Pre-War Gibson L-5 Owners' Club




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Timeline Continued


By 1936

Bound f-holes and 20-fret fingerboard.


Gold-plated tailpiece with a silver centre insert and three engraved diamonds. Grover Imperial tuners with stair-step buttons.

A total of 21 L-5s were shipped with a Natural finish* in 1937 and 1938 despite the fact that this option was not officially available until 1939 (this number includes one of the last 16-inch models, which was delivered with a Natural finish in May 1938).


Wider ‘Varitone’ tailpiece with no hinge and a small hole at the bottom centre to accommodate an Allen wrench tension adjustment.


From 1939 the L-5 was available as the L-5P – with a single rounded ‘Venetian’ style cutaway.


From 1939 onward  Kluson Sealfast gold-plated tuners were fitted as standard.


Natural finish option introduced.


The top now has parallel bracing and comes in one standard thickness.

Late 1930s

Some examples shipped with a white pearloid pickguard

The first 17-Inch wide Advanced L-5 to roll off of the production line (serial number 92100) was delivered to Gibson sales manager Clarence Havenga on 18th July 1935. Interestingly, this instrument was listed in Gibson’s records as ‘L-5 new’ rather than ‘Advanced’, the latter designation making its first appearance in August 1935 with serial numbers 92101 and 92186.


Tailpiece with silver centre insert

'Varitone' Tailpiece

Beginning in 1936, a number of L-5s* were listed as ‘Spl L-5’ (22 units in 1936 and approximately 62 the following year). The ‘Special’ appellation may have indicated early use of the longer 25-½ inch scale length that became a permanent feature of the L-5 in 1938 and it seems likely that for a time at least both short and long scale L-5s were shipped concurrently.

Bound L-5 17 Inch f-hole Varitone Tailpiece silver centre tailpiece


Switch to a 25-½ inch scale length.

*With thanks to André Duchossoir for this information.


Dating from 1938, this picture (right) shows Canadian guitarist 'Red' McGarvey - who at the time was a member of Ray Noble's Orchestra - holding one of just 21 L-5s that were shipped with a Natural finish in 1937 and 1938.

pearloid pickguard

Pearloid Pickguard