1955 National 1155 (Gibson body) Slope Dreadnought Guitar

My buddy Brandon loves old J-45/J-50 guitars. He also loves K&K pickups (acoustic) and DeArmond soundhole pickups (electric). Thus, it makes sense that he'd buy this crazy old J-45-body National (see here and see here for two more) and have me doll it up to combine all three loves.

I'm a fan of these guitars but they do have their quirks. They feature the National-made "Stylist" (magnesium-core, bolted-design) necks and National-made bridges and between the two, the intonation is almost always off at the bridge by more than 1/8" in either direction with the "factory setup." The Stylist necks also warp a little about half the time and stay perfectly true half the time. This one was a lucky one that remained straight, more or less.

Work was a bit extensive for a guitar that essentially just needed a glorified setup and saddle-slot move to play well. It got a refret with jumbos (ohhh this feels so much better than the low original stuff), bridge work (saddle slot fill/recut, pinholes fill/redrill, etc.), new saddle, a slight mod to the aftermarket "holo-flake" Elton-brand pickguard (I recut its soundhole cutout to fit the rosette rather than leave it flush with the soundhole itself), made a new bone nut, and then fit and installed the K&K acoustic pickup and the magnetic DeArmond one. That meant adding a bridge-plate-ground (using copper shielding material) under the bridge. Two side-by-side output jacks are used. Oh, and oh... I added new strap buttons and a replacement neckplate for the adjustable gizmo.

Suffice to say, it plays like an absolute champ and sounds good through either pickup system, though I've only recorded the acoustic sound. Those are 54w-12 nickel strings, by the way -- slightly-used as they're pull-offs from anther guitar in the shop. I think that makes them nice and friendly, though.

Like many of these GibNats, the top is bellied under tension (they're too light!) and the bridge design with its stiff wings and pointy back doesn't help (because the corners always pull away from the curving of the top -- hence why they bolted the heck out of these -- 4 bolts! -- at the factory). The neck alignment also means that you need to have a pretty tall saddle installed unless you want to have a ski-jump effect at the fretboard extension (the necks were, afterall, meant for archtop guitar models to begin with). This also means the DeArmond is shimmed-up a bunch with leather pads.

Normal specs apply -- this has a solid-spruce, x-braced top, solid mahogany back and sides, a magnesium-core neck with mahogany veneer, and it's mostly-original save the saddle, bridge pins, pickguard, super-cool cardinal decal, nut, and pickups. The neck still has the typical Gibson 24 3/4" scale length.

Here are some in-process shots:


Elasticman said…
Haha! About a month ago I almost bought this very guitar with the intent to send it to Jake. Small world.
Jake Wildwood said…
Zactly! Brandon had a slot open in my repair schedule I owed him so I got 'er done... :D
Rob Gardner said…
What is so great about these guitars is that they share the serious quality of a Gibson ’50’s J45/50 body with the attendant great sound, and the deeply eccentric neck system, with its magnesium bar, mahogany shell and auto-shop adjustment hinge, all of which work great, at least on mine. Good playing neck too. And of course if you find one, you can get into a genuine ’50’s Gibson sound for about half the price.

But this one, with its sunburst, cardinal decal and fancy-pants scratch plate, is truly ready for Saturday night…
This is the coolest guitar I’ve seen in 2021