Tuesday, June 17, 2014

1983 Gibson Custom Shop ES-335 Dot, Pearl White


Since my back is more or less ruined and I went on long-term disability, I've taught myself, bit by bit, how to set up guitars for maximum playability and comfort, and do some fret work on them as well.  It takes me a while to get a guitar just right, working a few minutes at a time as my back allows, but it turns out that I'm pretty good at it.
 

I own several guitars, but being a little on the broke side of the financial spectrum, my guitars were all carefully chosen inexpensive guitars.  I chose for the best woods and construction I could afford, and over time I replaced the cheap electronics, pickups, plastic nuts, etc., with quality versions of those parts.  The result being that my guitars didn't cost much, but they play and sound great.  The added expense of upgrades was spread over time as I could afford parts and when good used ones came up for sale cheap on ebay.

Another way to get great guitars, if you can afford it, is to simply lay your money down, LOTS OF MONEY, for some of the best guitars on the market.  These guitars tend to play and sound great from the get-go, but there's no guarantee of this.

I have a friend at church who found out that I do guitar setups and and started bringing his guitars to me one or two at a time.  He has shown a willingness, for decades, to lay his money down on great guitars.  I get to play them for a while too, which is a nice benefit.

This particular guitar dates from 1983, two years after Gibson started producing reissues of the 1960ish ES-335 with the pearloid dot inlays in the rosewood fingerboards.

Looking back with 20/20 vision, many guitar players consider Gibson's "Norlin Era" (1974 -1986) to be a pretty dark time as far as quality construction and tone is concerned.  But this Custom Shop ES-335 is a lovely example of Gibson trying fairly hard to get things right during this period.  But, he had to pay a premium for a custom shop guitar.

This 335 has a pearl white finish, a paint scheme that I LOVE, on cars and guitars.  (I still want me one of those Fender James Burton Telecasters in pearl white.)  It's a soft, almost glowing, metal-flake white finish that is turning antique yellow.  The finish has natural checking (cracks in the finish) that happen to most older guitars that are finished with a nitrocellulose coat. 

The owner of this guitar is a true player.  He is a super-good guitarist, yet with no desire to know any details of guitar setup or to learn little things that can be done in literally two minutes with a screwdriver to make an electric guitar play and sound much better.

This guitar has been played a whole lot, but never abused, and simply put away after playing; no wipe down of the sweat from the body or strings ever.  The only changes have been new strings when needed.

So my first order of business was to simply take off the strings, the tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece, the pickguard, and CLEAN THIS GUITAR!  When I removed the pickguard, there was literally 1/8th of an inch of dust under there, dirt and crud held together by what I guess was old sweat.

Using a barely damp cotton diaper, I wiped and cleaned the whole guitar except for the rosewood fretboard.  Once I had as much grime cleaned as I could, I used a liberal amount of Virtuoso Premium GuitarCleaner to go over the whole guitar again.  This cleaned off the last of the built-up crud and also left a bit of lovely shine to the guitar.

Before I started, one would have thought the guitar had a satin finish.  Now it has a nice shine to it, yet keeping all of the honest wear that helps make a vintage guitar look well-played but still gorgeous.  It's a totally different look than the bogus looking "relic" finishes people put on new guitars with belt sanders, and true player's wear over decades really adds to a guitar's mojo.

The gold plating has worn off in all the places one would expect and after cleaning off the grime there too (some naphtha and lint free cotton swabs), the hardware has that nice, aged look to it as well.

Tim Shaw, a Gibson engineer during this time had been tasked with trying, within budget constraints, to recreate the Gibson 'Patent Applied For' pickups from Gibson's golden era of the late 1950s - early 1960s.  This guitar has a set of those fairly valuable "Tim Shaw P.A.F's" and the tone of this guy is pretty amazing.  Probably a mix of being an older, well-played guitar along with those much better than average pickups Mr. Shaw had come up with.

This guitar is clean, the potentiometers cleaned with DeOxit and working like buttah, and the action is fairly low, but not on the deck, just like the owner likes it.

I used some Stewart-MacDonald Fretboard Finishing Oil to bring the fretboard back to life, and it looks dark and pretty.

Only one problem left to fix on the guitar, and that's a buzz when pressing the 1st string at fret 7, that B buzzes on fret 8, which I have confirmed is a bit higher right there than frets 7 and 9.  That's an easy fix of about ten minutes to file, recrown, and polish part of one fret.

Just thought I'd share a few pics of this fairly rare guitar.  I've seen a few here and there on the interwebs, but there aren't many.

The original case needs two of the drawbolts replaced, but I've never done that.  I might try to add that skill to my set so that I can repair folk's guitar cases as well.

God Bless...

1 comment:

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