Nevil Skimshire’s Guitar –
1943 Gibson L7
Nevil Skrimshire – My Guitar is a Gibson L7, pre-war. When i first got it, i saw it advertised in the Melody Maker. I contacted Ken ‘Nob’ Baldwin banjoist/guitarist of the Merseysippi Jazz Band, and he went and collected it for me and brought it down when next he was playing in London.
I wrote to Gibson’s and quoted the number and asked them when it was made, and they wrote back saying that according to their records my guitar was completed in 1943.
Completed is a key word because guitars are made over a period, as each bit matures. The L5 which Eddie Lang Used had a lovely warm sound, but then they decided they wanted the guitar to ring out more and cut through. They needed that sharp sound to cut through the Brass in the Big Bands, so Lloyd Loar the designer came up with the L7 which has the brighter more cutting sound.
In response not only to Epiphone’s challenge but to the increasing size and volume level of 1930s jazz bands, Gibson pushed archtop design over the top in 1935 with the 18-inch Super 400. On its coattails, the body widths of the entire archtop line were “advanced” by an inch, widening the L-5, L-7, L-10, and L-12 to 17 inches. For unknown reasons, these new versions included an X-braced top.
The demand for greater volume prompted players to use heavier strings, but whether or not the heavier pressure on the top was a factor in the change to X-bracing is pure speculation.
Gibson went back to tone bars in mid-1939. In the meantime, Gibson had enhanced the L-5’s appeal by offering an optional blonde finish and a cutaway version, initially called the L-5 Premier and then the L-5C.
This L-7 guitar has great Big Band sound with 17″ lower bout, sunburst finish carved spruce top with tone bar bracing, dark stained maple back, sides, and 2-piece neck, white-bound 20-fret rosewood fingerboard with dual parallelogram inlays, 1-23/32″ nut width, 25-1/2″ scale, adjustable rosewood bridge, trapeze tailpiece with 3 raised parallelograms, white-bound tortoise plastic pick-guard, w-b-w-bound body, white-bound headstock with pearl “Gibson” logo and crown inlays, tuners with oval metal buttons.
Gibson started making L-7’s in 1932 often with Kluson Tuners and ES-175 Tailpiece
The original 16″ L-7 is a rare guitar, made for 2 years only between 1932 and 1934. Produced with the same body as the 20’s L-5, the L-7 was adorned with variegated pearl fingerboard inlays somewhat fancier than it’s costlier cousin. The neck is very comfortable, with a slightly V-shaped neck profile, and was made in the last year for the generous 1 3/4″ nut width, now a favourite of modern builders. This guitar is also unique in the inlay pattern beginning at the first fret, rather than the third as commonly seen. The L7 survived until 1970 and the L5 is still made to this day. These guitars have been used by such notables as Jimmy Raney, Bamey Kessel, Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery. They produce a warm punchy tone with great depth, perhaps a little too much when it came to controlling feedback.
L-7 specs: triple bound top, double-parallelogram fingerboard inlays, crown peg-head inlay.
Body size at lower bout: 17″. Scale length: 25.4″ Nut Width: 1 11/16″
Materials: Hand carved book matched solid spruce top; solid mahogany neck, solid bubble-figure maple back, solid maple sides, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, variegated mother of pearl inlay fingerboard inlay and fleur de lis peg head inlay; bound fingerboard, peg head and body.
Hardware: Original Brazilian rosewood bridge, original bound tortoise pick-guard, correct nickel-plated Grover Sta-Tite open back tuners with tulip keys and modern 16X1 gearing, newer nickel trapeze tailpiece with raised parallelograms on crossbar; good original frets, original bone nut.
Notes: Introduced in 1932, the Gibson L-7 was Gibson’s most popular acoustic archtop ever. Identical in all but cosmetics to the L-5, it remains the outstanding value in a true pro-sized all-carved Gibson archtop. This remarkable example is quite distinctive in that it is fitted with the ornate fleur-de-lis inlay pattern used on the very first L-7 models of the early 30’s. We have only seen a few other examples of this on the later advanced model 17″ guitars, and only on instruments made during the very depth of the war years. We consider it likely that Gibson may have experienced shortages from its pearl suppliers, and took to using up vintage inlay stock from the 20’s and 30’s. The result is a guitar that is not only extraordinarily graceful, but extremely rare as well.
The highly figured back shows intense bubble-type quilting in the birds-eye maple, under a deep walnut finish. The hardware has been restored with a set of nickel Grover Sta-Tite 16 x 1 open back tuners with tulip keys in the exact vintage style, and a correct nickel trapeze tailpiece. The bound pick-guard is original, and in solid condition, though showing a few spots of aging. A great player with a refined, appealing voice.
Setup: The frets have been precision levelled, re-crowned and polished; truss rod tension and neck relief adjusted; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation set; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and re-cut as necessary; bridge foot contour inspected and fit to top as necessary; bridge radius inspected and re-curved as necessary; bridge wheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished.
Case: Gibson black plush-lined hardshell case.
Every few years, Gibson returns to their roots and reissues one of the original models that made them famous. The L7-C, the 1940s cutaway version of their popular workhorse model, a close relative to the flagship L5 model, but without the fancy inlay and gold hardware.
Every acoustic guitar made by Gibson features hand-scalloped, radiused top bracing inside the body, a feature normally found only in limited run, hand-made guitars. By scalloping each brace by hand, the natural sound of the acoustic is focused more toward the centre of the body, enhancing the instrument’s sound projection. The lightweight bracing pattern inside the Custom L-7C Acoustic Archtop is a recreation of the acoustic archtop “X” bracing used by Gibson in the early 1900s. Like the bracing inside Gibson’s famed Super Jumbos, the archtop “X” bracing pattern is constructed to support and strengthen a very large surface, thus allowing the top more freedom of movement and focusing the sound toward the centre of the body. The result is maximum sound projection, and Gibson’s incomparable acoustic tone.