Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Early 1960 6120 with very strange (flat!) fretboard

1

Hi there,

Please take a look at this early 1960 Gretsch 6120: it has a very, very flat fretboard...no radius whatsoever and it all looks original and stock. Not even 20" I guess...only the nut has some curve (but also not much), fretboard and frets don't (or at least I can't see it). Has anyone seen this before? Could it be a special order or something? There is no problem playing the guitar and also no problem bending notes, but, well...it’s strange! The guitar is from the #354xx batch and has a january 1960 pot code. Great color and also some mild flame (top, back, sides and neck), five piece neck (very slight v), light trestle bracing, 2.5" body depth, PAF filtertrons. Guitar is all original except for bridge and tuners.

By the way, according to one of Ed's books this #354xx batch is '1959 calendar year' and '1960 model year'...and there is a guitar from this batch with a december 5, 1959 bill of sale...this one has a pot code of late january (week 5), 1960...how long did they normally need to finish one batch?

Here are some pics of the flat fretboard:

And some pics of the guitar:

2

Wow, in the top pic it actually looks like it has a bit of a dip, as in "reverse radius"!

3

Yeah, my '59 Anniversary has a flat fingerboard, too. It is from the 311xx batch. The nut is 1 11/16" wide, and the neck profile is a thin D shape.

4

Too bad as I find those unplayable. I was close to acquire an early Baldwin era Roc Jet that was great but had a flat fingerboard that felt like Walter says "reverse radius". Is it comfortable for fingerstyle?

5

As a fingerstyle player who likes a flatter finger board, I wouldn't want it dead flat like this one. My first thought when reading the title of this thread was that someone simply sanded down the fingerboard after removing the frets, but after seeing the pic I'm not sure. I'd say that as if we assume that the board sanding happened after the fact, the frets going in may or may not be the old ones, and IMO, would more than likely be new ones. However, further to that point, the fret ends end prematurely.....at the inner edge of the binding, not overhanging it.

If you were to remove the frets, sand down the board and try reinstalling the old frets, they won't fit, as the distance between the inner binding edges measured across the surface of the board, not with calipers, is now shorter and at least one fret end would have to be made shorter and re-chamfered to fit in the measured space, more of a pain than using new frets.

The look of where the frets end along with the chamfering is typical of that era so I'm inclined to believe the contour was ordered at the time, and not modified later.

6

When I first played it, it did feel like a reverse radius! Of course it isn't. Now, however, I never give it a second thought, even when switching between guitars.

I believe the flat board is designed for fingerstyle playing as classical guitars have flat boards. It works well for me. I had to measure the nut before I posted my first response to this thread to make sure it wasn't 1.75". The flat board makes the neck feel wider (to me anyway), but it is 1 11/16".

My guitar, before my ownership, did have a poor refret job done to it. I intended to get it redone but got so used to it that I put off doing it. Willie Nelson and Neil Young also continued to play their guitars long after needed new frets. Willi'e guitar is pictured here.

Neil did relent and had Old Black refretted, and then (reportedly) didn't like it and stopped playing it for a while.

Anyway, there's no outward sign that the board had been planed or sanded flat, and I'm sure there would have been if it was done by the same hack who installed the frets.

7

Ha! Having trouble getting the picture to post. Here's Trigger.

8

It's a very good sounding guitar but that radius is weird. Almost completely flat. A new radius and a refret is what it needs!
My 64 Annie was very flat as well. But not completely flat like this.

9

When I first played it, it did feel like a reverse radius! Of course it isn't. Now, however, I never give it a second thought, even when switching between guitars.

I believe the flat board is designed for fingerstyle playing as classical guitars have flat boards. It works well for me. I had to measure the nut before I posted my first response to this thread to make sure it wasn't 1.75". The flat board makes the neck feel wider (to me anyway), but it is 1 11/16".

My guitar, before my ownership, did have a poor refret job done to it. I intended to get it redone but got so used to it that I put off doing it. Willie Nelson and Neil Young also continued to play their guitars long after needed new frets. Willi'e guitar is pictured here.

Neil did relent and had Old Black refretted, and then (reportedly) didn't like it and stopped playing it for a while.

Anyway, there's no outward sign that the board had been planed or sanded flat, and I'm sure there would have been if it was done by the same hack who installed the frets.

– jacodiego

I forgot to say that's a beautiful guitar!!

With respect and Neil young and Willie Nelson aside Frets are like tires on a car, they wear out and don't contain any special magic other than what a competent luthier gives them. Heavily worn frets, or frets that aren't seated well impair your guitars sound as it was designed. Especially on the first few frets, yours look like they are coming up on the treble side. This cannot be good for the sound of your instrument. Likely Neil young just got used to the sound of his guitar with worn frets and didn't it like it when it was repaired and it sounded like it should, which he had probably forgotten about. The man does use 6 individual strobe tuners on stage...he is particular.

Sometimes I am like that with new strings on acoustic. All of a sudden the sound is very bright and revealing of poor playing..ooops NOT the strings fault, but mine. I would get that guitar refretted pronto and be prepared for a change. However , you'll get use to it. it never 'wrecks' the guitar',in the long run it's for the better and you won't have to do it for another long while.

10

Vettes are also flatter radius, IIRC. Still something I could prob adjust to as long as it has big honkin frets put on.

11

Your first fret is loose and it's not seated. I've come across a few flat and even concave boards. I'm thinking the wood cupped a bit overtime. It's an easy fix though. I've even seen a couple where the board is flat and some genius used really tall frets then put a 16" radius on the frets with the flat board.

12

What's the neck profile like on that? Beautiful guitar!

13

The neck profile is a 'very very slight v' and feels great. Actually, the 6120 feels and plays surprisingly good in spite of the flat fretboard!

The problem is though that it's not my guitar yet but I can buy it from a good friend of mine. But, to do so I have to sell my beloved custom shop Stern masterbuilt seafoam green relic falcon...it really is the only way now for me to buy the '60 6120...and believe me, that is a very tough choice to make, I really don't know what to do.


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