1930s Gretsch Model 50 Carved-Top Archtop Guitar




Update: the owner told me that he'd crowdsourced some info on this model and that it's likely a '35 Model 50.

This classy Gretsch carved-top archtop guitar is really a treat. A customer sent it in for repair and I have to admit that I simply don't know what model it is, as it doesn't conform to the usual catalog specifications and "three-sunburst" look of the Gretsch archtops from the mid-'30s that I'm used to. This one's nicer in trim, has a slimmer and faster neck with huge steel-bar reinforcement inside, and has a more-bitey/snappier tone to it. Handling is fast and easy.

The top is carved, solid spruce while the back and sides are ply, figured maple. I love the shield-like headstock celluloid inlay and everything is mostly original, though the non-adjustable bridge is possibly a replacement (though Gretsch did use non-adjustable ones early-on) and some of the tuners (and 5 of the tuner buttons) are replacements.

Work included: a neck reset, fret level/dress, cleaning, mod to the bridge (fitting a saddle insert), and setup.

Setup: action is spot-on at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret. I played it safe with the neck and used a set of 50w-11 gauges but gauged-up the high B&E strings to 16/12. The neck is straight in service.

Scale length: 24 3/4"
Nut width: 1 11/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 7/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2"
Body length: 19 3/4"
Lower bout width: 16"
Waist width: 9 1/8"
Upper bout width: 11 3/8"
Side depth at endpin: 3 1/2"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: ply maple
Neck wood: maple
Bracing type: tonebars
Fretboard: ebonized(?) maple, pearl dots
Bridge: ebonized maple or pearwood, synthetic saddle insert (compensated)
Neck feel: slim C/D shape, ~10" board radius

Condition notes: there's the usual finish wear-and-tear throughout and there are lots of small nicks, dings, and scratches. The bridge is possibly a replacement and parts of the tuners are, too.







The f-holes on these first-generation, carved-top Gretsch guitars are sooooooo thin and nicely-cut.



To make the non-adjustable bridge more useful after the neck reset, I cut a slot in it and fit a synthetic saddle with compensated top-edge to it. Now action adjustments at the bridge can be handled via shimming the saddle up and down or replacing it with one of a different height.





I'm not sure if the neck was speed-necked or if it came this way from the factory. Either way, it looks and feels great.





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