6/07/2018

1968 Gibson J-50 Slope Dreadnought Guitar




They don't come much cleaner than this guy -- with only a few light scuffs, some weather-check to the sides, and only a whisper of a hairline crack at the treble waist on the top (next to the pickguard). Discounting that, it looks like it could be 5-10 years old and has had access to its original hard case all its life.

Work was thus pretty mild: I reglued the bridge, compensated the saddle properly, gave it a fret level/dress, and set it up with 54w-12 strings. It's playing on-the-dot with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret with the saddle cranked-up high and plenty of room for adjustment.

Old J-45s and J-50s are, basically, my favorite flattop design. They perform a lot of different roles very well. From the mid-'60s onward they seem to have been voiced for a chunky bass preference so that they'd supply low end to sing over and that's just what this one does -- though it's got that mids-front Gibson thing going on, of course. These are superb singing guitars, though they're not as punchy and forward as a '50s version.

Specs are: 24 5/8" scale, 1 9/16" nut width, 1 3/8" string spacing at the nut, 2 1/16" spacing at the bridge, 16" lower bout, 11 1/2" upper bout, and 4 7/8" side depth at the endblock. The narrow nut is backed by a slim, C-shaped profile and a 12" radius to the board.

It's a super-slick playing neck that echoes Gibson's electrics of the same period. It seems to be most-suited to either small hands or chorders. It's definitely not the best fingerpicking profile and you can hear me botch a few notes here and there because of the tight string spacing. I adore Gibson necks like this for when I'm simply playing backup chords with bass-runs, though -- you just don't get tired playing them and barred chords are easy as heck.


The top is solid spruce, the back and sides are solid mahogany, the neck is mahogany, and the board and bridge are rosewood. It's 100% original except for the two pearl dots in the bridge that cover the in-bridge factory bolts.


The trussrod works 100% and the neck is straight.


The board's dot inlay is pearloid and the frets are medium-jumbo. They're lower but have many years and level/dress jobs left in them to go.




I'm actually a huge fan of Gibson's adjustable bridges. They make on-the-fly setup changes a breeze which is essential for touring musicians or folks on-the-go. They were really only bad when Gibson was using the white, ceramic material for them in the early '60s. The later ones (like this one) with the saddle made from rosewood or ebony sound good. They definitely have to be reprofiled, however, for good compensation. The factory never installed the bridges in the right place, so the saddles always need to be recut to get the string break in the right place.


While you might gain a little more punch and clarity swapping to a traditional saddle in on one of these guitars, I prefer the sort-of breathy, woody tone you get with these. They're definitely part of the '60s sound of these instruments... and they make life easy.



The only crack on the guitar is a 2 1/2" hairline to the treble side of the pickguard on the top. It's directly over the edge kerfing and terminates at bracing or kerfing and is so entirely stable. I did drop-fill it just for peace of mind, however.




The original Kluson tuners are still going strong.







While not pictured, this guitar comes with its original hard case.

2 comments:

andycunn said...

I have a sunburst '68 and agree with everything you said! I replaced the bridge with the bone adj bridge from philidelphia luthier supply- it clarified a lot of the tone and leveled out the highs to match the bass a little more. still have the wood bridge in a drawer but can't imagine going back to it. Beauty of a guitar!

Robert Gardner said...

Wow, has that thing every been played? The finish on the neck looks brand new. Looks like it has been laying untouched in its coffin for 40 years. What a beaut.