1930s Gibson L-12 Carved-Top Archtop Guitar

Both the factory order number and serial number on this guitar are entirely illegible, but its features date it between '32 and '34, though it could be a '31 or '35... maybe. The L-12 was made as not-quite an L-5 but it is fancy and upscale. The back and sides are of flamed maple, it has gussied-up binding and inlay (the board inlay is particularly nice), and it's built slightly-nicer than your average mass-market Gibson carved-top (read: L-48, L-50) from the time.

This one's been around the block, however, and has a funky refinish everywhere save the top and peghead and the pedhead and the top have overspray, anyhow. There are a myriad of questionable old repairs but, after service here, it's quite stable and sounds and feels amazing. It's like putting on a nice old glove when playing it.

Work included: too much! It got a neck reset (well, re-reset), board plane and refret with jumbo stock (the board had been lathered in finish -- ew), minor seam re-repairs, minor binding repairs, mending of the original pearl-button tuners, mending of the tailpiece, cleaning (where possible), compensation of the bridge, installation of a pickup and wiring harness, and a setup. Its neck is straight, the truss-rod works, and it plays with bang-on 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret, strung with 54w-12 nickel-wound strings.

Scale length: 24 3/4"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at bridge: 2 1/8"
Body length: 20 1/4"
Lower bout width: 16"
Upper bout width: 11 1/2"
Side depth at endpin: 3 1/4"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: solid flamed maple, carved back
Bracing type: tonebar
Fretboard: rosewood
Bridge: rosewood
Neck feel: medium V-shape w/soft ridge, 9.5" radius board

Condition notes: the top and headstock are oversprayed while back, sides, and neck are refinished in a very amateur fashion. The pickguard is a nice-quality replacement. The tailpiece, tuners, and bridge are original but have mended or modified parts. The pickup is a new DeArmond repro-style unit and has a wiring harness under the pickguard that runs to the tailpiece's endpin jack.

That new DeArmond pickup sounds excellent. It's high-output, thick, and juicy. The adjustable poles make it 1000% more useful than usual, too.

The original "arms" of the trapeze tailpiece were pitted and rusted and very weak. One side had broken at the hinge. I replaced them with this parts-bin, heavier-duty unit. Boy, though -- it's time-consuming and worrying to open-up the hinge on the original tailpiece mount to get the new wire in.

The f-holes have that gorgeous, slim-size Gibson cut to them.

When this came in, the top two (D&G) tuner button-shafts were bent at 30 or 40-degree angles. The owner wanted me to re-bend them straight. I warned against this (3 out of 4 times they break if you attempt it), but he wanted to go-ahead anyhow. I bent the first one back fine, but the second (D-string) one broke. Gr!

Much-massaging later, I installed the original pearl button on a similar vintage shaft and finagled it onto the original plates. This meant a little modification but the tuners work just fine, now.

To get the pickguard bracket to mount the guard at the right height, I needed to modify it a bit so it'd come farther down on the body.