Gibson EH-185 Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1941)

Gibson  EH-185 Lap Steel Electric Guitar  (1941)

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Item # 7912
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Gibson EH-185 Model Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1941), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 86440, sunburst lacquer finish, maple body witn Hyblum metal core, original black hard shell case.

This EH-185 is a fairly unusual Gibson steel guitar, introduced as an upscale sibling to the popular EH-150 in 1940. By the time this guitar was built the "Charlie Christian" style blade had been replaced with a new model, the slanted plastic-covered pickup with adjustable poles used here. In 1940 this was considered an upgrade; later that opinion was revised in retrospect by many, but this is still a very good sounding pickup!

The EH-185 and an even fancier sister model EH-275 also sported a feature that set them apart from other Gibson steels: a metal core running the length of the body. This center section has a reinforcing flange running under the neck, and is expanded to form the headstock itself on the top end. This results in an instrument considerably heavier than the all-wood EH-150, with an even more substantial feel. This metal plate is composed of hyblum, an aluminum-magnesium-silicon alloy that was finished out in a grey “crinkle” effect as was popular at the time.

The likely purpose of this hybrid metal/wood construction was to improve tone and sustain by adding mass. Both Vega and Epiphone had already experimented with brass plates on their steels, but Gibson went further by forming the headstock and center body section out of a single casting. The pickup and controls are also mounted on the plate, with only the output jack attached to the wooden body frame. The maple body is hollow, like an EH-150, and a trough has been cut through the top to fit the reinforcing flange on the plate. The Gibson logo is hand-cut out of metal sheet and screwed onto the headstock. While an unusual combination of elements for Gibson this EH-185 is excellent playing and sounding steel, and like all Gibson Hawaiian guitars a classy looking instrument in the company tradition!
 
Overall length is 32 in. (81.3 cm.), 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 2 in. (5.1 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 22 1/4 in. (565 mm.). Width of nut is 2 in. (51 mm.). This steel is fairly clean overall and remains mostly original with a few hardware changes. The tuners are a correct style but recent-modern re-issues of the 1940 style flat-plate Kluson style. The pickup is original but the pots and tone cap are replacements-the originals are in the case. There are small dings and dents but not a lot of wear, and the sound is fabulous-even when not plugged in! A very cool and fairly rare pre-war Gibson steel, complete with a worn but still functional deluxe plush-lined HSC. Excellent Condition.