1960s Gibson B-25-12 12-String 00-Size Flattop Guitar

Gibson's B-25 is really an updated take on the LG-2 and LG-3 models of the '40s and '50s. This B-25-12 is, of course, the 12-string variant of it. I have to admit that I like old Gibson 12-strings a lot -- they have a darker, woodier, and chunkier sound than your average 12 and it makes a much better "thumping" or "folk-singing" guitar than the chimey, bright ones which need a little more finesse (they like crosspicking more than bang-a-rang) for the average player. Gibsons from the '60s also tend to have the advantage of an adjustable saddle which makes action adjustments easy-peasy (removing all the strings to shim-up/shim-down a regular saddle is a chore).

This guitar's serial number is missing at the back of the headstock, but from its features (a pin bridge and original ebony saddle -- rather than white ceramic), it probably dates from late '64 or early '65. Gibson went back-and-forth with pin or tailpiece-loaded bridges (see this '61 B-45-12 for the ultimate in tailpiece-load Gibson 12s), neither of which I prefer -- both variants sound good in different ways. Most folks prefer the mellower tone of a pin bridge, however, and this one has that.

A customer brought this in for work and that included regluing a main x-brace (there was a lot of previous gluing to other braces), cleats for the center seam on the lower bout, a fret level/dress, and much alteration of the original adjustable ebony saddle to get intonation correct. Often, the break point of these bridges is in the wrong place (it was on this one) and there's no added compensation to help the strings. This is now playing spot-on, with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret and a straight neck. The truss is a little stiff but works fine. I use a custom set of strings for E-E tuning on most 12 strings that gauges out low-to-high to: 22w/46w, 16/36w, 11/26w, 8/18w, 14/14, 10/10. While the lower-octave strings are roughly comparable to the average 12-string set, the octave strings are a little lighter and thus A) don't break as much and B) lend a slinkier feel and C) keep extra tension off the top in a place it doesn't need it (the octave strings ring-out like crazy no matter the gauge).

The "classical" body shape of the LG-flavored line always seems like a plus to me. Unlike a Martin 00, the waist is a little wider and so one gets the breathiness and lower-mids mwah of the big-brother J-45. The disadvantage is that it loses just a hair of punch (generally) to gain this.

The nut is wide at 2" and the neck has a mild-medium C-shaped profile on the rear. The board has something like a 12" radius.

The original, jumbo-ish frets leveled and dressed nicely, though they had considerable wear before.

The saddle now has compensated slotting for each string individually. Note how far rear the breaking point had to be for the high E pair -- this is because Gibson (and Martin, and Guild, concurrently) often glued bridges a little "off" in production and the saddles were too far forward.

As you can see, the saddle is jacked-up nice and tall and there's tons of room for adjustment. The top has some belly but it's stable and there's a little concavity around the soundhole -- but nothing unusual for this model.

Note that I've slotted the top of the saddle (like a mandolin bridge) to keep the spacing regular and the strings correctly in place.

There's another 3" hairline crack like this next to the pickguard on the other side of the top. Unfortunately, these hug the kerfing and bracing so no cleats can be added. They're shored-up, however, by them, too.

B-25s have solid spruce tops and solid mahogany back, sides, and neck. The board and bridge are rosewood.

The original Kluson tuners are doing just fine -- but like any old tuner, it's best to tune up rather than try to get to pitch by tuning down.

A hard, slightly-loose, case comes with it.


Uncle JimmyPie said…
I have NEVER seen a fully compensated 12-string bridge before. Those pictures are a monument to your obsessively magnificent craftsmanship. I salute you.
Jake Wildwood said…

I've been making sure to do it on 12s for the last 4 years or so. Making the extra effort pays-off like crazy when you stick a capo on it at the 5th fret. It's not as obvious in pictures that I've done where the saddles are bone or plastic as the light doesn't catch the ridges too well.

I can't help it -- I'm obsessive about how the instruments should play... :D