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Body Depth

The 59 on the right is 1.642 and the 64 on the left is 1.776. that's a difference of close to 10%. Seems like a lot to me. The early ones 58-59 tend to be thinner than the later ones.

We all know them as “thinlines” -so named because the body was thinner than the normal archtop. If you aren’t already aware the ES-335TD stands for ElectricSpanish-335-Thinline Double (pickup). If there’s a C on the end, then its a cherry finish. A N means blonde (or natural). You guys all knew that or if you didn’t, you’d never admit it. Gibson is notorious for being wildly inconsistent with regard to the specifications of its guitars during this period and body depth is perhaps the most inconsistent of all. The factory spec for body depth is 1.75″ but a quick check of my current inventory shows a range from 1.642 to 1.776. That’s a difference you can see (and probably feel after standing with the guitar over your shoulder for a few hours). A quick check of Tom H.’s es-335.net site shows a chart that indicates different depths even within the same year. I don’t measure every aspect of every 335 I get (although perhaps I should start doing so) so I donn’t really have a database that’s any better than Tom’s. I’m going to guess that when they cut the strips for the sides, they weren’t really all that concerned about getting the width of the strip dead on to the factory specc. If there was an end that was a little wide or a little narrow, so what. It was barely noticeable and probably had no effect on the build. Or did it? Wouldn’t it make sense that the center blocks would be precut to size? So, if the body was deep enough, there might be an air space between the top of the block and the top of the guitar? There is normally a piece of spruce between the flat top of the block and the arched top of the guitar but was that custom fitted or precut? Without tearing a bunch of guitars apart, I have no way to know, so we’ll just have to forget that aspect for now. There is certainly some kind of relationship between the depth of the guitar and the weight. But it isn’t consistent, so I don’t think there is any judgement to be made as to whether a “deep” 335 is better than a “shallow” one. ┬áIt appears to have become more consistent by 64 settling down at the deeper 1.7716″. I don’t have any later 335s to measure at the moment but I’m guessing that it stayed pretty consistent as they streamlined the process to accommodate the huge increase in orders that occurred during the guitar boom of the mid 60’s. It wasn’t just body depth that was all over the place either. Weights are always a crapshoot since individual pieces of wood have different weight characteristics like moisture content and density. But so are nut widths as you can see on the same chart on Tom’s site. We’ll get into that in some depth down the road.

8 Responses to “Body Depth”

  1. Michael says:

    I think what you’re talkng about, basically, is hand-crafting. It was less CNC machines and automation, and more hands-on back then. Still an assembly line and sets of specifications, but more individual involvement in the build process. The “big” guitar companies employed actual luthiers and craftsmen then for their regular production stuff…now, not so much.

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Call it handcrafting or call it human error or expediency. These folks never in a million years thought they were building guitars that would be worth as much as 100 times their original price. As long as it played nice and sounded good, it was a Gibson. The variations probably were never even given a second thought.

  3. Roger Bergen says:

    Charlie, very interesting post! One would have thought the “strips” Gibson cut for the thinline model “sides” would have been fairly consistent but those Kalamazoo boys and girls continue to surprise us, eh? The variation would contribute to weight differences though I suspect by not too much. Afterall how much does even a couple linear feet of 1/4″ wide plywood weigh? Perhaps in a future addition to your fine blog you could discuss overall weight differences for classic era thinlines? My ’63 ES-355 mono, stop tailpiece is quite light as 355 models go…8 lbs even!

  4. OK Guitars says:

    Mostly because its a stop-saves about 6 ounces over a Bigs. And being a mono-no VT or choke. I will discuss weight soon.

  5. Roger B. says:

    Thanks Charlie!

  6. I purchased what checks out at a ’68 ES-335 made with a 150-deep body, but predating that model by at least a year. Some have opined that it’s an “employee guitar” and another said that it might be the ghostly “Midnight Blue” guitar made for Kenny Burrell. I’d love to know it’s history, but for now am just enjoying the great action and sound, and scratching my head about how a guitar that has been played so little appears to have had a refret.

  7. cgelber says:

    The new models often preceded the catalog, so, for example, a “new” 69 model would often show up in music stores in 68. I had an ES-340 which didn’t catalog until 69, that had a 68 serial. I’m sure there are other examples out there. What IS unusual is that it’s a sunburst which wasn’t offered, so you’re probably right that it’s an employee guitar. It could be a special order or a prototype as well. I love the unique stuff. Nice find.

  8. Ymel says:

    I thought that es335 -s are around 4,5-5 cm thick!
    I am about ordering a guitar , custom, around 5-6 cm deep. But I see it would be very heavy for my shoulder..

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