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Old 02-02-2020, 02:42 PM
acutchin acutchin is offline
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Default Identify Tailpiece 1931 Gibson L-4?

I purchased an oddball 1931 L-4 last year and am wondering where the tailpiece came from. It has DOUBLE parallelogram design, which I cannot find any record of online.

The guitar itself has a label serial number of "L-4 / 88627", which indicates 1929, and a FON of "274", which indicates early 1930's. It has an F-hole top, curiously. I've heard that 10% of instruments that left the Gibson factory during this period were "odd", so this is probably one of them.

Can anyone help me identify this tailpiece?





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Old 02-03-2020, 08:48 AM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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this 1939 L12 has the same tailpiece. https://www.vintageandrare.com/produ...04#prettyPhoto

When the tailpiece base has the exact same hole as the end pin, you know it's the original tailpiece, as a rule. Yours does.

https://www.vintageandrare.com/uploa...jpg?1580741340
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Old 02-03-2020, 11:17 AM
acutchin acutchin is offline
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Thank you!
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Old 02-03-2020, 03:06 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MC5C View Post
...When the tailpiece base has the exact same hole as the end pin, you know it's the original tailpiece, as a rule...
There's an old proverb, "rules are made to be broken," and as with the f-hole top this might in fact be the case here; just for reference, the typical early-30's Gibson tailpiece (also used by Epiphone as well as several other makers) was a wrap-over design like the one on this '31 Nick Lucas:



IME the first tailpieces with the parallelogram design on the crossbar didn't appear until the mid/late-30's, with the appearance of the double-parallelogram fingerboard inlay as illustrated on the link to the '39 L-12; from what I've seen they enjoyed a relatively brief lifespan, giving way to the heavier design that would characterize the postwar L-12/L-7/ES-175. As archtop rim depth was fairly standard at 3-3/8" during those years, it's not surprising that a tailpiece intended for a Gibson would have an endpin hole that matched up to an existing guitar...

There's also the possibility, given the incongruity between the serial and factory-order numbers, that the instrument in question may have been assembled/finished on a leftover platform, after the final transition to f-holes on the L-4 (had more of the original top finish been visible it might be easier to make a determination); according to at least one source I've read a number of unsold early-Depression-era models (including several examples of the Style O) were discovered in the Gibson warehouse, finished where necessary, and dumped on the market on the eve of WW II - and if this is one of them the tailpiece would in fact be original...

Don't you just love this stuff...?
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Old 02-03-2020, 03:22 PM
acutchin acutchin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
There's also the possibility, given the incongruity between the serial and factory-order numbers, that the instrument in question may have been assembled/finished on a leftover platform, after the final transition to f-holes on the L-4 (had more of the original top finish been visible it might be easier to make a determination); according to at least one source I've read a number of unsold early-Depression-era models (including several examples of the Style O) were discovered in the Gibson warehouse, finished where necessary, and dumped on the market on the eve of WW II - and if this is one of them the tailpiece would in fact be original...
Thanks, Steve! That starts to make sense. Do you happen to remember where you read about the pre-WWII warehouse cleanout? I bet my guitar is from that lot, and I'd love to find some research on it.

Also, my guitar has an oddly high fretboard at the neck joint, and almost no neck "angle" at all. The strings are nearly "parallel" to the top, if you can imagine anything being parallel to an arched top. The string height at the bridge is only about 5/8", and the bridge itself has obviously been whittled down to fit. It could be that this instrument was assembled, perhaps experimentally or carelessly or by a junior craftsman, around 1931-ish, deemed unfit to ship, and thrown in the back of the warehouse.

Last edited by acutchin; 02-03-2020 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 02-03-2020, 10:02 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acutchin View Post
...my guitar has an oddly high fretboard at the neck joint, and almost no neck "angle" at all. The strings are nearly "parallel" to the top, if you can imagine anything being parallel to an arched top. The string height at the bridge is only about 5/8", and the bridge itself has obviously been whittled down to fit...
Sounds like you need to talk to your friendly local tech about a neck reset - rather than a carelessly assembled instrument I'm thinking it was carelessly repaired (in the loosest sense of the term) by some hack who didn't know (or care) squat about what makes these puppies bark - and chances are you're also losing a substantial amount of tone in the bargain. FWIW although this isn't an uncommon condition among older archtops (which were almost invariably strung with heavy-gauge strings - think 14-60 or 15-62 with a wound B - for Big Band comp rhythm), bear in mind that neck geometry is far more critical to tone than on a typical flattop - the vibrational pattern is predominantly of a "piston" rather than a torsional nature, and there needs to be sufficient downward force to properly drive the top (the fact that the tailpiece is almost touching the top doesn't help matters either); while it's not going to be cheap, a guitar like yours is well worth restoring for both its tonal and historic merits - just be sure you find someone who can respect and appreciate it for what it is before you lay down your bucks...
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Old 02-09-2020, 09:41 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Originally Posted by acutchin View Post
Do you happen to remember where you read about the pre-WWII warehouse cleanout? I bet my guitar is from that lot, and I'd love to find some research on it...
Still looking for the exact citation (pun intended) in my extensive collection of guitar literature - in the meantime, this might shed some light on my earlier comments about Gibson's crossbreeding of components:



https://www.archtop.com/ac_41L4.html
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