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Archive for December, 2010

Rare, Strange and Wonderful

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

This is the Bigsby "palm pedal" It bends only the G and B strings. This looks like the horseshoe version for Tele's and the like but there is also a long tailed version that I've seen on a few 335's

Gibson wants to make money. It’s a business and businesses in this country look for clever ways to separate you from your hard earned greenbacks. Back in the 60’s, when I first started buying guitars, the case didn’t come with the guitar. It cost extra. You could walk out of the store with just the guitar but most people were spending so much money, they weren’t likely to let their prized new Gibson be subjected to the usual slings and arrows. So you ponied up the 49.95 for the hard case. But they had other ways of upping the entry fee into the world of expensive guitars. You could buy all sorts of extras. You could add a Bigsby for a few extra dollars, an extra cable? a few sets of strings? a bottle of guitar polish? some picks, a string winder, a capo, a stand and maybe a Fuzztone. These are all very common add-ons and every music store proprietor worth his “nut sauce” knows that this is where the profits are. Every once in a while I come across an accessory that is most uncommon. How about the Bigsby palm pedal? It mounts pretty much like a normal Bigsby but it has two (or up to 6) arms that bend the strings individually. I think you can set them up on any 2 strings you like although I’m told that they typically are used on the B and G strings.  I’ve seen this on a 335, although they are much more common on Telecasters. Probably has something to do with country music players. If you see one of these on a 335, let me know. I think it would very cool to own

Gibson case cover. These are über rare, especially one with the Gibson name on it. this is the only one I've ever seen (and it's mine).

one. Another accessory I’ve recently come across is a Gibson case cover. I’ve seen maybe 4 or 5 of these in 20 years. They are most often seen are very high end Gibsons like ES-5’s or

Super 400’s. I guess when struggling young players bought a Gibson back in the day, it was hard enough to spring for the case, let alone a case for the case. I wonder if there’s a rain cover for the case cover so your case cover doesn’t get wet?  How do you value these cool old oddities? I guess you throw ’em up on Ebay and see who bites. The one pictured is on a 61 ES 345. The other oddball accessory I see every now and then is strictly a Fender thing but I wonder if Gibson ever tried to market something like it. Fender, in the early 60’s licensed someone to make something called a “body guard”. That’s not a guy in sunglasses and a Smith and Wesson. It’s a form fitting plastic cover for the back of your guitar which was meant to be left on the guitar while you played it. It’s purpose was to keep your belt buckle from scratching the hell out of your finish. We’ve all seen “buckle rash” on a used guitar so it seems like a good idea. While Gibson’s finishes always seemed a bit harder than Fenders (you could gouge a Fender by dropping a pick on it), I don’t recall them ever marketing anything like the Fender body guard. I remember when I got my first real “professional” guitar-a 64 Fender Jaguar-I inquired about the body guard. It was something like $29.95 and way out of my price range considering I only paid $225 for it at Manny’s on 48th Street. . A side note: If you put your precious Fender guitar in the case with the body guard on it and left it for 30 or 40 years, the foam backing would react with the nitrocellulose lacquer and DESTROY the finish. I guess there’s a certain poetic justice in that.

This covered the entire back of your guitar and kept you from ruining the finish with your belt buckle. Unfortunately if you left it on long enough it would ruin your finish without the help of your belt buckle

Weather Checking

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Here's a good example of checking on a 59 335 (note the long guard). Checking can go in any direction but frequently its found everywhere like on this example from Tom H's www.es-335.net site

You know when you are thinking about going outside and it looks really cold out there and you want to know how to dress so you go to the internet and punch in www.weather.com? Well, that isn’t the type of weather checking I’m talking about.  What I want to talk about is when your vintage guitar goes from one extreme-like hot-to another, say, cold. I assume you’re with me so far. These old guitars are clear coated with nitrocellulose lacquer rather than the polyurethane that is often used today to make a hard clear finish-like the one on your floors. The great advantage of poly is that it stays relatively elastic so when it encounters big changes in temperature, it expands and contracts so it doesn’t crack. But poly makes for a less than ideal finish for a guitar because it changes the way the wood responds to sound waves. There are those who believe that nitro does that too but not to the same extent. Most folks believe that nitro is

Checking can show up anywhere on a guitar, sometimes at stress points like the neck join but sometimes in places that get no stress at all.

better for musical instruments but it has its drawbacks. One is that the Federal Government doesn’t like paints that give off a large amount of ozone layer depleting fumes. Back in 1958, nobody worried about that. Nitro is still used but the formulation has changed so that its less harmful to the environment. Just an aside-it has nothing to do with weather checking. Another aspect of nitro is that it sinks into the wood as it dries and allows it to resonate nicely. It also gets very, very hard the longer it cures. It also gets brittle and that’s where the problem lies. Normally, when you go from hot to cold, things contract. When you go from cold to hot, they expand. You learned that in high school physics but you probably forgot. When you carry your guitar from Eric’s house to Jimi’s house to jam and it’s 15 degrees outside and when you get to Jimi’s, he’s got the heat turned up to 75, your guitar is going to react. Conventional wisdom says that you should leave your guitar in the case and let it “acclimate”. That will usually keep the guitar from checking. But not always. Checking is cracking. As the guitar contracts (gets smaller) in the cold, so does the finish. When it gets hot, the guitar and the finish expand. The problem is that they don’t expand and contract at the same rate. If the guitar expands faster than the finish, then the finish will crack or check. When the guitar contracts from the cold at a different rate from the guitar, it can also crack. The key to keeping this from happening is making sure the changes in temperature aren’t too abrupt. So leaving your guitar in the case when you come in from the cold allows it to change its size more gradually which also allows the finish to change its size more gradually, thus keeping it from checking. It interesting how some guitars check and others don’t. I’ll give you a real life example. I picked up a beautiful red 1959 ES-345 that had been played nearly its entire life by its only owner. He made sure he took good care of it and kept it at a constant temperature where possible so even though the guitar was played almost daily for most of 50 years, the guitar never checked. I also recently drove that long, long I-80 corridor from New York to Indiana to pick up a 1961 ES 335 that had been stored in its case, unplayed, for 48 years. Even though that guitar was in its case the whole time, it was in a closet that wasn’t

This is a pretty extreme example where not only has the finish checked but dirt, grime and player sweat have found their way into the cracks. This rarely happens since checking usually doesn't cause an open crack in the finish. Normally you can't even feel them if you run your finger across the them because the crack doesn't go to the surface of the finish. This is one of my all time favorite 345's from ES-335.net.

heated in the winter or cooled in the summer and it must have 1,000 vertical checks in the finish. Even though the virtually unplayed guitar is otherwise mint, it’s still weather checked. The lesson here? Store your guitar carefully and transport it carefully if you want that nice finish to stay as nice as it was when it left the factory. Finally, what does checking do to the value of a vintage guitar? Surprisingly, not much. Collectors actually seem to like a bit of checking. It gives it its aged look, I guess. But, I think that if you have 2 near mint guitars and one is unchecked and the other is heavily checked, you can expect to pay a premium for the unchecked one. How much of a premium will really depend on how much you want the unchecked one.

Hello Gbase

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

This '61 Dot Neck hasn't been played for 48 years. It has sat in its case in a closet since 1963. I put new strings on it after I took the photo. Nobody wraps the ball end in thread anymore. . I could have saved the old ones but that's just going a bit too far, don't you think? I have this baby in my hands and it is for sale. Read on and find out where it is.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be getting a little more commercial with this site. That doesn’t mean the valuable information will stop dead inits tracks and the message will be buy, buy, buy. Quite the contrary. I’ll show you what I have and tell you the backstory but it will be up to you to click the link to find out how much of your hard earned cash its going to take to take that baby home with you. There is a disturbing disdain for Capitalism around the internet and yet, the major use of said internet is for commerce. Yes, I’m a Capitalist. I sell stuff for more than I pay for it. But think about this: If you spend big bucks on a 64 ES-335 (they run from a low of $10K for a Bigsby model to over $25K for a mint stop tail) and you own it for a few years and then decide to sell it, will you then find out it was really a 67? If you buy it from an individual, you have a really good chance that exactly that will happen. If you buy it from a dealer, you have less of a chance of that happening. If you buy it from me, you have virtually no chance of that happening. I may mistake a 66 for a 67 or even an early 65 for a 64 but the difference in value is minimal in these cases. Gibson didn’t change its models on January first. I’m selling guitars based on their features-not their calendar year anyway. If I have a narrow necked 65 and a wide necked 65, you’re going to pay more for the wide necked one because its more desirable. Remember supply and demand from your Economics 101 course they made you take in college? Same deal applies to guitars. The point is that you are paying a premium for knowing what you’re getting. If you think I’ve priced something too high, shoot me an email and tell me why and we can negotiate. That’s how supply and demand works. I may tell you you’re nuts if you think you’re getting a ’61 dot neck for $10,000 but it doesn’t cost you anything to ask. All I can say is no (or “you’re nuts” or “stand back, son, you bother me”). So here’s your link to my store on Gbase. There isn’t that much there right now but I’ve got another 61 dot neck coming in, a 59 sunburst 345 and I’m hoping to snag an early 60’s ES 345 that looks close to mint. If you’re looking for a particular 335, 345 or 355, let me know and I’ll track one down for you. There’s never a finders fee. I’ll either point you to a guitar for sale or sell you one that I have in my stash or on my radar.  If you email me and I don’t get back right away, be patient-I’m not doing this full time. I have to keep my day job for awhile yet. And, of course, the nice folks from the Les Paul Forum are always welcome here. In fact, even the bozos there can stop by. The advice is still free.

Good-bye, LPF

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I’m not a big user of the many guitar forums on the internet but I’ve spent the most time on the LPF (Les Paul Forum). Since there aren’t enough ES-335 enthusiasts to sustain a similarly targeted place for ES aficionados, I hung out in the “Other Gibsons” area of the LPF. There are some very knowledgeable and friendly folks who frequent that forum and I rather enjoyed some of the spirited interplay between folks with “differing” opinions on all sorts of topics. I learned a lot as well. Lately, it seems I’ve been taking a little more than my fair share of abuse from of the forum regulars. I don’t plan to defend myself here other than to say that I’ve never mentioned any guitar being for sale in a post on the LPF. The accusation is that I “pump and dump” i.e. I hype a particular guitar, then sell it for an inflated price as a result of pumping it up. While its true that I sell some of the guitars I post over there, I don’t reference or link to Ebay or TGP or anywhere else. I run a link to this blog which, up until now, I’ve tried to keep relatively commercial free. Well, now that I’m not posting on the LPF, this site will become somewhat more commercial. I will mention which guitars I have acquired are for sale in the posts. I won’t turn it into a dealers website and I’ll  continue the informational stuff as I always have. I’ll continue the Ebay ES of the week. And, I’ll be adding a new feature called “Road Trip” which will chronicle my adventures in searching and buying vintage ES’s around the corner and around the world. If the guitar is purchased off of Ebay, I’ll talk about what I knew going in, what I found out from the seller and what actually was delivered to me. In the event the guitar was bought off of Ebay, I’ll call the feature something other than “Road Trip”-I just have to think of a catchy name. Like “Somebody Bet on the Bay” or something. If you’re less than 40 years old or you have no interest in American folk music, that’s a line from “The Camptown Races” by Stephen Foster (doo-dah, doo-dah). Anyhow, this actually frees me up a bit to talk about a lot more personal experiences with the guitars I find without the fear of sounding too much like I’m trying to sell them. The truth is, I’m trying to sell them. Some of the people on the LPF seem to feel that anyone who makes any money on a vintage guitar must be a lowlife (unless it’s their guitar, of course). I am a hobby dealer. I am dedicated to seeking out and finding the best ES 335, 345’s and 355’s out there, buying them, making sure they are what they are supposed to be, changing out non vintage or incorrect parts for the correct parts (and disclosing that fact) and selling them for a profit. If it goes well, maybe it will turn into less of a hobby. I sure enjoy getting out there and meeting nice people and trying to make a deal that works for everyone. I do promise you one thing: I will buy the best guitars out there and sell them to you for more than I paid for them. If it was easy to figure out what year and what model someone has and what’s right or wrong with a particular guitar, you wouldn’t need me. But, before you spend as much as $75,000 on an ES-335, you might want someone who knows a thing or two about them to take a look at it or at least weigh in on the price. That would be me. When I can, I’ll also price my guitars for the real world which will probably annoy some of the big dealers who think it’s still 2007. It’s true, however, that sometimes you have to pay top dollar to get the best of the best. As always, advice is still free.