Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Why do some vintage Bigsbies have black paint and some dont?

1

I'm referring specifically to the non-Gretsch Bigsbies, the ones that say "Bigsby Patent...". There does not seem to be a consistent pattern to me in which ones have paint and which don't. Did they all have paint when new and some have flaked off?

2

I can't say for sure... but i think they all had the black paint, and some players either didn't like it, and removed it, or they didn't appreciate when it started to flake off over time, then removed it.

3

I can't say for sure... but i think they all had the black paint, and some players either didn't like it, and removed it, or they didn't appreciate when it started to flake off over time, then removed it.

– kc_eddie_b

I think we have to separate the aluminium/no plating from the gold-plated versions. Do we agree this is true for the raw alu but not for gold? Latter were all-gold in the first decades. The black enamel is a modern thing here AFAIK. Quite odd, I think.

4

I think we have to separate the aluminium/no plating from the gold-plated versions. Do we agree this is true for the raw alu but not for gold? Latter were all-gold in the first decades. The black enamel is a modern thing here AFAIK. Quite odd, I think.

– sascha

YES... good qualification sascha! My comments were directed towards the non-gold plated units. The gold ones were clearly made without the black paint... and when I see the modern reissues that have it, it always looks wrong to me!

6

I’m no expert, but some of those early bigsby show zero evidence of having black paint in the center. I would say it’s possible that several/many had the black removed, but I would expect to see some black in the pores or scratches from the removal attempt.

Maybe different companies request different finishes?

9

They originally had black there, and they still look funny to me without it, but it didn't adhere very well & it flaked. At some point, everybody either removed it all or repainted it black. I've been playing guitar since 1954, and I remember staring at them in music stores for many years before I could finally afford one. I also worked at a couple of music stores in the 60's, and we always had new Bigsbys in the display case.

10

My first Bigsby was a black panel B6 I bought in 89/90 from Hank's in Denmark St. I was playing mostly bass in those days so the guitar didn't get gigged much, but within 10 years the black had started to flake off. I picked the rest of with the tip of a guitar pick and was surprised to see how easily and cleanly it came off. I was expecting to have to buff/brush/scrape it out of the nooks and crannies, but it's more like an enamel than a paint and it all came off a treat.

I doubt I spent more than 15-20 minutes on it and there was absolutely zero residue.

11

Without a specialised primer and suitable prep Aluminium is not a great surface to accept paint. It just flakes off the oxide layer. The paint on Bigsbies is very thick and soft and as Deke, Billy and others have observed it just lifts and comes off in big sections.

13

At the risk of sounding contrary I found the opposite was true. The paint/enamel was actually quite thin and pretty hard-brittle so it flaked/chipped easily.

14

This one may have been removed and buffed.

– Joe Desperado

Hey Joe... this one is an anodized gold ('55) example. As you know they never got the black paint.

15

At the risk of sounding contrary I found the opposite was true. The paint/enamel was actually quite thin and pretty hard-brittle so it flaked/chipped easily.

– Deke Martin

The paint on my B7 is really gooey and thick (almost like plastidip) so it wants to come off in one lump...either way it's rubbish paint!

I think the real problem is that it's not the right painting process for aluminium, and it doesn't look like they ever used much of a primer or if they did it wasn't the right kind.

16

I don’t think there was any primer under mine,

I have to say my ‘03 SSLVO has seen considerably more action, but the paint is still well intact. Maybe they’ve upped their game.

17

I do know that it's really tough to get aluminum to hold paint. there are specific paints for it. I'm not sure how good they were at that back in the 50's.

18

Hey Joe... this one is an anodized gold ('55) example. As you know they never got the black paint.

– kc_eddie_b

You are right Ed. I attached the wrong picture and thought I edited it with the correct one. But the wrong picture remained on the post.

19

And My Tedious Self still wants to know when the removable pins (can be take out w/ tiny hex wrench) ended and the pressed in, permanently attached ones started. I always took the pins out. easier to string straight thru the hole and none ever broke being strung that way.

20

And My Tedious Self still wants to know when the removable pins (can be take out w/ tiny hex wrench) ended and the pressed in, permanently attached ones started. I always took the pins out. easier to string straight thru the hole and none ever broke being strung that way.

– DCBirdMan

'72/73

21

I had the opportunity a few years ago to do a phone interview with PA Bigsby's daughter. She shared with me that at the tender age of 14 she was allowed to go to the backyard shop and paint the faces on vibrato units with black paint. Since then, every time I touch an old fixed-arm Bigsby unit, I wonder of she may have applied the paint on it!

22

The screw pins were replaced with roll pins sometime in the early 70's.

23

The problem back then in the `50's with painting Bigsby's is that it was very hard to get paint to stick to aluminium and make it last. I know my friend Travis Bean use to use Imron paint to do the necks of his guitars as it was made for commercial use and to stick to metals.

24

I've seen a few of the Guildsbys have a solarized look to them that looked quite cool. The paint on my B6 started to flake and I took the rest of the black off with paint stripper. Looked fine without it and that's the way I've left them. There is a rough texture to the blackened areas probably designed to hold the paint better.


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