Gibson l1 flat top

Gibson l1 flat top DEFAULT

This has been relisted after a buyer couldn't come up with the scratch. It's also price-reduced, too, to $+s/h! Get it while it's hot!

This is a consigned instrument.

Note that full and more detailed information can be found by Googling "antebellum instruments gibson  l-1" and locating the blog post for this guitar.

This is a beaut! It's in rather good shape, too, for its age -- something I attribute mostly to the original chip case that's still with it. It came to me from a consignor after it'd had a neck reset and a crack glue to the back though the jobs weren't quite finished to make it % playable. I cleated the back crack and fixed the work on the neck -- which meant pulling the frets, planing the board, and refretting. I then installed a wider, compensated saddle for better intonation and added some replacement ebony bridge pins. The whole process is detailed on my blog post for this guitar, but suffice to say it came out playing beautifully (3/32" bass, 1 1/16" treble action) and sounding blues-boy awesome.

For those not in the know, the L-1 is the famed "Robert Johnson" model -- as RJ's most famous photo has him clutching one of these things. This L-1 doesn't have a factory order number stamped inside but it does have features that suggest manufacture. The pyramid-wing ebony bridge is a nice one, as is the "A-frame" bracing which produces a crisp, strong, punchy sound with gobs of sustain.

The top is solid spruce with some nice pick-wear "washboarding" and the back, sides, and neck are all solid mahogany. The fretboard is dyed pearwood or maple (very typical for the time on Gibs) and has a number of chip-outs and hairline cracks in it, but it's stable and good to go. In fact -- the guitar itself is very stable -- and the neck is good and straight. I have it strung with 11s but 12s should be just fine as it's got a short (24 1/4") scale length. The neck profile is a soft C shape that's actually fairly thin in depth at the nut to 5th fret but wide side to side (1 13/16" nut width). This makes it a fast player with plenty of room for comfortable fingerpicked stylings (fingerpicking is where it shines).

It has two cracks in the body -- one long one on the back and one short one on the back (both stabilized) -- and that's it. Everything is original save the bridge pins, frets, and new saddle. The D-string tuner's knob-pole is bent but all the tuners work fine. It comes with its original chip case. 

I'm Jake Wildwood and I've been repairing, restoring, selling, trading, buying, etc. vintage and antique fretted instruments as my day job (24/7) since You can rest assured that, unless otherwise noted, any instrument I'm selling has been setup to play excellently and will be good to go for the foreseeable future. I specialize in both mainstream and oddball US-made builders, lots of folk and "alternative" instruments, and through my business hope to also keep a lot of the history around these instruments alive via the blog I run.


When Was the Gibson L-1 Reintroduced as a Flat Top Guitar?

The Gibson L1 was originally introduced in as an archtop acoustic guitar. It was later discontinued in In what year was it reintroduced as a flat top acoustic guitar?

When Was the Gibson L-1 Reintroduced as a Flat Top Guitar?

The Gibson L-1 archtop went through many changes after it was introduced in from colors all the way to rosette patterns. Ultimately the model was discontinued in only to be reintroduced in as a flat top guitar. The most famous guitarist associated with an L Blues legend, Robert Johnson.

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The history of Gibson’s L-1 and L acoustics, contemporaries of the legendary Robert Johnson

Flat-tops were popular instruments in America throughout the 19th century, with market leaders Martin introducing its first US-made guitar in However, the first Gibson flat-tops appeared as late as , beginning with the small-bodied L-0 and L-1 models. 

Prior to this, Gibson’s L-series guitars comprised archtops – Orville Gibson’s grand contribution to the guitar world – including the L-1 pictured here. Robert Johnson is perhaps most famously associated with the L-1, having been photographed holding one, albeit the later flat-top version, a markedly different design to its earlier namesake, which was produced from to  

The L-1 archtop was originally available in standard or concert sizes – 12½ and 13½ inches in width respectively – until , when the smaller size was dropped from production. Inheriting the “concert size” width of 13½ inches, the flat-top L-1 was introduced with a fret design and this is the more rounded version Robert Johnson was photographed with. 

In the lates, the L-1’s body was redesigned with a squarer lower bout measuring 14¾ inches across, and by fret necks were standard. By , the L-1 was discontinued, although Gibson has since reissued the model due to popular demand.

Much like Martin’s 0- and size flat-tops, small-bodied Gibson acoustics have experienced a resurgence in recent years, with Gibson currently offering no less than six variants of the L – namely, the Studio Walnut, Studio Rosewood, Sustainable, Standard, Original and Deluxe models.

Introduced in , the L commonly features a width of 14¾ inches and a fret neck, much like the later L-1 models. Upon its release, it was finished in black, with sunburst becoming standard a few years later (as per the L pictured, far left), followed by a natural option from

During the formative blues years of the early 20th century – notably during the Great Depression – many guitarists enjoyed playing less expensive guitars from builders such as Stella and Washburn

Having survived production throughout World War II it was discontinued in During the formative blues years of the early 20th century – notably during the Great Depression – many guitarists enjoyed playing less expensive guitars from builders such as Stella and Washburn.

Back then, Gibson and Martin were, as they are now, premium brands whose instruments were simply unobtainable for many. Nevertheless, both companies made efforts to provide more affordable flat-tops: Martin with its series, and

Gibson as part of its L-series. Skilfully crafted using the same quality materials as higher-end models, these vintage guitars are more revered by players today than ever.

  • Guitarist would like to thank Delta blues ace Andrew Bazeley for the loan of these classic Gibsons

With over 30 years’ experience writing for guitar magazines, including at one time occupying the role of editor for Guitarist and Guitar Techniques, David is also the best-selling author of a number of guitar books for Sanctuary Publishing, Music Sales, Mel Bay and Hal Leonard. As a player he has performed with blues sax legend Dick Heckstall-Smith, played rock ’n’ roll in Marty Wilde’s band, duetted with Martin Taylor and taken part in charity gigs backing Gary Moore, Bernie Marsden and Robbie McIntosh, among others. An avid composer of acoustic guitar instrumentals, he has released two acclaimed albums, Nocturnal and Arboretum.

Gibson L1 Review - How does it sound?

Gibson L-1 Flat Top Guitar

This historically significant Gibson L-1, fret flat top guitar, is the earliest true Gibson flat top guitar on the market today.  As well as the one in the best, original condition. And it is a rare example, exhibiting transitional features that place it just barely after the introduction– yet still a model (Factory order number: )– but leaning toward a few subsequent, very early changes that would establish Gibson on the flat top scene that Martin had carved out so well.

Introduced in &#;26 (there was already a L-1 archtop), the original Gibson L-1 flat top had a /2&#; body, wide V-neck, and H-bracing. The L-1 later achieved fame due to its association with the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. Its rounded lower bout, combined with narrow waist, is distinctive. And its thin braces, thin finish, and thin woods give it a wonderful woody yet loud, cutting, bluesy tone that no ’s– much less more modern– Gibson or Martin could achieve.

It is the transitional nature of this particular guitar, that is intriguing. The very first L-1 flat top, had an arched back (birch, or maple), and a pretty fat V-shaped neck. Other traits of the very first L-1 flat top: single bound top; maple back and sides; no truss rod; unbound ebony fingerboard; H pattern top bracing; “The Gibson” paint logo straight across peghead; light amber top finish; Sheraton brown finish on back and sides; single bound back.

But this L-1, though very early, does not have arched back, but rather a true flat top-style back. And its neck is a great-playing C shape, not overly fat, and not a V shape. Furthermore, it has “A” bracing, not the standard H bracing. Finally, this guitar has a (original) ebony fretboard with virtually no radius. It’s a true “transition” example. It is notably not a hybrid put together from old L-1 archtop parts– as were the very first L-1 “flat tops” out of the gate in

These are the traits of this early Gibson L-1 flat top:

  • Single bound, red spruce top, with amber stain
  • Original ebony bridge; original cellulose bridge pins (unslotted)
  • Maple back and sides (back is not arched), with Sheraton brown finish
  • Mahogany neck, C-shaped
  • Original, very thin maple bridge plate, tucked under braces, and extending all the way to the kerfing at the sides of the top, and tucked under the Kerfing
  • No truss rod
  • Unbound ebony fingerboard (not “ebonized”, but solid ebony)
  • “The Gibson” paint logo straight across peghead
  • Single bound (ivoroid) top
  • Single bound (ivoroid) back
  • H bracing (a slight variation of  “A” bracing; with the apex at either side of the neck block– and the braces actually tuck beneath the neck block)
  • Pearl dots on 5,7, and 9 frets
  • Original three-on-a-plate tuners, with plastic tuner buttons
  • Original frets
  • Original ebony nut
  • 13 5/8 inch, lower bout
  • 24 1/2 inch scale (not the 25 inch scale that was soon settled on by Gibson for the L-1, soon after the introduction)
  • Nut width: just shy of 1 7/8 inch
  • Width of fretboard at 12th fret: 2 ¼ inch
  • String spacing at nut: a hair over 1 ½ inch
  • String spacing at bridge: 2 3/8 inch
  • Three well-repaired top cracks  (all, with the grain; and the amber finish on top is very forgiving, in terms of appearance, so cracks are hardly visible)
  • One replaced tuner post

Every part of this guitar is original, except a new saddle, and the one replaced tuner post. Even the bridge pins are original. The neck was just set by us, perfectly. Intonation is perfect, all the way up to the high frets. Action: 3/32 over 4/32 inch (high E; low E, at 12 fret).

This guitar is a rare example of the first true Gibson flat top, and is the earliest made on the market that is indeed a true Gibson flat top– not a hybrid Gibson archtop/flat top. If you acquire this guitar, you’ll have boasting rights to the first Gibson flat top still in existence. But that’s all for show. More than anything, this guitar plays beautifully. It’s hard to put down. Its tone is wonderful. It has clear, glassy trebles that only the combination of maple back and sides with the very thin build, can deliver. This is a guitar whose trebles and mids you will not find on any other instrument. It is a combination of that uncompromised, pure woody tone from the great 20’s flat tops, but with the clear, louder trebles and mids that are haunting, and fill the room, even with the lightest touch.

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Top gibson l1 flat

Gibson L-1

For an overview of all the L models, see Gibson L Series.

Gibson L-1
Gibson L1 cropped.jpg

A Gibson L1 pictured at the Northwest Handmade Musical Instrument Exhibit

Period–25, –37, –95,&#;?–present
Body typeHollow [1]
BridgeTraditional Rectangle with Bone Saddle
Sunburst [1]

The Gibson L-1 is an acoustic guitar that was first sold by the Gibson Guitar Corporation in the early 20th century. The L-1 model was introduced first as an archtop (), and later as a flat top in The model is famously associated with the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson.


L-1 introduction specs (acoustic archtop): single bound round soundhole with 2 rope pattern wood rings, single bound top, ebony fingerboard, dot fingerboard inlays, orange top finish, dark mahogany back and sides, 2 sizes.

L-1 specs: " wide, narrower waist, trapeze tailpiece with pins anchored in tortoise celluloid plate, elavated pickguard, 13 frets clear of the body, bound fingerboard, slated "The Gibson" logo.

L-1 specs: No pickguard.

L-1 specs: Pickguard added again.

L-1 specs: Sheraton brown finish.

L-1 specs: Double 5 ply soundhole rings.


Re-introduced as a flattop.

The L-1 was introduced in and was available until This model cost $50 ($ equivalent). The L-1 featured a tighter grained two piece spruce top and Honduran mahogany back and sides. In some cases the back was single piece and in others it was two. Top and back were bound in ivoroid. In Gibson squared off the bottom to a more traditional shape as opposed to the previously "egg shaped" bottom commonly known as the Robert Johnson style.

In the early s Gibson reissued the L-1 using the same specifications as the earlier version. These guitars were crafted in the Montana shop and were hand built using the same techniques as the original offering. In the late s or early s, Gibson introduced the L-1 Robert Johnson acoustic guitar model, the guitar features the historic small L-series body design (25" scale length), ebony bridge with carved pyramid wings, 3 3/4-inch soundhole diameter, and a Robert Johnson signature inlay at the end of the fingerboard.


  1. ^ ab[1] on, 17 Sept
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Gibson L1 Review - How does it sound?

About This Listing

Gibson L-1 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # , sunburst top, dark back and sides finish, mahogany back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, black hard shell case. This model is a nice playing example of a particularly rare and wonderful Gibson flat top only produced for a brief period from This L-1 combines features from earlier and later eras into a unique package, with the elegant look of the 's Gibsons on the structure of a more "modern' larger 's flat-top guitar. The larger, less rounded-bout body and X-braced top first seen on this model would be subsequently used on similar fret L-series guitars throughout the 's but the older hand-rubbed Cremona brown sunburst finish on the top and small script "The Gibson" logo on the headstock were gone by These fret L-1's feature exceptionally light construction, even compared to the far more common mid's examples. While we are partial to all pre-WWII Gibson flat tops we still find the L-1 from this year to be a particularly attractive looking-and great sounding-guitar.Overall length is 38 1/2 in. ( cm.), 14 3/4 in. ( cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 1/4 in. ( cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. ( mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.). This guitar is in excellent structural and playing condition but shows some noticeable pick wear to the top and a few repairs to the bridge area. There are two very small old repaired grain cracks to the top coming of the back of the bridge-well sealed but visible. There is a small chip to the spruce on the center seam just in front of the bridge, and the seam itself below the bridge has been resealed. The guitar does not appear to have ever had a neckset; and bridge and bridgeplate are both slightly oversize correct style replacements. All work is very neatly done, and the top shows less distortion than many of these extremely lightly built guitars. The neck has some finish rubbed off the back, the frets and fingerboard show only light wear. The openback Waverly strip tuners are original and still quite functional. A fantastic sounding and playing instrument, a lovely example of this much-coveted Gibson flattop. Overall Excellent - Condition.

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