Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Sal Salvador FS at Cream City

26

Regarding how to tell if the Sal's top is solid spruce, in the absence of a pickup hole then a good look at the underside of the top through an f-hole could show whether the grain matches the top grain. I believe there should be some consistencies between top and underside surely if it's a solid spruce top, following the actual pattern not just seeing whether it's spruce underneath.

– Doppler

This will NOT tell if the top is solid!!! As Toxophilite has mentioned several times in both his and my threads, he's seen tops with spruce as the top and bottom layer WITH the grain lined up in the same direction BUT with a layer of poplar or aspen as the MIDDLE layer....a laminate top!! Only seeing the top's edge will determine if it's one solid piece - which still won't determine if it was carved or pressed - or a laminate.

27

Yes Dave I read the above from Bernie et al, but I'm not talking about simply whether the grain lines up in the same direction or whether it's simply spruce underneath. Trying again - the actual pattern, there should be subtle similarities you can identify that are unique to the piece of wood upon close inspection. Feel free to SHOUT back again if it pleases you... (also, if still in doubt, just ship one of your carved spruce top guitars to the antipodes and I'll find and photograph some datapoints for you to illustrate my point)

28

I never believed, or said, my Convertible had a solid spruce top. I just posted photos of my example to fulfill a request

Now as for my '57 Hofner Club 50, it has a solid Spruce top. I know as I've cut into it!

29

I haven't read all of the aforementioned threads on this subject, but I've long had some general curiosity about it. I'm fairly sure that Gibson produced some laminated spruce tops as early as the 1950's. I've never owned one of those, nor handled one, but I've read descriptions in the past.

I decided to try a web search for any interesting analyses or discussions on other sites, and I found one fairly easily:

http://www.jazzguitar.be/fo...

Now, this is another internet discussion, so there's going to be fact and fiction, but I will just say that I think this thread contains some very interesting ideas and viewpoints concerning the analysis of guitar tops, and I think that even the most knowledgable person might learn at least something from it. Plenty of point/counterpoint, and some very good basic information that tends to clear up common confusion (e.g., "carved" vs "pressed" vs "solid"... etc). This discussion we're having is all about using the proper terms, in addition to understanding how to examine a guitar.

30

Yes Dave I read the above from Bernie et al, but I'm not talking about simply whether the grain lines up in the same direction or whether it's simply spruce underneath. Trying again - the actual pattern, there should be subtle similarities you can identify that are unique to the piece of wood upon close inspection. Feel free to SHOUT back again if it pleases you... (also, if still in doubt, just ship one of your carved spruce top guitars to the antipodes and I'll find and photograph some datapoints for you to illustrate my point)

– Doppler

Hey Doppler, sorry it sounds like shouting.....not suppose to be. I hear you about trying to find similarities between an odd pattern that lines up on the inside and outside surfaces, however......and I'm not shouting , the layers that make up the laminate are very thin and are chosen from the most prime veneer; pieces that have no flaws whatsoever, that being the point of having the top layer of the laminate spruce in the first place - to show off an exquisite flawless grain, greatly enhancing the visual appearance of the guitar and possibly command a bit higher price.

Even with a carved top, the tops aren't very thick at all, just slightly thicker in the middle area. And the same caveat applies here in that the boards chosen for the top - glued together that lines up with the body's centerline - aren't chosen with any irregularities or knots either. My Fleetwood's top has no irregularities whatsoever and it's easy to see, given it was exposed when Nicole took the back off it to begin the restoration.

I'm going to look up that website that JimR56 found and see if there's any fairy tales I can get a good laugh from.

As for sending off my Synchro, I need it as every day when I'm watching TV I noodle on it; and besides, it's loaded with fine rosewood so it might never pass muster at our border. And the Fleetwood will have a lot of abalone - 2 headstock logos and split humpblock neck inlays - so it is sure to run afoul of someone, somewhere. And it isn't finished yet anyway.

31

Hey Doppler, sorry it sounds like shouting.....not suppose to be. I hear you about trying to find similarities between an odd pattern that lines up on the inside and outside surfaces, however......and I'm not shouting , the layers that make up the laminate are very thin and are chosen from the most prime veneer; pieces that have no flaws whatsoever, that being the point of having the top layer of the laminate spruce in the first place - to show off an exquisite flawless grain, greatly enhancing the visual appearance of the guitar and possibly command a bit higher price.

Even with a carved top, the tops aren't very thick at all, just slightly thicker in the middle area. And the same caveat applies here in that the boards chosen for the top - glued together that lines up with the body's centerline - aren't chosen with any irregularities or knots either. My Fleetwood's top has no irregularities whatsoever and it's easy to see, given it was exposed when Nicole took the back off it to begin the restoration.

I'm going to look up that website that JimR56 found and see if there's any fairy tales I can get a good laugh from.

As for sending off my Synchro, I need it as every day when I'm watching TV I noodle on it; and besides, it's loaded with fine rosewood so it might never pass muster at our border. And the Fleetwood will have a lot of abalone - 2 headstock logos and split humpblock neck inlays - so it is sure to run afoul of someone, somewhere. And it isn't finished yet anyway.

– Windsordave

Damn you Dave, my clever ruse to get one of those guitars off you has face planted. I hear what you're saying about selection of the spruce veneer. I just find it hard to believe that some identifying characteristics can't be spotted, such as alignment of individual grain lines. But then again I find lots of things hard to believe...like me ever being mistaken for example.

32

Well, I just read the entire thread on the jazz website. Pity it isn't current where I could join the chat. I didn't come away with anything I hadn't read at some point, somewhere. It did jog my memory though on one point and that's in regard to the top having a center seam if it's carved due to bookmatching a cut piece of spruce. Laminates don't tend to show this - I haven't seen one - but that's not to say there aren't some out there.

One 'fairy tale' I read was from one fellow who later in the thread was sorted out and set right. He claimed that "there is no sonic difference between a carved top and a laminate top." This fellow's hearing is obviously pathetic to say the least.

One other thing that was often discussed was that a carved top may not be thicker in the middle than at the edges. I hadn't heard that before and I can't imagine why someone would think a carved top will be the same thickness in the middle area. A carved top's response is at its best when the center is thicker, tapering to thinner at the outer edges. I'm suspecting that someone who felt the top with his fingers and couldn't detect a thickness difference had a pressed top: uniform thickness for the entire top, just as a laminate.

Time for some noodling.

33

*"It did jog my memory though on one point and that's in regard to the top having a center seam if it's carved due to bookmatching a cut piece of spruce. Laminates don't tend to show this - I haven't seen one - but that's not to say there aren't some out there."

All my laminate spruce archtop guitars have seams running down the middle and could easily be mistaken for book-matched tops. I'm sure they book-match the laminates to achieve that effect, basically laminate spruce tops are for aesthetics. In fact EVERY laminate spruce guitar top I've seen. including many flattop acoustics, mimic the center seam you see on a solid spruce top.

34

This will NOT tell if the top is solid!!! As Toxophilite has mentioned several times in both his and my threads, he's seen tops with spruce as the top and bottom layer WITH the grain lined up in the same direction BUT with a layer of poplar or aspen as the MIDDLE layer....a laminate top!! Only seeing the top's edge will determine if it's one solid piece - which still won't determine if it was carved or pressed - or a laminate.

– Windsordave

Actually if you could examine it with a good light etc that might give a good idea, However they do laminate spruce top and bottom alot so it can be confusing (like my country club). On the acoustic hofner archtop I had (nothing so fancy as Paul's Club 50) I was sure the top was solid as it looked like it matched up inside and out but upon further examination of the inside I figured out it was a laminate because of a flaw in the inside spruce laminate that clearly showed the center laminate. It was sold to me as a solid top by a nice guy who clearly believed it was. I believed itw as too till I started poking around.

And Paul sorry if I generalized about the Convertible owners . I really appreciated the pictures and I just got my pickguards! Thank you very very much for the choice , extra logos and everything!! I was very pleased. now to find some relatively close paint.

35

The San Salvadors...

Not to call anybody out here, but I saw this error numerous times in the "Converting a Convertible" thread (which I was just reading), so I thought it was worth mentioning...

The model we're talking about was named for a famous jazz guitarist and educator, Sal Salvador.

San Salvador is the capital city of the nation of El Salvador (and also an island in the Bahamas).

I know it's only one letter, but... yeah. It's Sal.

36

I like that picture of Sal playing a Convertible, particularly because it's the earlier model that was not named after him.

37

*"It did jog my memory though on one point and that's in regard to the top having a center seam if it's carved due to bookmatching a cut piece of spruce. Laminates don't tend to show this - I haven't seen one - but that's not to say there aren't some out there."

All my laminate spruce archtop guitars have seams running down the middle and could easily be mistaken for book-matched tops. I'm sure they book-match the laminates to achieve that effect, basically laminate spruce tops are for aesthetics. In fact EVERY laminate spruce guitar top I've seen. including many flattop acoustics, mimic the center seam you see on a solid spruce top.

– Toxophilite

Well I'll certainly bow to your greater experience than mine, Bernie. This just deepens the mystery of trying to ascertain whether a top is solid - carved or pressed - or laminate when there isn't an edge to view.

38

I like that picture of Sal playing a Convertible, particularly because it's the earlier model that was not named after him.

– Doppler

One of the better photos I've seen of Sal.

39

I like that picture of Sal playing a Convertible, particularly because it's the earlier model that was not named after him.

– Doppler

Cool Picture!! I think it's a little later than my convertible as it has the sensibly smaller pickguard. Ooops SAL Salvador..that was probably me being careless!

40

That one's smaller? How much bigger is yours, Bernie...can't recall the pic of it.

41

My red one had the small guard, and factory spruce dowels for soundposts. This other one had the dowels as well, these guitars can really be feedback monsters. The pickguards really varied in shape/size as well.

43

My red one with thumb inlays.

– JazzBoxJunky

A most interesting color, JBJ. I rather like this shade as opposed to Gretsches that can be a much stronger red. What year is this one?

44

57/58 and see through finish so you could see the spruce lines

45

57/58 and see through finish so you could see the spruce lines

– JazzBoxJunky

Very, very nice! I always prefer the see-through style finishes especially with a spruce top. Whether it's laminate or solid is irrelevant, as seeing the lovely spruce grain is the point of the see-through finish. Same goes for maple tops too, such as the flamey and maple tops on 6120's be they vintage or recent.

My orange Super Axe and Super Chet have maple tops which are both elegant but my Synchro (natural) and soon to be finished Fleetwood's spruce tops are the best. I much prefer the see through finish to the opaque, which shows off only the paint job and none of the wood's attributes. This is why I dislike sunbursts as the black paint can hide a very nice wood grain. On my Fleetwood, which was a tobacco sunburst, the small area of yellow on the side revealed a very lovely tiger stripe which the black paint everywhere else hides. With it being refinished as a honey amber natural, this nice pattern will now be seen.

46

My red one had the small guard, and factory spruce dowels for soundposts. This other one had the dowels as well, these guitars can really be feedback monsters. The pickguards really varied in shape/size as well.

– JazzBoxJunky

Hey JBJ, do you have either of these 57/58 Convertibles in your possession anymore?

I'd never noticed those thumbnail inlays before on the red guitar, but both guitars have that combination of thumbnails & deArmond pickup on them. Serial numbers would be interesting...

Geoff

47

My red one had the small guard, and factory spruce dowels for soundposts. This other one had the dowels as well, these guitars can really be feedback monsters. The pickguards really varied in shape/size as well.

– JazzBoxJunky

Very cool guitars. Later models by the looks of them, but why the 'soundposts'?? Guitars don't typically use sound posts as they are played in a very different way than violins, nor do they need the backs to resonate. I think they're more like 'feedback suppressors' They would certainly put a kibosh on the acoustic properties (particularly bottom end or 'warmth') for sure as they stiffen the top up a tonne Mine is braced in the conventional with the two paralell braces. I was playing it quite loud the other night at rehearsal, Bossa, rockabilly, hard rock, harder alt rock etc and no problem with feedback, and my drummer is well, too loud (he gets excited).

48

If I recall, my red one was 234XX, and yes the posts I believe were there to make the box stiffer and able to play better as an electric. Which probably was a good idea, because the acoustic tone wasn't great.


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