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Deep and Dark

Back in the deep dark 40's, a Gibson sunburst could look like this. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Back in the deep dark 40’s, a Gibson sunburst could look like this. Pretty cool, if you ask me. That’s a Kalamazoo but you know who made it.

Most of you are aware that the little two on the back of the headstock above (or below) the serial number means the guitar is a factory second…the mark of shame for a guitar that couldn’t pass QC. The problem was usually a little teeny flaw in the finish. But not always. The “2” designation can mean almost anything. The good news is that, mostly, you can’t even find the flaw and the fact that it’s a factory second doesn’t affect the price or the desirability. Recently, I acquired a very early (probably first week in January) ’59 ES-335 with the “2” on the back of the headstock.  I have only seen one other factory second this early in the run-a fairly early 58 335 and it wasn’t anything obvious, although the guitar was heavily played so its hard to tell what was going on. But the flaw on this one is sort of glaring-and kind of cool if you ask me. It looks a little like a 40’s J45 with that deep, deep sunburst. Under blacklight, the guitar glows exactly as it should but a flaw shows up under the black near where it transitions to red. So, it would appear that the painter was going deeper and deeper until the flaw disappeared. QC was not amused. The back is, however,  totally normal. I think that, in this case, the “2” kind of saves the guitar from it’s appearance. I would have said a refinish was possible if not likely if not for the “2”. I’ve been through the guitar from end to end and there is no sign that this finish didn’t come from the factory this way. It is also not the only one like this I’ve seen. There is a late 58 (which I also think is very cool looking) owned or formerly owned by an acquaintance of mine which also has an unusually heavy dark element to the sunburst. No “2” on that one, however. At least not that I can recall.

One of the great things about these old guitars is all the hand work that is done. Myself, I love to see the great variations that human hands (and human error) can produce on instruments like these. And not just in the finishes. In the neck carves as well. There are certainly guidelines that hold true for Gibson necks of a given year but there are always, and I mean always, exceptions. I recently had a 59 with a neck that would have been more likely found on a 62-barely .82″ at the first fret. Contrast that with this guitar at .93″ at the first fret. Both 59’s. The human touch at work for sure. There are great variations in body thickness, variations in nut width and neck sets and even knob placement and f-hole location. I’m sure they used templates for the latter two so there isn’t much variation but there is some. But these things don’t get you the dreaded scarlet letter-am I being overly dramatic?. OK, the stamped number “2”.

My larger point here is that the guitar with the weird sunburst is something to be enjoyed (and I’m enjoying it plenty). It is testament to hand crafting and to QC, I suppose. And, if you don’t want your dot neck to look like everyone else’s, you might want to seek out one these freaks with the “2” on their head. It might save you a buck or two and make you stand out in the crowd.

What was there, a special sale on black paint that week? Or maybe the paint guy was still hung over from New years Eve. This guitar is one of the first off the line in 1959.

What was there, a special sale on black paint that week? Or maybe the paint guy was still hung over from New years Eve. This guitar is one of the first off the line in 1959.

58

This 58, while it doesn’t have a “2” designation is still pretty unusual for a 335. This is one of my favorite sunbursts ever. This guitar has character. And, being a bound 58 is probably very close in serial number to the one above it.

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Deep and Dark”

  1. RAB says:

    Yeah, factory 2nd Golden Era Gibsons have never bothered me…even a “flaw” like too flat of a neck angle can be addressed by using a milled-down ABR-1, etc…interesting that guitars with “boo-boo” strips (E.G. small plastic strip forward of the neck pickup like on my ’62 Riviera) weren’t marked as a “2”, eh?

  2. RAB says:

    P.S. re previous comment, Gibson was clearly aware of issues including too flat of a neck angle on a number of circa 1962 ES models and sought to address them before shipping the fiddle…hence the factory-milled (only on the treble side) tuneomatic bridges…the aforementioned Riv came with one of those too and I had a similar vintage 335 with the identical bridge…

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