2/18/2018

1968 Gibson J-50 ADJ Slope Dreadnought Guitar




Behold -- yet another strum-cannon '60s J-50 is in-shop! After work, this one belts-it-out beautifully with much the same punchy, big-bottom sound of the '66 I worked-on recently. Compared to a '50s J-50, these late-'60s J-50s don't have the same fullness and oomph in the mids and highs, but they have a good bottom with a clear-sounding middle that makes them reliable and tasty chord-bangers that can cut and fill space in a session. There's a reason there's a steady stream of folkies and folk-rockers wearing J-45s and J-50s of this era on straps up on stage -- they're perfect for the role.

This particular guitar came in via a consignor in a bit of a sad state, though I've nursed it to health and it now plays perfectly. It had a couple of old "repaired" cracks on the top on either side of the lower-bout center-seam (along with a couple of other smaller hairlines), the bridge needed a reglue and the saddle needed compensation, a brace was loose on the back, the frets needed a level/dress, and the truss cover needed replacing. I've done all that work -- including many cleats and a fill/seal job to said cracks -- and it's good to go. The neck is straight, the frets have some good life left in them, the action is spot-on at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret and strung with 54w-12, and it plays in tune up the neck thanks to reprofiling the original rosewood saddle to a compensated form.

There are issues, however. The back of this guitar is entirely "refinished" in an opaque, gross, satin-sheen dark brown. The wood's under there, but the finish itself is lousy. There are also some binding/seam mismatches from old repairs on one side of the back/side joint that were glossed-over with filler. Those aren't so obvious but I did snap pictures. The only other issue is that one of the back braces has half of its "top" missing -- the brace is still there but it split at one point and only the lower half of the brace covers 2/3 of its length. It's not really something to fuss about structurally, but if you peek in there with a curious eye it looks a bit odd.

That said, it's a great old guitar and a heck of a player. The nut on this is just a hair wider than 1 9/16" and the fretboard has a 12" or so radius to it with a slim-C neck profile underneath. It's fast but the narrow width isn't going to float the boat of most fingerpickers.



It's a nice-looking guitar, with buttery-warm spruce on the top and original, weather-checked, played-in finish all over except for the back.


Note the tortoise truss-rod cover! This was missing its original one, so I cut this out of translucent tortoise pickguard material. I traced it from an old '50s cover and discovered, after cutting my tracing out, that those old covers weren't cut quite perfectly symmetrical in the first place and neither is mine, though you won't notice it at a glance.

Also note that just one of the tuner ferrules has some funny turqoise paint on it. Why? Who knows... lucky, perhaps...?



The board, bridge, and adjustable saddle are rosewood. The dots are faux-pearl except for my replacement bridge dots, which are the real stuff. The original frets are a mid-height but wide-foot "low jumbo" stock.




The original rosewood bridge glued-up nicely after I got it off. The adjustable saddle is the original rosewood one, though I've entirely reprofiled its top edge so that it compensates correctly. Gibson often installed the bridges 1/16" or so too forward -- which is exactly how too-far-forward this saddle slot was -- hence why the break for the strings is so far back on the saddle.

Aside from the two main cracks below the bridge (now cleated all over, filled, and sealed -- though the treble-side one came with a splint in it already), there are a couple of short ones in front of it below the soundhole and both of those are cleated/stable, too.


It's always interesting to me to see that someone went to the trouble of installing a splint for one of the cracks but then didn't bother to cleat them. Thankfully, that can be remedied (and has been).


At the bass side of the waist, there's the usual little extra-tight hairline crack that's over kerfing and so, be default, cleated and stable.



Here's the swampy-looking back. I ruminated on sanding it down and refinishing -- but I feel like even grungy older finishing tends to look better on a well-used guitar than fresh, clean refinishing.


The original Klusons are still going strong.



Here's what I mean by the weird filler near the binding. I don't really understand the need, but maybe they/he/she didn't glue it all cleanly during the old "repairs." Regardless, the back is stable and good to go.







Here's that split brace.

This guitar comes with a gigbag.

No comments: