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Outside the Bell Curve

I've eaten lobsters heavier than this '61 dot neck (really). This bad boy weighs in a 7 lbs and one half ounce. That's more than 4 ounces lighter than the previous lightweight champ.

The specs on ES-335s and their brethren fall within a fairly well defined range even though, within that range,  they are all over the place. The pickups are almost always between 7.4K and 8.7K (more or less), the weight can be as low as 7 lbs 5 oz. for a stoptail 335 to 9.5 lbs for a Bigsby ES-345 or 355. There are tighter ranges to things like nut width-probably because the nuts were mass produced and ranges that follow production years like body depth. Body depth, as I’ve written before was thinner on may 58 and 59 ES’s but by the end of 59 was within a range of  a few hundredths of an inch. And, of course, few guitars actually match the published specifications. I’m not completely obsessive about these things-in fact I don’t usually check much other than the nut width and the neck depth at the first and 12th fret. I’ll check the DC resistance if somebody asks me to. Things like body depth and even weight don’t really concern me unless they seem to fall way outside of the expected range. Then I get real interested. I recently acquired a ’61 dot neck that seemed kind of light. I didn’t give it very much thought until my tech mentioned how light he thought it was. I agreed but figured it was somewhere near the lower end. The lightest ES-335 I had ever encountered was another ’61 that weighed in at around 7 lbs 5 ounces. I would have expected the lightest to be a ’59 with the thinner body depth but maybe the big neck makes up for that. Then I figured maybe the later ones with the cutout in the centerblock would be the lightest-like maybe an early ’63 with the cutout and a smaller neck. But no, the lightest ’63 I’ve encountered was in the same ballpark of just under 7.5 lbs. This particularly light ’61 weighed in a 7 lbs one half ounce. That’s 4 and a half ounces lighter than its nearest competitor. That’s getting into Telecaster territory. What might have made the difference is that this ’61 has the centerblock cutout-the earliest I’ve ever seen it. It is a very late ’61-December for sure and I have seen the cutout in an early ’62, so it isn’t that much of a headscratcher in that regard. Certainly the cutout and the fact that there is a bit less mahogany in the thinner neck ’60-early ’63 335s (and mahogany is a pretty heavy wood) might have tipped the scales in the favor of lightness. Interestingly, the weight of the guitar doesn’t seem to correspond much to the tone, although I think big necks might but that’s a different topic that’s been covered before.  The biggest advantage of a very lightweight guitar is for old folks like me who can’t shoulder 9 lbs for more than a few tunes without moaning about our aching backs (getting old sucks). The difference between 7 lbs and even 8 lbs is glaring if you don’t have the back for it. So, I’m always looking for the exceptions to the little rules that we expect all ES-335s/345s and 355s to follow. One offs get me excited. Things like Mickey Mouse ears on a 66 or a wide nut on a 67 or bound f-holes on a 60’s 355 make me want to buy them all. My next post will be about a true one off-a 1962 ES-355 in sunburst which is rare enough but with factory bound f-holes as well.

2 Responses to “Outside the Bell Curve”

  1. Gordon Walker says:

    Charlie,
    Happy Halloween !
    Still reading your blog regularly, and still loving it.
    There’ve been a couple of new posts this w/e and that’s been fun.
    Always a bright spot in my day when there’s a new post.
    Keep up the good work.
    Regards,

    gw

  2. RAB says:

    I agree, always look forward to these postings. Would classic era (1958-64) Epiphone ES guitars qualify for a few words? Like my mint ’62 Riviera?!

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