17-Inch L-5s

Visit the 17-Inch Advanced and Premier galleries by clicking the images below, and read on for their timeline.

17-Inch Gibson L-5 Advanced and Premier

In August 1935, the Gibson L-5 was given a radical makeover emerging with a larger 17-inch wide ‘Advanced’ body and multiple binding around the top, back, fingerboard, pickguard and headstock – the latter now restyled so that it was wider at the top (the familiar Gibson design). More radically, the first ‘Advanced’ L-5s also incorporated an X-braced (as opposed to parallel braced) top.

From 1939 the L-5 was offered – as the L-5 Premier – with a single rounded ‘Venetian’ style cutaway and both cutaway and non-cutaway models were available with an optional Natural finish. Around the same time, Gibson reinstated parallel top bracing.


Starting in August 1935, the Gibson L-5 moved to a 17-inch wide ‘Advanced’ body size with five-ply binding around the top and a triple bound back. For a period, the L-5 was available with a choice of a thin or thick carved top. The thin-topped version was fitted with a ¾ inch bridge while the thick-topped version came with a 1¼-inch bridge.

Details included unbound f-holes and an X-braced top.

Neck & Headstock

The two-piece bookmatched curly maple neck had an ebony centre strip.

The headstock was now Gibson’s standard design (i.e. wider at the top) and featured five-ply binding, as did the fingerboard and pickguard. It was inlaid with a pearl ‘flowerpot’ motif and pre-war ‘Gibson’ logo in thick horizontal script. The bell shaped truss rod cover was bound with white plastic. Initially individual gold-plated open back Grover StaTite tuners were fitted. After about a year, these were replaced by gold-plated Grover Imperials and, from 1939 onwards, gold-plated Kluson Sealfast machines. Until 1936, the scale length remained 24-½ inches.

The ebony fingerboard once again had a pointed end and was initially fitted with 19 frets. Pearl block fingerboard markers started at the first fret.

Tailpiece engraved with ‘L-5’ Legend


The flat tailpiece was engraved with the ‘L-5’ legend.


The finish was sunburst nitrocellulose lacquer.

The L-5 Premier

‘Venetian’ Style Cutaway


From 1939 the L-5 was available as the L-5P – with a single rounded ‘Venetian’ style cutaway (the model was renamed the L-5C c. 1948).

In most respects, the L-5P was identical to the non-cutaway L-5 of the period, though the earliest L-5Ps had a fingerboard that rested almost flat on the top of the guitar. All L-5 Premiers had parallel top bracing.


From 1933

White oval label, ‘Gibson Inc.’, in typeset lettering (no ‘Mandolin-Guitar Co.’). The serial number and model name were now hand inked stamped.

Late 1920s to the 1950s

‘MADE IN USA’ impressed into the back of headstock of examples intended for export.


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.

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.

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.

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).

Dating from 1938, this picture (above) 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.


Switch to a 25-½ inch scale length.

‘Varitone’ Tailpiece


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.

Pearloid Pickguard

Late 1930s

Some examples shipped with a white pearloid pickguard