Archive for March, 2012

Wired Differently (Varitone, Again)

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

The early 345s, and this is the earliest one I've owned in the late A30XXX range, have a hand wired Varitone switch with about 20 different components soldered to the switch. This 59 is the earliest known red one, which I had the pleasure of owning for awhile. The Varitone on this one did not suck the tone out of this guitar. This guitar would hold its own with any guitar including a 59 Les Paul.

I’m always awed by people who are wired differently than normal folks like me. That includes musicians who are so talented it makes me want to throw away my guitar and shout from the rooftops how badly I suck at playing after 45 years. It also includes tech geniuses who not only possess the vast amount of knowledge required to be a tech genius but actually understand how these things work. Knowledge is one thing-everybody can get that but understanding is something else. I learned calculus but I never understood it. Therefore I can’t use it. I consider Chris W. from New Jersey to be my personal tech genius and he is the one who answers my arcane tech questions and has worked tirelessly to try to dispel all the bad press the Varitone gets. That is until we both happened on the same conclusion about Varitones. I had owned a lot of 59-61 ES-345s and never once believed that the Varitone was the “evil tone sucker” it was reputed to be. I had, up until I started being a dealer, never owned a 62 or later 345 simply because I like the early ones and they were always relatively cheap (until the bubble). As I started buying up 62-64 ES-345s, I started noticing something distressing. They sounded nasal. yes, something evil WAS sucking the tone out of them and  suddenly the people I had been dismissing as raving lunatics didn’t seem so raving (or lunaticky). So, I did what any inquisitive red blooded American boy would do. I took it apart. What I noticed is that the Varitone in the 62 I was dismantling was different than the ones I had seen in my 59 through 61s. The 59 to 61 Varitone switch has about 20 c0mponents hand soldered to the 6 way switch. The 62 had two big orange square things with lots of little solder “legs” solder to the switch. They were, I found out, multivalue chips that had “printed” capacitors and resistors instead of individual components. I don’t remember if I suggested to Chris that this was somethingto look into or he suggested it to me but we both had the same thought. Maybe there is the original Varitone and then, there is its EVIL TWIN. It would appear, from Chris’ extensive and oh so geeky tests, that the later Varitone and the original Varitone are not the same. I can’t translate his tests into laymans terms any better than to say the original Varitone has what is, for all intents and purposes, a “true” bypass. The difference in tone between position one and taking the VT out of the circuit is imperceptible. That is not the case with at least some of the later “chip” Varitones. Here is a link to Chris’ Varitone paper called “The Variable Varitone”. I might add that they changed the Varitone again during the 60’s. They used a multivalue chip but it was a newer design. And it was blue. I can’t say much about it because I’ve never owned a 345 later than a 65. Perhaps they improved it. perhaps it was cheaper still. Care to make a wager?

Chris also does a video that illustrates “our” point which you can find here. I am currently in possession of his very cool Varitone pedal and I can vouch for the results. Not that I have the credentials to do so-I supplied some of the components so I get to vouch. Vouch, vouch, vouch. OK, I’m done.  This doesn’t mean folks will stop removing the Varitones from their vintage 345s but I hope that it will make them at least give a listen before they do. When I play a 345, I use the bypass position 95% of the time. If it sounds good to you, leave it alone. If it sounds nasal or thin (and its a 62 or later-although I don’t know exactly when the transition began) then perhaps a change is advised. My advice? Take out the entire harness and put in a new 335 harness or just have the choke (the big silver box) disconnected. According to Chris, that will bypass the Varitone but leave your guitar stereo. If you don’t use the Varitone and you really just want a cheaper vintage 335, then take out the harness and put it in the case pocket. The next owner will appreciate that. The good news is that your 345 will be close to half a pound lighter. Or you could just buy a vintage 335…which will leave your wallet around half a pound lighter.

This is what Chris built to test the Varitones from the early and "later" era. I'm not certain of the exact beginning and end of the transition from discreet components to the big "chip" type. I supplied the earlier switch which came out of a late 59. I also supplied the "half" choke (it's a mono circuit in the pedal) which came from a different 59. Chris bought the later switch off of Ebay.

Here are the guts. You can see the one on the right is just a jumble of components and the one on the left-the newer one-is a big orange square thing. I'm sure it was a lot cheaper to make the later one. Is it any wonder that cheaper isn't better?

Price Differential ES-335 to ES-345 to ES-355

Monday, March 26th, 2012

There are 335s with a Varitone but I've never seen a 345 without one. I've seen a 335 with a 345 fingerboard but it didn't have the fancier binding. I think if 345 monos existed, they would be very popular.

When the great Ted McCarty ran Gibson back in the day, he was an innovator and a brilliant marketer. The semi hollow (or semi solid as he is said to have called it) was his idea and was based on trying to find some balance between the sound of a full hollow body and the fully solid body. He wasn’t the only one messing around with the concept but his was a lot simpler than other attempts. In fact, Rickenbacker still takes a solid block of wood and routs chambers for their “semi” hollow series (360 and others) as did Fender for the thinline Tele. Like most good marketers, Mr McCarty saw this as a complete line of instruments from the low end 335 to the top of the line 355. The new Varitone innovation and the stereo wiring would differentiate the models along with a few other, mostly cosmetic, elements. The bottom of the line 335 had dot markers, shared with the cheapest of all the Gibson lines. The 345 would have parallelograms which where a lot more work (and were also plastic) to install and were shared with the SJ and Country Western flattops. The 355 would have real MOP block markers. The body bindings (especially on the front) were more elaborate on the 345 and even more so on the 355. The headstock on the 355 was bigger and fancier and the 355 had an ebony fingerboard whereas the 335 and 345 had rosewood. Keep in mind that ebony was more expensive in 1958 than the now vaunted Brazilian rosewood. In fact, Brazilian was dirt cheap which is why they sold  (and cut) so much of it and pretty much destroyed the species. Environmental issues aside, ebony was considered the “better” (and more durable) material and the high end 355 got it. So, why the counterintuitive valuations in the vintage market? Let’s use 1960-61 as an example. The 335s still had dots, the 345s in red were now common and the 355 was still relatively popular. While 60 and 61’s aren’t the most popular year for any of these (59 is), I think it makes as good an example as any. Let’s compare the market for each. Not the stupid priced market of most Gbase or Ebay sellers but the real market-what these guitars actually sell for. I’ve sold at least a couple of each this year. The 61 dot necks I sold were both solid 9.0-9.5. Average price? $23,000. Both were stoptails and both were red. Three of the 5 or 6 60 and 61 ES-345s I sold this year were stoptails and in 9.5 or higher condition. One was a 9.5 and the other was probably around a 9.0. Average price? $16,000. That’s a difference of 30%. Yikes. I sold only one 61 355 this year but I did sell a couple of 59’s and since they all have trems, I’ll make the comparison anyway. What mucks up the comparison of the 355s is, of course, whether they are mono or stereo. I’ll do both. The  61 I sold went for $10000 (sideways, stereo, Varitone). A 9.5  59 (Bigsby, stereo Varitone) went for $14K. That makes the average $12K. The 59-61 monos went for an average of $13,500 but none were 9.5 condition so the comparison between stereo and mono is not very telling. So much for the details. So why this huge premium for 335s? Conventional wisdom say “oh, folks love the simplicity and workmanlike design of the 335 over its overly ornate counterparts.” While that’s true, to a degree, I don’t think that’s the whole story. I do think the Varitone controversy is a big part of it. The conventional wisdom is that the VT “sucks” the tone out of your guitar. That can be true but is not necessarily true-especially in the early 345s) Big news on this front is coming in my next post. The Bigsby on the 355 without stoptail studs (under pearl dots or “Custom Made” plaque) doesn’t help the 355 mono compete with the 335 either. In fact if you compare a Bigsby only 335 with a mono 355, the difference in price is rather slight. The problem with that comparison is that there aren’t very many Bigsby only 335s.  I’ve also found that many 335 collectors, who already have a stoptail 335 or two or three seem to have the desire to add a mono 355 to the herd. In fact, every mono 355 I’ve sold this year (4 or 5 of them) have gone to a player or collector who already has a stoptail 335 or 345. I also believe that if mono 345s existed, they would be hugely popular (who doesn’t like the fancy fret markers) and if stoptail 355s weren’t so freaking rare, they would also give the 335 a run for your money. So maybe Ted got it right-by keeping the models from competing with each other (by making them just different enough) he kept the entire line selling throughout the era and into the 80’s.  It was only after McCarty left in 66 and Norlin took over in 69 and started messing things up that the sales and quality began to seriously erode.

I really want one of these. The über rare stoptail mono 355. This is a 60. If there were more of these, they would be hugely popular but, alas, there are only a few of these.

Uh, Oh. Don’t Go in There

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Here's a '60 335 harness with bumblebees and Centralab pots. Some don't have as much plastic shielding. Some only have it between the jack and the tone pot.

Nope. We aren’t doing a slasher movie where you know that the girlfriend is going to get sliced and diced when she goes out to the garage to get a beer from the fridge (usually after a toss with the hot boyfriend). We’re actually going to talk about the thing that separates the tinkers from the pros. The harness. The reason most 335s still have their original harnesses is because most of us just don’t want to deal with getting the darn thing back in there. There are methods for doing just this all over the internet-in fact, I think I may have linked one somewhere along the way. None of them work that well. The string method, the plastic tube method, the forceps and the chopstick all fail at some level especially when you’re dealing  with an early 335 that doesn’t have the cutout in the center block. I’m not even going to mention the stereo harnesses (345/355) here. That’s a whole ‘nother post. Recently I got an absolutely wonderful ’60 dot neck that looked and sounded like a million bucks. As usual, I take the guitar apart to make sure everything is as described (by the seller and by me. the dealer). It’s pretty simple, really…Unstring it, remove the pickups and check the solder and the stickers, turn over the bridge to check the markings, do the same with the stoptail. Unscrew the thumbwheels to make sure no holes are under there, unscrew at least one tuner and check that the bushings are tight–you know, the usual stuff. The other thing i do is stick a flashlight in there to make sure the harness is correct. If all the wires are the proper braid (two strands per braid) , then I usually take a dental mirror and check as many pots as I can. It’s tough enough to read the numbers when the

This is a 7 digit Centralab from 1961. Let's see you read that with a dental mirror while it's still in the guitar. Thanks to Kyle and Chad at Vintage Correct Parts for this and the next photo.

harness is out but even tougher when you have to read them backwards in the mirror and completely impossible if they’re Centralabs-you know the ones with the microscopic numbers on the side. If anything looks suspect, out comes the harness. That’s what happened with the 60. It had white plastic wires between the pots, although the pickup wires were the correct braid. When there’s a cutout in the center block, it’s pretty easy-the whole thing just slides out but most of the guitars I get don’t have the cutout. The cutout really doesn’t become common until 64, although it exists as early as 61. I’ve had a non cutout block as late as 65. Getting it back in is a different story. But without the cutout, the whole thing has to come out the f-hole. Now I know why they’re called f-holes. To get a pot through the f-hole, you have to angle it just so-like getting a sofa through a narrow doorway. Then, do it again and again and again being careful not to break off the caps (which should be the big ones -bumblebees or black beauties). Also, be careful not to break the ground wire because if you do, there is no good way to fix it without some pretty major surgery if you break it off at the end that goes to the stop tail stud. So, out came the 60 harness and sure enough, the pots were dated 1985 and said “DiMarzio”. Of course, I didn’t have a 60 harness on hand, so I either had to wait to find one or stuff the harness back in if I wanted to play the guitar before it went off to its new owner once I found him the proper harness. But what’s a proper harness? It gets pretty tricky but if you pay attention to the date codes, you have a good chance of getting things right. Gibson used Centralab pots (no shielding cans on a 335-they don’t fit through the f-holes) up until around 1962 and then CTS after that. You can tell by the code and the placement of the code which one you have. A Centralab will have the code on the side and it will start with the numbers 134. A CTS will have the code on the back (and it will usually be obscured by solder) and will start with 137. Those are the only two brands I’ve seen on a 335. Then there’s the 6 digit code and the 7 digit code. It’s generally assumed that after 1960 the 7 digit code was used. So a pot that is numbered 134043 will be a Centralab from the 43rd week of 1960. One with the code 1376302 will be a CTS from the second week of 1963. Pretty simple actually. The jack of a 335 shouldn’t have the shielding housing around it on a 335-again, it won’t fit through the f-hole. You find those on archtops mostly and I’ve seen them in 345s. The three-way should be say switchcraft on the frame and should be silver colored and not brass in a 335 and be the vertical type. The wires that run from the lugs should be yellow cloth impregnated with some plastic like substance. OK, so you got the harness out and everything checks out as it should. Now you have to get it back in there without breaking any solder. Here’s a link to help you. That link is for the rubber tubing method which I don’t use because the tubes get in each others way. I use the string method where you use a piece of twine instead of the rubber tube. I told you not to go in there.

This is a photo I grabbed off Ebay of a 65 which looks pretty much like a 62-64. Those are CTS pots and the proper Switchcraft 3 way.

American Icon

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Gibson ES-335. American Icon

The guitar wasn’t invented by Americans. That honor usually goes to the Spanish. But the electric guitar, according to most sources, is uniquely and completely American. Some give credit to Les Paul or Leo Fender but it was George Beauchamp in 1931 who was an executive at National Guitars. More importantly, the electric guitar, perhaps more so than any other item manufactured here, has become an American icon. It occupies a rarefied place in all things American

Why is this man making this face? Because he's playing a Japanese Epiphone Strat copy.

shared perhaps by Harley Davidson motorcycles and the pickup truck. Ask anyone in the world to draw you a picture of an electric guitar and I’ll bet you-dollars to doughnuts that you get a drawing that looks like either a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson ES-335. OK, you could argue Les Paul as well. And the Telecaster guys will feel left out of I don’t mention them but that’s it. Four guitars out of how many hundreds (thousands?) of makes and models that have been available since 1931 make the grade of American icon. They are so ingrained in our national psyche that they don’t require their full names any more. You say Strat, Tele, 335 and ‘burst and just about everyone who’s ever held a guitar or seen a guitar or heard a guitar being played will know which one you’re talking about. Even my 95 year old Dad knew what a Strat was. Actually, I guess he should have known since I bugged him daily for one from 1964 until around 1965 when I finally got him to take me to Manny’s on 48th Street.  I didn’t end up with a Strat but that’s a whole other story. Nothing is ever designed to be iconic. Icon status has be earned over a very long period of time-earned by consistency, popularity, functionality and practicality. Without these things, the would be icon dies. Even the venerable Les Paul disappeared from 1961 to 1968 because it lacked one of the four things. It wasn’t popular. The Strat for all it’s sometimes silly incarnations is still nearly identical to the original 54. The Tele, even more so because of the longevity of its design, a design so primitive, it looked retro when it was brand new. Even the 335 went through some changes during it’s unbroken run of 54 years and counting. The body shape has changed at least 7 times, although Ted McCarty’s basic design has remained almost constant. Think about it. Given the flag waving of certain Presidential candidates, talking up what makes us Americans (and what doesn’t), isn’t it nice that there are certain things that, even when copied and produced abroad, still proclaim loudly (I mean really, really loudly) “I’m an American?” And yet, the US Postal Service has never put one on a postage stamp. A guitar has no religion, no stance on abortion or birth control and no opinion on global warming and yet it’s completely American.  A guitar has never run for public office, although Bush One sort of played one once. There are, however plenty of Guitar Gods (and not all of them are American but they all play American guitars). Is it any surprise that every guitar player in the UK during the 60’s wanted an American guitar even though they were almost impossible to come by? Or that the Japanese bought up most of the 50’s Stratocasters?  You can argue that the best car is made abroad (probably Germany), you can argue that the best appliances are made abroad (Germany, France), you can argue that the best food is from abroad but no one and I mean no one is going to tell you that they make better guitars anywhere but the good old USA.

For Players Only

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

This guitar had 29 filled holes in it. And a refinish. And it sounded and played great. You could buy a near mint stoptail 64 for $18000 or more or you could have had this for around a third as much for something that plays great and looks this good.

It’s really easy to be intimidated by the vintage market, especially if you start your search for  vintage 335 on Ebay. You’ll find 64’s for $50,000 and dot necks for $60,000 or more and you think you’ll never be able to afford one. Those aren’t real prices and, often enough, they aren’t for you, as a player. The biggest reason to own a vintage 335/345/355 is because they sound amazing and play beautifully. They are versatile and look great up on the stage. There are new ones that approach the vintage ones in tone and looks but they are new and you didn’t want a new one anyway. Here’s the main point: A compromised vintage guitar will usually sound the same as one that isn’t compromised. Refinished guitars sound the same as original ones. You could argue about poly finishes sounding different than nitrocellulose lacquer but, to date, I’ve never seen a vintage 335 with a poly finish. I don’t care how many extra holes have been drilled into the guitar, it won’t sound different than one with no extra holes. I promise. Really. I recently had a 64 that  had no fewer than 29 filled holes in it. This poor baby had seen three sets of tuners, two or three different trems, a backpad and an armrest. It had a repair under the bridge and two patched coil tap holes. And, it was refinished. I bought it dirt cheap and I sold it dirt cheap. From ten feet away, it still looked like a gorgeous vintage 64. It sounded like a choir of angels. OK, not the way I play but with a great player, I’m tellin’ ya…choir of angels. You can’t kill these guitars. You can play the crap out of them for 50 years and all you need to do to bring it back is maybe a refret and a new bridge and maybe a new nut. The idea that you have to spend $10,000 or more to get a great sounding “golden era” vintage piece is ludicrous. A Bigsby knocks off 25%. A 345 rather than a 335 knocks off as much as 50%. A 59 dot neck with no issues is going to cost you close to $30,000. A 59 ES-345 with a Bigsby might cost you a third of that. Take off the Bigsby, put on a stoptail and disconnect the Varitone and close your eyes. You’ll be playing the equivalent of a 59 dot neck. Same construction, same pickups (don’t forget to flip the magnet in one of the pickups if you convert to mono), same neck. You could argue that the cutout for the Varitone chokes changes the tone slightly but a lot of folks think the ones with the cutout sound better. I’m mostly neutral on the subject with a slight bias toward non cut centerblocks. There are plenty of collectors who are players and I see no reason not to buy the most perfect 335 you can find if you can afford it. Collector grade guitars have proven to be a terrific investment if you disregard the last few years of decline. But even with that, if you bought a fine vintage piece before the big runup of 2005-2008, you’re still way ahead. But if you’re on the outside looking in, take a look at the ones that are loaded with issues. Even if the original pickups are gone, most of the magic will be still be there if you get a decent set of modern PAFs (the usual suspects-I like Rolphs, Throbaks and Sheptones) and make sure you’ve had a pro set it up if you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself.  Another good approach is to buy the year you want , issues and all and slowly bring it back to its former glory. You can’t unbreak a headstock or bring back an original finish but there are finishers out there who can duplicate the finishes of the era and repair guys who can stabilize a broken headstock so it will never give yo a moments trouble. All the parts that might be wrong are out there and you can get find them at reasonable prices if you’re patient.  It won’t be worth double in ten years but it will appreciate with the rest of the market and you get to play it. Isn’t that why you buy any guitar?

This is another 64. It had all correct parts except it had PAFs instead of the correct patent numbers. Tough. This guitar sold for $7500. Refinish? Nope. Broken headstock? Nope. Factory reneck and it played and sounded awesome. No extra holes either. Don't look at the issues as issues. Look at them as bargains.

More Ebay Follies

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

This is about as bad as Ebay photos get. And if that isn't bad enough, the whole thing was rigged so that the guitar appears to have sold for about 50% more than it would be worth if it was a decent example which you can't tell from the photo.

Recently (like this week recently), a 63 ES-335 showed up on Ebay with perhaps the worst photos I’ve ever seen and perhaps the least amount of copy I’ve ever seen on a listing he (or she) said, and I quote…

"vintage original early 1960s from 1960 to 1963 gibson es335 in cherry red factory original bigsby. No returns on this item please look at pictures"

You can see the listing here.  But the crappy photos and the lack of description isn’t why I’m writing about it. I’m writing about it because it smacks of shill bidding (or worse).  Typically, a no issue average condition Bigsby/Custom made plaque 63 is going to sell for around $12,000-a little more if it has PAF pickups. Of course there are plenty of them listed at stupid high prices both by dealers and individual sellers but the proof is always in the sale price and not the asking price and I know what I can get for one of these. This guitar “sold” for nearly $19,000. I just sold a gorgeous PAF equipped stoptail 63 in 9.0 condition for $16,000. If I believed a Bigsby/Custom Made 63 was worth $19K, I sure as hell wouldn’t be selling a stop for $3000 less. Here’s where it all comes apart: The person who was the high bidder (with a feedback of 1) has bid on 11 different items in the past 30 days. All 11 were from the seller who listed this guitar. Shill bidding anyone? The person who was bidding against the winning bidder (also a feedback of 1) also has bid on 11 items and 60% of the bids were with this seller. These two “bidders” were the only players once the guitar hit $3500. I’m a little surprised that the Ebay police weren’t all over this. What will happen next is that the guitar will show up a sold for this high dollar amount and the seller will try to use this to convince another buyer that this is the market value OR the guitar will be relisted on Ebay with a mention that the previous winning bidder “flaked” or something and when you go to see what it sold for last time you’ll see it sold for $19000 and you’ll think it must be worth that much because someone else was willing to pay it. The error of the seller is that folks spending $19000 on a guitar that originally sold for $400 or so are going to do some research. Part of the problem is they are going to go to Gbase to do that research where so many dealers stick prices like this on guitars such as this pretty regularly. That makes it look like the guitar actually is worth that much. Or almost anyway. The price range on Gbase is from $12,999 to $18,000. The last 63 or 64 I had like this one sold for around $12,500. I don’t think a 63-64 Bigsby/Custom Made has sold for $18000 for a few years now and if it has, somebody overpaid by a lot. And I don’t mean to suggest that you shouldn’t pay a premium when buying a vintage piece from a dealer. You should and you will.  Ebay may tell you that they protect you from misrepresented guitars but try to get the seller to admit it was misrepresented. A good dealer will take back a guitar for any reason at all-even “I couldn’t bond with it”  at least for 24 hours and many for 48 hours. The marketplace is difficult enough without having Ebay abusers mucking it up any more than it already is. If you’re considering buying a vintage 335/345 or 355 and you’re not sure how much you should be spending, look at the completed listings on Ebay. Don’t pay too much attention to the ones that sell. Pay attention to the ones that don’t. Or email me. I’ll be happy to give you my opinion on the deal you’re getting as long as it falls within my very narrow field of expertise (that means 1958-1968 more or less).

Neck Sizes and Profiles

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

The difference between a huge 58/59 neck at the first fret and a "wide flat" neck from 1961 is about 1/10". It doesn't seem like much but you really can feel the difference of even 2/100". This is a photo of a 64 which is, on average only 3/100" thinner front to back than a 59. You can't tell by looking very well but you can sure feel the difference.

ES aficionados follow a general set of rules that seem to govern the relative neck sizes of the various years. 58 and 59 are big, 60 through mid 63 are wide and flat and late 64 through early 65 are medium chunky and sometimes a little narrower. Generally, you will find these “rules” to apply but not always. There were no CNC machines back then and the necks were shaped largely by hand and there was considerable variation even within the same run of guitars. Variation within a calendar year is actually a lot greater than you might imagine. While, granted, there aren’t a lot of thin 58 and 59 necks but when you get to November of 59, they definitely start getting a good bit thinner. Let’s use the depth at the first fret as a comparison. The 58 through late 59 seems to run around .90″ and even somewhat larger. But, some of the late 59s I’ve had were closer to .87″. The early 60 345 I recently sold was around .87″ as well. But, the 60 Argentine Grey 345 I had-which was pretty late-probably December had a first fret depth of around .82″ or maybe even slightly less. I had 3 61 dot necks this past year and all three were different. While the generally accepted depth of a 61 at the first fret is .80-.82, one of the three was .83 and the other .84. Of course the measurement from the fingerboard to the middle of the back of the neck doesn’t take the profile of the neck into consideration. A neck with a bigger should but a small depth will feel much larger than one with a small shoulder. One of my favorite necks of any guitar I’ve ever played was a 63 SG that was only .82 at the first fret but it had these big shoulders that gave it a very hefty feel. I also had a 61 Epiphone Wilshire that actually had an asymmetrical carve that had a larger shoulder on the bass side but a first fret depth that was moderate at .84″ or so.  By the time 62 rolls around, the necks got pretty consistently thin, right? Well, that’s what I thought until a 62 passed through my hands recently that must have been at least .84″. Every other 62 I’ve owned has been from .79″-.82″ at the first fret. Early 63’s follow the same rule except when they don’t.  In general, an early Mickey Mouse ear 63 will have a wide flat profile and a first fret depth of .80 to .82. But, I currently have an early 63 that measures more like .85″. Not quite as chunky as the very consistent 64s which seem to range from .86-.88″ although they can be as thin as .84″.   I don’t measure the neck size on every 335/345 and 355 I get although I probably should-it’s good research and interesting but I’ve gotten to the point where I can estimate pretty well by feel, at least on 335s and 345s. ES-355s will throw you all kinds of curves. I know of an early 59 that must be .92″ or more-it’s huge like a 58 Les Paul but the 59 I have at he moment is much thinner-probably more like .84″. Once you get into 1960 and later, they get pretty slim, although the nut width remains the same 1 11/16″ or slightly under. There’s a weird optical illusion that occurs that tends to make the nut width of a 355 look smaller than it is. It’s the fact that there is an inlay at the first fret and that inlay is longer than it is wide. That tends to make the nut look narrower. It isn’t. But the depth at the first fret sure is. Even .78″ is possible from 60 right through to 65. I had a 64 recently that was only .79 at the first fret but by the time you reached the 12th it was 1.03″ which is as big as some 59 335’s. So, don’t apply the rules to ES-355s because, in general, the necks are thinner from front to back than their siblings. If I can figure out how to make a chart and insert it, I will do that just so there is a quick reference which will serve only to confuse you because, as I mentioned, there were no CNC machines back then and the necks were largely shaped by hand. If it’s Friday at 4:57 in 1958 and Joe Woodworker has a hot date at the local bar after work, he’s probably going to leave an little extra wood on the neck rather than risk being late for his rendezvous. Joe is single, I’m sure,  and not cheating on his wife. Gibson would never hire philanderers-they make terrible guitars.

This is the back of 59 and it doesn't look much different than a 61 would look from this angle but there is quite a difference between even an early 59 and a late 59