1930s Gibson HG Century Flattop Guitar

Update 2019: This was in the shop for work so I took new pics, a video, and updated the description.

This walked in right at opening today and I spent the next few hours with its owner leveling/dressing the frets and tweaking all the setup to bring it back to near-perfect playability. It's an astoundingly good-sounding guitar with a big thick midrange and warm bottom that I absolutely did not expect out of an L-00 body. Must be that 12-fret thing going on, huh? The owner (one of two Pauls who came down to visit with this and other toys) also owns an A-Century mandolin (he's the "king of the mother of toilet seat guitars" up here) and this beauty rounds out his "Gibson Century twins."

At any rate, you can read all about Century of Progress instruments here. This one began life as an HG-Century -- that meaning it was intended to be a Hawaiian guitar with raised strings for lap-slide playing. It probably didn't have "real" frets to begin with (just celluloid spacers or similar) and it came from the factory without a truss rod -- as a warped neck has no meaning to a Hawaiian instrument. There are conflicting reports about whether the lack of a truss rod means it was made during wartime or not, but the lack of a factory order number in the body means the date can't be pinned down so it's safest to say it was built during the production run of the HG-Cs -- that being 37-41.

In 2019 this came back to the shop as the bridge was pulling-up like crazy. I solved that (and relocated it in the correct spot for good intonation), shaved it down and buffed it up a little bit, and also fixed some other problems. The bridge plate was split in two pieces and basically folded-up into a fault. I capped that with a piece of lightweight cedar and that got it back flat and stable. Of course, that meant filling/redrilling the pinholes, too. At the same time I dealt with some loose bracing and some uncleated hairline cracks. After a restring and setup, it plays pretty well... but I hope someday the owner takes the plunge to have the fretboard removed and have either a non-adjustable or adjustable truss rod installed. That'd keep the neck straight under tension and add a touch more sustain at the same time.

There was a lot of older work done -- including a neck reset, replacement bridge, refret, refinish job, and a lot of structurally well-done crack repairs. My work was to fix some of the botched work: the frets needed leveling/dressing severely and the setup was quite off. We added some nice new rosewood pins, fit the saddle and string spacing more correctly, and spruced-up the old tuners so they'd stop rattling and keep tune a bit better.

Update here -- the owner installed some StewMac repro tuners that're a lot easier to use than the originals.

It's a shame about the refinish job, but at least it was faithful and hasn't hurt the guitar's voice. To boot, you can also see the gorgeous flamed and curly maple on the back and sides a lot better than Gibson's original finish would've allowed after aging. It pops!

The truss rod cover is a faux-cover: there's nothing under it! So -- it gets used as a pick-holder.

How about that fancy veneer, though? Mixing pearloid, rosewood veneer, and actual pearl is just... weird, wild, and sexy as heck.

Yep, painfully cool...

This is not an original bridge, but it is nice rosewood.

I know, right? Gotta love the flame.

Here's Paul the Friend on the left and Paul the Owner on the right... talk about a killer duo, huh?