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1917 Gibson L-3 Round Soundhole Vintage Carved Top Archtop Acoustic Guitar


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Up for sale, a 1917 The Gibson L-3 acoustic archtop in exceptional condition and in perfect working order. The most ornate model built on Gibson's smaller archtop platform (13 3/4“ lower bout width), the L-3 features a hand-carved solid Adirondack spruce top, solid birch back and sides, and a mahogany neck capped by an ebony fretboard. The guitar offers impressive projection for its size with an immediate treble response, glassy articulation, and excellent string-to-string balance. The midrange is warm and full, with a certain smoothness accentuated by the flatwound strings, and there’s a dry airiness and snap to the low end that results in great clarity when chording. This L-3 weighs 3lbs 12oz, professionally setup here at Mike & Mike’s Guitar Bar with fresh 12-52 flatwound nickel strings and easy-playing action.

The mahogany neck has a very chunky V-shaped profile carve that fills the palm in every register, starting big and getting bigger with more shoulder as you travel up the fingerboard, measuring 1.030” deep at the 1st fret and 1.330” at the 7th. The bound ebony fretboard has been refretted with flawless slender fretwire, playing cleanly up the 24 1/4“ scale with a straight neck. The hand-carved bone nut measures a full 1 7/8“ in width. The headstock has a clean diagonal "the Gibson" inlay and floral motif, and the original etched strip open-gear tuning machines turn smoothly and hold accurate pitch. The D tuner arm has been replaced, and this gear functions in reverse of the other tuners.

The neck set is ideal, and the action at the 12th fret sits at a very comfortable 8/64” on the bass side and 5/64” on the treble side. All of the hardware is remarkably clean, including the original tailpiece hinge (engraved with “Patented July 19, 1910” text) and a replacement diamond string anchor, carved ebony bridge, and raised tortoise pickguard, anchored at both the bridge and on the treble-side rim. It’s exceedingly rare to find this pickguard assembly as complete as the example seen here. The soundhole is framed by grained ivoroid with a central strip of herringbone, and the original label is present in the soundhole, with the penciled serial number dating to 1917.

Crack-free, the guitar features its original Red Sunburst spirit varnish finish (described in the catalog as “a shading of golden red to a beautiful dark mahogany”), with only limited touch-up adjacent to the neck joint. Cosmetic wear includes a number of minor scuffs and dings on the body as a whole, with some light wear on the top along the strum path and limited buckle rash across the back. The gloss on the neck profile has a worn-in, smooth feel, with a scant few shallow nicks along the profile length that have no impact on playability.

A modern hardshell case is included (not pictured).