Gibson Style O Artist Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1918)

Gibson  Style O Artist Arch Top Acoustic Guitar  (1918)
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Item # 8519
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Gibson Style O Artist Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1918), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 47677, red sunburst varnish finish, birch back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

The Style O Artist Model has always been one of the Gibson company's most visually arresting creations, unmistakable even from 100 yards away. Designed to harmonize with the company's mandolin orchestra instruments, this guitar has not only an elegantly scrolled upper bout but a dramatic swooping cutaway on the treble side. This feature allows more access to the fingerboard than any guitar of the period, and indeed the 15th fret neck joint was a revolutionary if under-appreciated idea at the time.

The Style O "Special Grand Concert Artist Model" was introduced in 1908 as Gibson's new version of their top of the line 6-string guitar. While it seems to have attracted some interest at the time, it never became much of a player's favorite and was discontinued in 1923 upon the introduction of the revolutionary f-hole L-5.

This late 1910s Style O has many typical Gibson features for the time, including the deep "V" profile neck, carved compensated ebony bridge, elevated celluloid pickguard, and trapeze tailpiece with a celluloid pin block to hold the strings. The top is finished in a deep red sunburst and all body edges are bound; the sound hole is ornamented with multiple decorated rings. The headstock is bound with a "The Gibson" logo above the fleur-de-lys pearl emblem and fitted with engraved strip tuners with ivoroid buttons.

The serial number on this guitar's label has mostly faded away, but it is still visible etched on the underside of the pickguard. From this and the factory order number, the guitar can be dated to the transition of 1917-18. This Style O is actually one of the better-sounding of these we have had, with a thinner carved top than some and a deeper tone and more responsive feel than some. A cool and very playable piece of Gibson history, still housed in its original purple-lined HSC.
 
Overall length is 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm.), 16 1/8 in. (41 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 7/8 in. (48 mm.).

This Style O has seen a decent amount of use and some repairs over the course of its 100 years on earth but remains more original than many, with the finish and hardware largely intact. This one is also in totally solid playable condition, unlike many other Style O survivors. As always, the Style O makes for an amazing-looking instrument; there really is nothing else like it. This one is actually a quite playable instrument, though likely not to every guitarist's taste.

The deep red varnish finish has general wear overall with some pickwear to the top, with many scrapes and dings over the entire instrument. The only area of major loss to the finish is to the back of the neck, where it is down to the wood on the spine and generally up to around the fifth fret. There is one large crack repair to the top running under the pickguard from the front rim to back around the bridge, sealed and spliced long ago. The top has one other small repaired crack off the back rim and several small case lid dings that have been filled with small pieces of wood and touched up.

The neck heel is always a weak point on this model, likely due to the guitar's unusual cutaway structure and the odd stacked laminated neck block. This one has two typical cracks on the lower heel, solidly repaired but visible. The guitar has been refretted and the fingerboard trued. The new frets are a bit larger than the original mandolin-style wire but within period spec. and the original fancy pearl nut is still intact.

The hardware remains all original -- the elegant Waverly strip tuners are intact and functional, as is the carved compensated ebony piece. The fragile celluloid tailpiece pin-block (which has usually disintegrated by now) is intact with all its pins, as is the celluloid floating pickguard and bracket. The top of the pickguard has some odd deep scuffing on the outer edge, for reasons lost to history.

Overall this guitar is definitely a survivor, but still lovely to behold and surprisingly fun to play. The neck is chunky but not as thick as some, with a noticeable "V" profile but less sharply contoured than many and easier to adapt to than one might think. The sound is, as expected, fairly bright but fuller with more depth than some of these elegant Art Nouveau creations we have had in the past. The original case is worn externally but remains intact and is still fully functional. Very Good + Condition.