1950 Gibson SJ-200 Jumbo Guitar

A vintage Gibson SJ-200 or J-200 has been on my friend Mike's list for a long time and he gained this one (in a dilapidated state) through trade with a guy way out in the middle of the country. Its factory order number places it at 1950 and it's one of the early models with the single-X bracing layout and two traditional tonebars rather than the double-X pattern of later Gibson jumbos. This makes it lighter in the top, and to my ears, with a rounder bass than your average guitar of this type.

Work was exhaustive -- it had loose and damaged and added bracing all over the place, a failed neck block and upper bout area on the top, fretwork needing to be done, a neck reset needing to be done, and all manner of trivialities all rolled into one giant project. It's all done, now, and I've found some creative ways to address some of the problems without breaking his piggy bank while also making sure it's a rugged, functional guitar for touring use (which is where it is heading-off to right now).

So -- the good of this guitar is that much of its "heart" is original. The bad is that the top was refinished ages ago (it looks good, mind you), it has a replacement pickguard (though with dots borrowed from the original pickguard for color-matching's sake), the tuners are so-so replacements, and it's been rather beat-up. Mike's also a lefty so I've filled and recut the saddle slot to enable a lefty setup and stringing.

Even with all of the flaws, it's now a fantastic player and has an outsized, balanced, full sound. After the pics were taken a Baggs soundhole pickup was fit and I can't wait to see what this guitar will get up to out in the gigging universe.

Ready for some horror show? Here are internal/repair shots...

This is what was found (above) when I yanked the back off...

Braces were out of position and split/lifting at ends, it had a whole new "tone bar" beastie brace added, and there were popsicle sticks everywhere.

My favorite part was the popsicle stick under a giant plywood reinforcement "brace -- neither of which were glued-in very well and came right up with a few gentle taps.

Though, I dunno, the back with the popsicle sticks stuck under the braces was pretty good, too!

Here's everything (new bracing, old bracing, new cleats) gluing-up.

Here's the back gluing up.

The big crack in the back was not at all flush before repairs. Once I took things apart, it became quite evident that a lot of nasty, weird, grey-black fill was used. After chipping it off, I had ragged edges at the crack's meeting point. I trimmed them and fit them as much as possible an then glued it up.

On the inside (underneath long cleats that now hide the whole crack and reinforce it), I cut a V-shaped channel which gave some more "wiggle room" to get the crack flush on the outside and fitting closer. On the inside, I filled it like a welding job, sort-of, to give it more strength and surface area for the cleats to do their job on.


Mason N. said…
I'm going to miss that SJ, It strikes the heart strings, pure soul that guitar has. I'm glad you and Mike were able to fix "The Whispering Giant" and bring it new life.
Elasticman said…
Mike -
If you ever tire of that old beast, I'll give her a good home :)
- Lefty Dan (elasticman)
Rob Gardner said…
Boy, this one is really Lazarus back from the dead. What a train wreck. And I don't think those are popcicle sticks I think they are medical tongue depressors and the ones with points are garden markers (based on my forensic analysis). But what a noble old beast it is now. Wish it was mine.