1936 Gibson L-5 17" Carved Top Spruce and Maple with F-Holes ID-5585
1936 Gibson L-5 17" Carved Top Spruce and Maple with F-Holes
All guitar historians will tell you that Orville Gibson invented the archtop guitar at the end of the 19th century, but many will also add that Lloyd Loar advanced the design considerably in the early 1920s. Gibson was already the leader in a market dominated more by mandolins and related instruments than by guitars in the early part of the last century when it hired a multi-talented musician, composer, teacher, and physics engineer by the name of Lloyd Loar in 1919 as a design consultant. Along with designing the other members of his Master Series—the legendary F-5 mandolin, H-5 mandola and K-5 mando-cello—Loar unveiled the Gibson L-5 guitar in 1923, but the model is considered to have reached its zenith in 1934. Loar brought a raft of advancements to the table, including harmonically tuned carved tops, violin-style f-holes (the L-5 was Gibson’s first guitar to carry them), tuned longitudinal tone bars (braces), and necks with longer playable portions of the fingerboard.
While Loar’s L-5s of the early 1920s were impressive instruments in themselves, Gibson designers continued to take the format forward after his departure from the company in 1924, and improved the model considerably over the course of the following 10 years. They dropped the Verzi Tone Producer, a supposedly “tone enhancing” wooden disc of somewhat dubious worth, from the inside of the body, upgraded the cosmetic appointments, changed the rosewood fingerboard to ebony, and replaced the plain dot position inlays with pearl blocks.
The 1930s and 40s became a true golden era for Gibson’s archtop line. Choice maple and spruce was abundant in that era, and this guitar is built with exceptional pieces of both. The thin, carved-arched top of solid spruce was tap-tuned to resonate harmoniously with the entire of the body, and the result was a guitar that not only put out impressive volume for its size, but one that was sweet, rich, and musical too. The L-5 would become synonymous with jazz heavyweights like Wes Montgomery and Freddie Green, just to name a few.
The passing of time has done wonders for this guitar, mellowing the overall tone while adding a certain depth and dynamic quality not found in new production instruments. It is unbelievably loud and projecting, perfect for Freddie Green big band rhythm - easily cutting through a 12-piece brass band unamplified. Because the fingerboard is raised above the soundboard, the entire top is able to vibrate and respond freely. Eddie Lang style leads are crisp, defined, and well-rounded throughout the entire register. While backing rhythm chords are powerful and clear from note to note. The neck profile is rounded and fat; resting well in the hand and consistently comfortable up and down the fingerboard.
This guitar shows some wear consistent with an instrument from the 30's. It was professionally refinished, most likely by the Gibson factory in the 1950's. The tuners have been replaced. The tailpiece is a genuine Gibson L-5 tailpiece, but from a later period. The finish is nicely checked, with a few significant finish cracks that upon inspection does not go through the wood. There are numerous dents and scratches, as the detailed photographs will demonstrate. Original hardshell case with tweed covering included.
- Shipping Weight: 57
- Serial: 93517
- Top Wood: Spruce
- Back Wood: Maple
- Nut Width: 1 11/16"
- Scale: 25 1/2"
- Year: 1936
- Bracing: Tuned Longitudinal Tone Bars
- Inlays: Pearl Blocks
- Neck Wood: Maple
- Fretboard: Ebony
- Saddle Material: Rosewood
- Bridge: Rosewood Adjustable
- Tuners: Gold with Ivoroid Buttons - Non Original
- Body Binding: Ivoroid
- Fretboard Binding: Ivoroid
- Headstock Binding: Ivoroid
- Pickguard: Bound Tortoise Style
- Headstock Shape: Solid Haircut
- Headstock Overlay: Ebony
- Headstock Inlay: Gibson logo with Flowerpot
- Body Depth: 3 1/4"
- Lower Bout Width: 17"
- Upper Bout Width: 12 1/2"
- Waist: 10 1/4"
- Body Length: 20 7/8"
- Total Length: 42 1/2"
- Case: Original Tweed Hardshell Case