1939 Gibson-made Cromwell G-4 Archtop Guitar

I've had some really good Kalamazoo-style archtops in over the last year or so. This is one of them! It's got roar, punch, and a very healthy dose of lower-mids velvet. The top-end doesn't have that percussive pow-pow-pow that a carved-top would have, but it's vibrant and it does leap. I've played a lot of the same model in Gibson's Kalamazoo-branded get-up (the KG-32), and they've all been good, but this one definitely sounds better than average. It's a sound that'll work well for old-time backup (it has a growly voice that works well for flattop-style bass runs), retro singer/songwriter chord-thumping, or jazzy/swingy chord-melody/picking. Fingerpicked blues guys might find it useful, too, as there's enough headroom to really pick it hard.

A consignor sent this in for sale and it arrived in a bit of a funk -- it had a tailpiece (not original, but old) but no hanger for it, the board had been "planed" and refretted but it wasn't level and the fretting was terrible, there was replacement binding on the neck, the bridge base was original but the top was not and had too much compensation, and it didn't have any tuners. Despite the obvious playwear and usewear throughout, though, all the bracing was in good order and it has no cracks.

This is an interesting version of a Cromwell G-4 because it's so late in the game for the brand. The factory order number in the soundhole seems to be preceded with an E, which places it at 1939. If it's not, it would be surprising, because it has maple back and sides (the back might be ply maple) and I usually only see that in the '38-39 era.

Work included: a board plane, refret with pyramid-shaped medium-jumbo stock, new cream side binding on the neck to match the rest of the binding, a set of late-'50s Harmony-style tuners, new tuner ferrules, a new bridge topper/saddle cut from an old '50s mandolin bridge, new tailpiece hanger, adjustments to the pickguard mount, cleaning, and a good setup. The neck is straight and it plays with bang-on 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret. The strings are 54w, 42w, 32w, 24w, 16, 12 -- regular light-medium.

Scale length: 24 3/4"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 9/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2 1/16"
Body length: 20 3/8"
Lower bout width: 16"
Upper bout width: 11 3/8"
Side depth at endpin: 3 1/4"
Top wood: solid spruce, press-arched
Back/sides wood: solid maple sides (flamed), maple back (ply?)
Bracing type: hybrid fan/x-pattern
Fretboard: rosewood
Bridge: rosewood
Neck feel: medium V, 10" radius board

Condition notes: tons of light scratching all over the top and sides, a lot of "washboard" pickwear near the fretboard extension, replacement binding at the neck, replacement tuners, replacement bridge top, replacement tailpiece (but older).

Original bone nut, here.

I love the look of the Cromwell "center stripe" down the neck and the extra-large pearl dots. It's deco-cool.

Note that when I refret over binding, I do it with the binding in place, so the frets go right to the edge of the board, giving extra finger-room.

The firestripe pickguard is so classy.

There's adjustment up/down on the bridge and I've compensated the top properly.

While the tuners aren't original, they're pretty close in looks to the originals.

There's some nice figure in the sides, though the dark sunburst doesn't let you see it all that much.

Here's my replacement hanger for the tailpiece. It's the wrong tailpiece type, I think (but is older -- '40s or '50s), and has a curve to the trapeze part of it, but it works just fine and has air-clearance over the top, so I'm happy with it. I made this little hanger for the tailpiece from random hardware in my parts-bin. It's settled-in and working just fine, though I can include an extra (vintage) tailpiece as backup if desired.


Nick R said…
I see that the pickguard screw is a Gibson style Phillips- that dates it to 1939. The replacement tuners do not have the original Phillips screws which were introduced in 1939.
Nick R said…
Sorry, my eyes are playing up- it is not a Phillips which suggests it is 1938- or 1939 before the change of screw type. I was sure on my first viewing it was a Phillips screw but I was wrong!
Jake Wildwood said…
LOL, Nick, don't get too caught-up in the screws. Almost all of them are replacements from my parts-bins. It had individual tuners, originally, and probably the Phillips-style, because the holes are the larger ones that the bigger screws usually left.
Will Adams said…
I have a '37 Capital-branded version of this guitar. What a joy to play!
Nick R said…
I have just bought one of these Cromwell guitars. It has the same tailpiece as on this one- but complete. I noticed the same tailpiece on the Old Kraftsman branded version of this guitar that you worked on a while back.