Yikes. Don’t raise the bridge, lower the river. It hadn’t occurred to me that Gibson might have simply shortened the headstock and caused all these other changes. Note the very precise high tech measuring device.

My friend Mike up in Victoria, British Columbia pointed out that the 58 headstock in the 58-59 comparison photo in my last post looked like it was elongated compared to the 59. Another reader (Roger) pointed out that maybe the tuners were moved rather than the inlay. I had mentioned that the truss cover had moved downward in 59. Well, I thought Mike in Victoria was on to something, so I did some measuring. The length of a 335 headstock is pretty consistent among the ones I have here in the shop. Unless it’s a 58.

If you measure from the highest point of the headstock to the nut of a 59-66 ES-335 you will get a minimum of 6 3/4″ and a maximum of 6 7/8″. That’s a range of 1/8″ which isn’t much. I measured 7 different guitars from 59, 60, 64, 65 and 66. Then I measure the 58. It measures 7 1/8″. That’s a difference of a quarter inch or more. Who cares, you ask? Probably no one, but it points out that many of the differences between a 58 and a 59 are due to a longer headstock and not the migration of the various elements. There’s just less real estate and things have mostly only moved relative to the ends of the headstock. The inlay is the exception but the position of the truss cover and the tuners (and the logo) stay the same relative to each other.  Now, I never thought the brass at Gibson was sitting around making microscopic changes to make their product better or cheaper but it starts making sense when one fairly big change starts a chain reaction of smaller ones. So, was the reduction in the size of the headstock a conscious change to make things better or cheaper? I couldn’t say but I can guess. My guess is that these early 335’s were largely hand made. The very neat routing in a 58 compared to the almost always sloppy routing in a 60’s 335 suggests this. I’m not a builder but I’m assuming that jigs were eventually made once the model was deemed successful in order to facilitate the build process. That would also explain the consistent Mickey Mouse ears you see from late 58 through mid 62.

Too geeky by half? I suppose, but after this many posts, one has to start taking smaller bites out of the knowledge pie. There’s plenty of new information coming in the new year. I’ve been compiling a database of factory order numbers rtelative to serial numbers for 58, 59 and 60. It’s actually pretty interesting. I’ve been at this for a few months and I’d like to thank all the readers who sent me serial and FON’s to be included. It’s still ongoing so if you have a 58, 59 or 60 ES-335, 345 or 355, send me the serial and FON along with a little information (what model, color, tailpiece, bobbin color if you know it). Trying to reconstruct the thought and manufacturing processes at Gibson during this era is loads of fun. I suppose if I could find someone who was actually there who was involved in the day to day operations, it would be easier. Not so much fun but easier.

6 Responses to “Geekfest”

  1. chuckNC says:

    Too geeky? I wouldn’t call it that. It hardly even compares to some stuff guys geek out on. Me? I have never been accused of excessive geekulosity by anyone but non-guitarists. Still, I find this stuff interesting. My dream is to one day own a ’58-’62 ES model, so naturally I love learning all about them.

    Jennifer Aniston too, but that’s another matter.

  2. Kerry Leeds says:

    Never too geeky. As the Mensa t-shirt says: “Talk nerdy to me :-)”
    And I’ll happily send FON/serial # data to contribute to your database, Charlie.
    Happy Holidays.

  3. Kerry Leeds says:

    Holy Watermelon, Charlie! How does that stop-tail 355 sound? My Bigsby ’60 sounds at least as good as great PAF 345/335s. I also love ebony boards. Hmm. And Happy New Year!

  4. RAB says:

    Kerry, my ’63 355 mono, factory stop tail sounds and plays great too. I’ve owned a bunch of classic era ES models over the decades including several 1959 models; blonde 335, first rack 345, 355 mono with full whites…this ’63 gives them a run for their money! The ebony board provides a little more bite IMHO. Happy New Year fellow ES geeks!

  5. cgelber says:

    The 59 355 stop is a great guitar-the equal of just about any 335. If it was a mono, I would own it forever. There are only six stop tail 355’s that I know of and only two are 59’s. There are probably more but they haven’t surfaced yet.

  6. JonF says:

    Just now caught up on this one. If you look very carefully, and I think borne up my the measuring tape (although some minor distortion occurs from the camera angle), it appears the main face (the upper section where the wings are affixed) of both headstocks are the same. The overall length difference seems to be confined to the “throat” transition from the headstock down to the neck. The throat on the ‘59 is (to me) discernibly shorter. Focus particularly on the length of that curved edge of each throat style. Anyone else see that?

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