1951 National 1135 (Gibson L-7 Body) Carved-Top Archtop Guitar

I've missed having an archtop guitar for myself. At one point I owned four 1930s Gibson 16" carved-tops at the same time and, as you might expect for a hungry guitar trader, those have long since fled my stable. I'll be playing a bit more at more-or-less acoustic jams, so I've been thinking hard about finding another carved-top so I can play my swing-ish backup style and take some leads.

I'm a fan of the Gibson/National hybrid guitars of the '40s and '50s, so when this 17" carved-top showed-up on Reverb in a very poor state, I snagged it for myself. It has a Gibson-made body that would've normally found a home on an L-7 -- a solid spruce, carved top with tonebar-style bracing, maple sides, and a sold figured maple, carved back. The neck is National's own "Stylist" design in which a big magnesium core is wrapped with a veneer (basically) of mahogany. Before about '53, these necks are cut very close in feel to Gibson necks from the time and have a medium-C, round rear profile and steeper radius to the board. They also have the same Gibson 24 3/4" scale (or close to it), so for a Gibson-fan like myself, they "feel" home base.

After work, the guitar is loud, gutsy, projects like a wild stallion, and has all the goodness of a '30s 16" Gibson carved-top but with a little extra bass and a rounder lower-mids voice. That makes it fun to play both jazzy/swingy chord-chomp fare as well as the usual "Americana" voices -- chordal strumming, flatpicked noodling, crosspicked "tunes," and what-have-you. It's not a flattop, but the bigger body does make a difference in the variety of music that sounds good on it.

Work included: a lot of heavy seam repairs on the lower-bout-rear, lots of cleaning, reglue of the fretboard, board level/plane, a refret with jumbo stock, and a small amount of replacement binding at the fretboard. The neck is straight, the adjustable neck gizmo works perfectly, and it's playing bang-on with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret action. I have it strung with regular 54w, 42w, 32w, 24w, 16, 12 gauges. I wish I could go to 56w-13 on this, but I know the neck would protest.

Scale length: 24 7/8"
Nut width: 1 11/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at bridge: 2 5/16"
Body length: 20 7/8"
Lower bout width: 17"
Upper bout width: 12 1/2"
Side depth at endpin: 3 1/2"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: solid maple
Bracing type: tonebar
Fretboard: rosewood
Bridge: rosewood adjustable
Neck feel: medium C rear shape, 9 1/2" board radius

Condition notes: it's missing its pickguard, the tuners are swapped but still old (though the covers for them are original), and I added one strap button at the heel to match the one at the tail. The finish is faded and has lots of wear and tear and scratches everywhere, but it still looks handsome. The fretboard inlay is original but I've added to it -- all of the pearl "dots" in the middle of the fretboard are added-on save the very last one at the 15th fret -- that was installed to hide a screw that National added at the factory. My new pearl dots all hide extra reinforcement screws that secure the fretboard more securely to the magnesium rod that forms the core of the neck.

Classy inlay, huh? Original bone nut...

The "zig-zag" or "lightning-bolt" National bridge has some upper-edge wear but it's still kicking.

Unlike the F-holes tailpiece these often wore, this one has an original Kluson tailpiece. It's a nice'n, though.

The National serial number dates it to 1951.

While not obvious at first, the maple back has a ton of medium figure to see when you hit the light in just the right way.


Rob Gardner said…
Great guitar, lots of volume and punch. And way cooler headstock than my 57 National 1155.
Phillips said…
Did I give you the bug with the archtops again...lol
That sure is a pretty,good sounding one right there
Jake Wildwood said…
Phil: nah, I'd been scheming, but I did appreciate yours. ;)