nut widths.

  4. #3

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    The wider nut doesn't necessarily translate into much additional width at the bridge, which is where you'd pluck the strings. The string spread on the bridge seems to be a bigger determinant in giving fingerstyle advantage. Typical Gibsons have about a 2" string spread at the bridge. The saddles, metal or wood, can be easily slotted to increase the string spread. An advantage of Schaller roller bridges is that it strings can be spread in about five minutes to your suiting.

    The strings may not line up with the screws of the pickup, you can compensate the sound balance in most cases by adjusting the pickup height and the screws.

    I await other opinions on this.

  5. #4

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    If the ends of the frets stop inside the neck binding, then yes, a refret will level the binding and the tang of the new frets will be notched so that the bead of the fret extends all the to the outside of the neck binding. You could easily pick up another 1/16" of usable fret bead on each side of the fret board. Then a good luthier can cut a new nut to make use of the additional fret bead. It sounds like you play with a light touch so you should be able to get the guitar set up with the strings within 3/32" of the edge of the fretboard.

    In terms of the bridge spacing, a new bridge can be purchased and the tech/luthier can file the string notches to a wider spacing, providing it doesn't push the strings too close to the edge of the fretboard (do this after the refret). Alternately, he could just file the saddles down until the existing notches are gone and renotch them, being careful to maintain the correct radius/height.

  6. #5

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    The obvious solution is you just get Mark Campellone to build you a guitar with 1 3/4 neck width or find one. You don’t lose anything and in fact gain.

  7. #6

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    The string spacing at the bridge, is as much(or more) the result of the neck width at the neck body joint, as the width of the nut. Scale length is a factor, too. A guitar can have a 1-3/4" nut width, but if the neck width at the body is 'narrow'(2-1/8"), then that limits the string spacing at the bridge, apart from minor adjustments. A neck width of 2-1/4" at the body(IME), with a nut width of 1-3/4", will allow a string spacing at the bridge, of 2-1/4", or slightly more. I have here a '33 Martin archtop: the nut width is 1-3/4", neck width at body joint is 2-5/16", and the string spacing at the bridge is 2-3/8"(scale length of 24.9"). The OP should consider either looking for a vintage archtop, with similar dimensions(my '35 Epiphone Spartan is similar, but not my '36 Epi Triumph), or, as Deacon Mark suggests, have one built with suitable measurements. Both my Martin and Epi Spartan lend themselves to fingerstyle.

  8. #7

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    Mark Campellone is your guy if you want a Gibson type archtop. And there are usually a few for sale if you do some looking.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by jads57
    Mark Campellone is your guy if you want a Gibson type archtop. And there are usually a few for sale if you do some looking.
    Thank you guys for taking all the time to response me, yes, i know about Mark`s work, i played only one of them and it seem to me a better guitar than the ones that Gibson does. I would not say at all that it is a copy, it would`nt be fair. That`s an idea that is in my head.
    Regarding the suggested changes: the idea of the rolling bridge is very interesting, i didnt know about it is existence. It is a non destructive change that can take me almost there for no money, and if it work i might try doing a new nut. And if it seems to work i can replace the fret i think..
    Someone could tell me: why dont you buy a Johnny Smith and convert it into a set pickup one: well.. it is a 25` scale lenght guitar. And to me it does changes a lot the sound of it.

  10. #9

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    TOM does not come with slots. I suspect yours is slotted wrong if the strings are too close together.

  11. #10
    Even the most subtle changes of spacing will be noticeable when you're playing. I don't recommend it. You may feel the difference of a wider spacing but depending on your playing style, your left hand technique, your string height and gauge, your pick type, you could very likely find yourself playing a chord or passage and the first string dives off the edge of the edge of the fingerboard. There's a spacing buffer in there and we use it more than you might think. You notice it if you change the spacing both at the bridge but especially at the nut.
    Make a new nut, and don't glue it in. Get a new saddle piece, and don't throw away the original. And try it out.
    You might be the one person with precise fingering accuracy and hammer on technique that can stay "on board" so to speak.
    Note: The Johnny Smith came with a wider fingerboard, and it's great for those that need a wider Gibson, but it's a floater. Eastman guitars, it should be noted, also tend towards a wider string spacing in the ones I've tried and had in the shop. I like them because I'm a fingerstyle player coming from classical and their necks were nice.
    Good luck

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Grass
    The wider nut doesn't necessarily translate into much additional width at the bridge, which is where you'd pluck the strings. The string spread on the bridge seems to be a bigger determinant in giving fingerstyle advantage. Typical Gibsons have about a 2" string spread at the bridge. The saddles, metal or wood, can be easily slotted to increase the string spread. An advantage of Schaller roller bridges is that it strings can be spread in about five minutes to your suiting.

    The strings may not line up with the screws of the pickup, you can compensate the sound balance in most cases by adjusting the pickup height and the screws.

    I await other opinions on this.
    This is a very important point IMO. I often hear people say they like a 1 3/4” nut for fingerstyle playing. Whenever I hear that, I always think that an extra 1/16” inch at the nut has very little to do with the string spacing at the saddle. In fact, it may or may not translate into wider spacing at the saddle. If I wanted more space for “fingerpicking” I would just try a saddle with a little wider spacing first, before I messed with the nut. As Marty Gras pointed out, you also need to be mindful of where the the strings cross the pickup’s pole pieces.
    Keith

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gustavo Eiriz
    Someone could tell me: why dont you buy a Johnny Smith and convert it into a set pickup one: well.. it is a 25` scale lenght guitar. And to me it does changes a lot the sound of it.
    Johnny Smith is a very different sound than a L-5!

  14. #13

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    I was waiting for someone suggesting that you file down your fingers.

    I have a G&L solid body with a 1 3/4" nut. The neck is slightly wider at the joint and the string spread is 2 1/4". You can see the strings at the bridge pickup are on the outer edge of the pole pieces.

    It also has a bowling ball finish.

    The easiest way to go is to buy a wood saddle or some uncut steel saddles and notch them a little wider. Years ago I asked the eminent Aaron Cowles to do this for my Johnny A. The guitar had gold hardware. He looked at the guitar, walked to the back of his shop, and returned with five chrome uncut saddles. I asked about gold. He asked me if I really wanted to waste an extra $5 for gold. He walked me through slotting them, as it was a slow day. That took me from a string spacing of 1 17/18" to 2 1/16" with a good result. A total of $10 for materials and the lesson. I bought my own set of files that week.

    Gibson's Nut Width (L-5 specially) - from 11/16 to 3/4 possible? Any experience?-23670750948_74e74b5789_c-jpgGibson's Nut Width (L-5 specially) - from 11/16 to 3/4 possible? Any experience?-37522734901_324ba92569_c-jpg

  15. #14

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    Another option, one I didn't see mentioned and the one I pursued, is to have a new neck made. I can't stand skinny necks so I shipped my L5 off to get a good neck. It's fantastic! Well worth the money I spent on it. I've done this now for two archtops.

    It's probably more economical however to trade in your skinny neck L5 and get something that fits you better. I like the off-the-shelf Eastmans, no L5 glamor, but excellent guitars.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by floatingpickup
    This is a very important point IMO. I often hear people say they like a 1 3/4” nut for fingerstyle playing. Whenever I hear that, I always think that an extra 1/16” inch at the nut has very little to do with the string spacing at the saddle. In fact, it may or may not translate into wider spacing at the saddle. If I wanted more space for “fingerpicking” I would just try a saddle with a little wider spacing first, before I messed with the nut. As Marty Gras pointed out, you also need to be mindful of where the the strings cross the pickup’s pole pieces.
    Keith
    yes, I am having this conversation with Mark right now and the spacing at the bridge is the same for 1 11/16 or 1 3/4 at 2” or slightly over. I thought the wide nut spacing was affecting my picking- sorry, it’s just my technique!

    I do think that neck depth matters though on what width you choose, my Borys is 1 3/4” or even slightly more with a thick neck and it’s a handful. Luckily I have big hands. If I go with 1 3/4” I might opt to go for a slightly slimmer neck.

    but for fingerpicking you would want to spec a wider spacing near the bridge.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluejaybill
    yes, I am having this conversation with Mark right now and the spacing at the bridge is the same for 1 11/16 or 1 3/4 at 2” or slightly over. I thought the wide nut spacing was affecting my picking- sorry, it’s just my technique!

    I do think that neck depth matters though on what width you choose, my Borys is 1 3/4” or even slightly more with a thick neck and it’s a handful. Luckily I have big hands. If I go with 1 3/4” I might opt to go for a slightly slimmer neck.

    but for fingerpicking you would want to spec a wider spacing near the bridge.
    I just measured the string width at the saddle on a few of my guitars (I measured to the outside edge of the strings). My 1947 L7 and 1963 L5C measure about about 2 1/16”. My Campellone, which has a 1 3/4” nut and 25” scale, is almost exactly the same width at the saddle. At the most, the Campellone might be 1/32” wider. My Gibson Johnny Smith is about 2 1/8” at the saddle. That tells me that a 1 3/4” nut might give you an extra 1/32” - 1/16” at the saddle, at the most. That isn’t a lot of difference.
    Keith
    Last edited by floatingpickup; 04-12-2021 at 12:34 PM.

  18. #17

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    Gustavo,
    I can’t imagine you playing any better than how you have played this L5 in its current state.
    But if you think you can, sometimes even small adjustments make a big difference. Take it to a tech who can restore it back to original if it doesn’t work for you.
    Like I said sometimes the slightest adjustment puts those strings right where your fingers need them to be.
    If the neck has the space, USE IT!
    Good luck, Joe D

  19. #18
    Thanks Joe and everyone, i tried the Roller Bridge as suggested, as i suspected there is a certain chance to widen the string distance in the bridge, that really affects (in my case for good) the right hand technique. That few mm makes the whole difference when you play in a classical right hand technique and pretend to play a bass and a melody at the same time.
    I didnt like the sound of the roller bridge, it dampens a little bit the string compared to the tuneomatic, but it was very useful to see how the strings works in such a place. Indeed the fretboard end at fret 19 is far wider than the fret 1.
    About the neck nut width, i suspect that you can gain a few mm also, specially if you refret the instrument (which is a major surgery), if the fret is taken to the extreme broder of the fretboard and carefully sanded it is completely possible to make a more wider string length. If that is confortable or not is something I am yet to see.
    Keep you updated!