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Es-335 Reconstruction.

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Happy New Year guys !!

I've got a nice and interesting project: I came into the possession of a badly damaged Gibson ES335. The guitar had sustained severe damage to the top, the back and the rims in a couple of places. It needed major reconstruction.

After carefully discarding the damaged parts the only pieces that could be rescued were the neck and the maple centre block, which are essentially undamaged (and of course all the original hardware and case).

The idea is to reconstruct the body, but I will be doing it using the "chambered solid-body" approach: The back will be carved mahogany and the top will be carved redwood.

I'm currently considering a couple of alternatives, the first would be making the center block integral to the back as part of the chambering, maybe shorten it a bit to keep he weight under control. Something like this:


However, I was thinking that a good deal of the 335 timbre comes from the neck set into the solid maple center block, so I was also considering the following alternatives of separate maple blocks (in blue in the drawing) inside the hollowed mahogany back:

th_SeparateCBFull.jpg th_SeparateCBShort.jpg

For this I could re-use the original center block (after some reshaping) or most likely build a new one.

The maple block may also help to keep the weight down a bit, but of course, the build becomes a little more complex. This construction will be the closest to the original 335 recipe with the carved solid woods replacing the pressed laminates for the "shell".

What do you guys think, is it worth it to pursue the more complex solution of a separate center block ??


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To be honest...

From your description...

IMO... :D

All you really have is a neck, period.

End of story.

I'd steam the neck off from the centerblock, throw it away too, and simply start over, all new, re-using the neck of course.

Check the history of the 335 and find some period you like, something that would 'go along' with the type and style of the neck itself.

And my personal preference would not be to use a Maple centerblock for the next body either, choose a wood that has more tonal character to it than Maple, or build a real braced archtop if that suits your needs.

Define what you want out of this guitar, then build that. There's not enough of it left to keep you shackled down to whatever it used to be anymore.

Don't let Gibson's penny-pinching production techniques limit you, take the blinders off and run free with it.

What I'm saying is to unshackle yourself from whatever this thing used to be, because, from what it sounds like, it simply ain't no more.

Start FRESH, with all the ideas and creativity YOU want to bring to the game, and use all of it, don't try to accomodate something that's so far gone it's totally history at this point.

Rise it from the ashes to be something new and unique of your own design, and if your own design aligns closely with a 335, that's great too, but build it new.

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Thanks, Drak, for your honest and mind opening reply.

You're indeed right, all I have is a neck (just removed it from the centre block, BTW). So I will design a new guitar around the neck.

Since it's going to bear the Gibson badge on the headstock I want to keep it Gibson-themed at least. This neck joins the body at the 19th fret, so it would be suitable for an SG, a 336 type or a 335 type.

Not interested in an SG at this stage. A 336 style would be tempting, as these are built just like I intend to build mine. I could even do a full replica if I were so inclined… But considering I also have the case I think I will build a 335 style, but built along the lines of the 336: hollowed mahogany body and solid carved top. You're also right in that I don't need to follow any of the designed-to-be-cheaply-mass-produced ES335 design constraints.

Considering the size, the main consideration will indeed be weight. I've done some modelling to help me get weight estimations.

Unfortunately the only honduras mahogany blank I have that is thick and wide enough for this project is horribly heavy. Even with the light redwood top a full centre block version of this guitar would end up close to 11 lbs. A fully hollow version (solid block under bridge and tailpiece only) would be an "almost" manageable 9.5 lbs.

However I found that I have a mahogany billet (probably khaya) that's nicely flamed and significantly lighter. I can resaw a nice bookmatched set and use it for the back (just like I will do with the separate top). Now since I will only need the middle-piece for the rims and center-block I can make it out of a two piece blank of much lighter sipo… All considered, the same hollow design will go down to 8.3 lbs for the completed guitar, and that would be really sweet. I know it will not sound like a 335, but with all that chambering inside, at least I hope it will not sound just like a mahogany solidbody either.

Now my question: I will be carving the top and potentially the back on the inside too. This will leave the thickness at around 3-4mm (1/8-5/32") at several places. I don't think these are quarter sawn pieces, could that thickness be a problem ?? I have some red cedar (also very light, very straight grained and quartered) that I could use for the top instead of redwood, but the nicely flamed redwood would definitely look more interesting...

Structurally, the rims and center-block should handle most of the load, and the rims will be 15 mm (5/8") wide all around. So, does it look like a viable design to you ??

This is the design of the hollow chambers as I plan to build it:


Thanks again.

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