Sloppy Paint

Nice TDN but not the neatest paint around the f-holes. It's really common on early 335's.

Nice TDN but not the neatest paint around the f-holes. It’s really common on early 335’s.

Didja ever notice how crappy the paint around the f-holes is on a 335? Particularly on the early ones? There’s a reason for this and it isn’t because everybody’s hung over on certain days, although I’m sure there was some bad paint that could be attributed to that particularly common malady. If you look at an early 335 with the bridge pickup out of it, you will see that there is no cut in the center block to facilitate the installation of the harness. Stereo guitars and most mono 355’s have a big chunk cut out of the center block which makes the harness go in relatively easily. Note, I said relatively. It still isn’t easy to get that Varitone ¬†switch into place nor is it easy with those big shielding cans over the pots. Don’t try this at home if you can possibly help it. The reason that so many early 335s have crappy paint around the f-holes is because the folks who installed the harnesses had to stuff them in through the f-holes. I’ve done it dozens of times and while there is a trick to doing it cleanly, it is still a somewhat fiddly procedure. So, what happens is the paint gets scraped off the edges of the f-holes by the harness installation people. On a sunburst, you’ll see that the paint around the f-holes is a medium brown. The red 335’s get a fairly well matched red and the blondes get white. I’m told that the harness ladies (it was mostly women-I don’t know why although I could wager a sexist guess) kept a pot of paint (to two or three) at their station for the express purpose of touching up the scrapes and abrasions caused by this process. But that’s not the whole story because there are 345’s with terribly sloppy paint too and no harnesses went through the f-holes. I don’t have a logical reason for this and would appreciate any insight anyone might have. The photo at the bottom of the post is one of the worst I’ve seen. Note that the paint on that one is black. That’s because it isn’t your usual sunburst. It’s called Argentine Grey.

The 335’s eventually got the cutout in the center block and the problem largely went away but the f-hole edges continued to have the same slightly off color paint around the f-holes. Strangely, the cutout was an unusually long transitional element for Gibson. The earliest 335 I’ve seen with the cutout was a 61 but for those of you who remember the stop tail ’65 I called “The Mexican” (because I bought it from a guy in Guadalajara), it had an uncut block. That’s a four year transition which seems kind of long. By early 65, all of the 335’s had the cut block. I’ve had folks question the originality of the finish on a guitar because the paint around the f-holes looked so amateurish. Don’t. The harness ladies were paid to stuff harnesses into guitars, not paint them. They were probably paid somewhere around the minimum wage to do a job that none of us guys would want. Go ahead, try stuffing a harness in through the f-holes. And don’t do it on a 68 or later-the f-holes are bigger. And make sure you have a pot of paint available.

Not the neatest paint job. Oddly, it is a 345 and it's sloppy on both f-holes. This proves my theory half wrong.

Not the cleanest paint job. Oddly, it is a 345 and it’s sloppy on both f-holes. This proves my theory half wrong. That’s an Argentine Grey 345.

8 Responses to “Sloppy Paint”

  1. Rod says:

    Here’s a thought for you Charlie. Whilst the harness goes in through the centre block, the hook up from the neck pickup, at least, has to be soldered onto the volume pot (or switch for a 345/355) AFTER the harness is in the guitar. Which means the pot or switch probably has to be pulled out of the f-hole to do it. Unless the neck pickup is hooked up after the lead has been threaded through the body but before the harness is stuffed through the centre block. My money is on the former, perhaps for both pickups, as I would think it is marginally more easy to get the harness in without the pickups hooked up.

  2. RAB says:

    Interesting…I never paid much attention to the paint used on the inside edge of the F-holes…sometimes it does seem messier than others and is particularly noticeable when the white paint is used. The light brown paint on the F-holes on my ’62 Riviera looks pretty neat though it has a bit coming out onto the top of the fiddle. I think the red used on my ’63 355 F-holes is neatly done…yeah, no fun trying to deal with the wiring on ES models. The only Gibson I’ve worked on extensively with the electronics was a ’59 ES-175D where I “harvested” a pair of mint full white PAFs! This was a long time ago…I paid $400 for the guitar, sold the pickups for $400, put in a pair of new ‘buckers and sold it to a jazzer who couldn’t care less about PAFs…oh, it sounded good with the new pups!

  3. chuckNC says:

    In between my first reading this one and coming back again, I had a play on my 355. Forgot to look. Of course, as beat as my guitar is, there are plenty of other scars to distract from a little sloppy paint in the F-holes! It’s the sort of thing that would jump out more on a minty example — and be more bothersome there, I’m sure. I guess Gibson could have put a trap door in the back, but would that be any better?

  4. RAB says:

    Yup, in the big scheme of things, sloppy F-hole paint ain’t no big deal!

  5. Goetz von Berlichingen says:

    I like sloppy F-holes. And not just on my blonde 335.

    It had to be said.

  6. Jonathan Krogh says:

    My theory about sloppy f-hole edges come from restoring a few. It is very easy for the big buffing wheels to wear through the lacquer just on the inner top edge of the f hole walls, where relatively little lacquer would have accumulated during finishing, and the wheel fabric bites heavily upon this edge.
    Also, the same little accumulation of sprayed lacquer means that the ply edge doesn’t have a smooth wall of lacquer as most has sunken into the grain rather than smoothly build up on it, and white coloured buffing compound builds up in the grooves between them and is almost impossible to entirely remove.

  7. Hi Charlie,
    Can you give me an idea on on the correct shade of brown paint that was used to paint the inside edges on a sunburst Gibson ES guitars or possibly direct me to a pic of one?


    Best regards,

  8. okguitars says:

    I’ll take a close up photo and post it tomorrow.

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