1946 Gretsch-made Bacon Belmont Jumbo Flattop Guitar

I didn't think I'd get the pleasure to work on a second of these Gretsch-made Bacon guitars (because they're so excruciatingly-rare), but the owner(s) of this one found me out through my blog post from a couple years back and sent this one here for work. Thanks! I love these curious old Gretsch warhorses. It's been in the lineup for work for a while, but the quiet season is finally upon me and I've been making great strides in my backlog, recently.

Let's admit it right now, though: these are incredibly cool guitars. They're jumbo-sized, have deco-to-the-hilt looks, a bizarre bridge with an archtop-style adjustable saddle, and that signature Gretsch "swingy-New York-cowboy" style. When this was built, Gretsch owned the Bacon name, so it's perfectly in line for them to build Bacon-branded guitars to fit alongside the Gretsch-Bacon banjos of the time.

This one has a serial number of 1452 at the headstock and that places it right around 1946 per the usual Gretsch tables.

Tonewise, they fit right between a flattop and an archtop -- they're kind-of brash and punchy but have a strangely-satisfying low-E string grunt and warmth. I really like the way flatpicking little lower-note lines sounds on these behind a chord. They're a strange box, though, because their extra-long scale (26 1/4") and big size means you sort-of just want to rock jazzy nonsense on them all night long despite their cowboy cool.

Work included: a neck reset, bridge reglue and minor relocation (for intonation purposes), replacement tuner buttons, fret level/dress, new binding for the neck, cleaning, a replacement pickguard (cut on the same lines as the warped original celluloid pickguard), hairline crack cleats/repair to a longer crack on the top, and setup. It plays perfectly with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret and has plenty of adjustment room up/down at the adjustable saddle. The neck is straight. I've got it strung with 52w-11 gauges because of that long scale length. These 11s are at the same tensions 12s would be on a more normal 25 1/2" or so scale.

Scale length: 26 1/4"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at bridge: 2"
Body length: 21 1/8"
Lower bout width: 16 7/8"
Waist width: 9 1/2"
Upper bout width: 12"
Side depth at endpin: 4 3/8"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: flamed maple ply
Neck wood: two-piece (w/stripes) figured maple
Bracing type: ladder
Fretboard: Brazilian rosewood, bone nut
Bridge: Brazilian rosewood, rosewood adjustable saddle (compensated)
Neck feel: medium-fast C, ~12" board radius

Condition notes: pretty clean finish, huh? It has the usual finish weather-checking that you'd expect, however. Also one repaired small hairline crack on the lower-bout-treble-side, replacement tuner buttons, new binding on the neck, and replacement pickguard.

Killer headstock veneer, right?

The pearl inlay in the fretboard recalls Gretsch banjos from the time. The original frets are in good order, too, with only a little height taken off of them -- they still have many years of use to go.

While the new pickguard isn't the same ruddy tint as the original, it's a pretty close match to the flavor of the original pickguard.

I love this crazy bridge design. I have small fantasies of what this might've sounded like with x-bracing. Adjustable bridges like this on a flattop are just so, so convenient...

The original tuner buttons were falling-apart, so some 1960s Harmony-style tuner buttons off of damaged tuners made nice, authentic-looking donors.


Dr. Pam said…
Jake has given me a wonderful, usable memory of my father! Words can not express how grateful I am to have found his work online and contacted him. His devotion to restoring old instruments is a treasure to those of us who cherish these vintage works of art. Thank you, again, Jake. You have helped make memories of my father truly come to life. I can't wait to play it now!
Al Milburn said…
Hi from CA!
I've had two of these fascinating Bacon Belmont guitars. One was sold to a guy in Philly, who played in a Western Swing ensemble. The second is in my shop now where it'll receive all new binding and rosette material, as well as a neck re-set. The original bridge had been converted to pin-style, but I was lucky to find an original, never installed bridge on line. Although the original saddle is present, I'll make a few additionals of different materials, including bone, to satisfy my curiosity. I like these big rhythm guitars, perfect for my style. Punchy, clean and warm!
Al Milburn