The Not a Byrdland
Updated: Jan 6, 2019
For almost 50 years I have lusted after a Full Bodied Left Handed Gibson Jazz guitar but the price has always been astronomical - very few Lefties were ever made, even to special order, and prices run up towards an eye watering six figure level. Same thing applies to Epiphones and they are all as rare as Hen's teeth. As a rare break, Gibson had put out the ES275 series Archtop as leftie as part of the 2017 product range, but an hour spent over the road in the Guitar shop by the office playing three of them left me with a great feeling of disappointment - three thousand quid for a guitar with a thin plywood top and a pressed paper fingerboard just didn't say buy me buy me.
Then to my utter astonishment one night, doing my usual nightly vain Internet search for Left Handed Gibson Archtops, I came across this little beauty. Made in China (of course) but interestingly, from a factory that appeared to be on the Gibson creditors list - they filed Chapter 11 in 2018. The cost was around a tenth of the 275's, including shipping and case - so in my price range and that of other mere mortals, so it was a no brainer to place an order - there was a risk but at that price point, one that I was prepared to take.
After a month or so it turned up and it looked the part straight out of the box - complete with felt tip pen covering the logo - very shiny and new complete with gold hardware - typically Chinese build quality but something I could work with to get my dream guitar.
It was strung for a Leftie, so first up was a trip to see Seb, to see if he could cut the existing nut for my right hand strung variant as a starting point for restringing and getting the neck to settle with the new configuration. Seb being the skilled man that he is got it to work and it was now playable. Back home for a full fret dress in the Shed progressed it even more.
The Hardware and electrics were a bit cheap and cheerful, so I stripped it back to just the body and also took the top thick layer of Varnish off the body to let it breathe a bit and remove its slightly boxy sound. New genuine Grover Tuners went on, as did an ebony and gold Tunomatic bridge from Stewmac in the US. The tailpiece came from a specialist store in Belgium - I balked at the cost of a genuine Byrdland tailpiece as it was more than the guitar itself, but this one was nice and heavy with plenty of mass and had all the right scrolls on it to be the part as well as just look it. Next up were the Electrics and a pair of Gold Gibson 57's went straight on, along with some decent 500k CTS pots, the correct Knobs and Switchcraft Selector Switch. I made the rubber grommet for the switch to isolate it mechanically from the body to get rid of all of those thumps changing pickups - the guitar was starting to take real shape and sound just like it had done in my head for all of those years. All in al,l the parts were about the same cost as the actual guitar so this was starting to feel like a real bargain.
Then after a month or so letting the neck settle, it was back to Seb to have a proper bone nut cut for it and also to have him contour the ebony base of the bridge to fit the body curve perfectly and pin it to stop any sift and twist.
The result is exquisite and I can't put it down - sure its a fake, but it's the closest I'm ever going to get to the real thing and it's a much better Guitar than those 275s I tried, but to show its pedigree there was one final touch to add..................