17-inch Timeline

Mid 1930s

1936 17-Inch ‘Advanced’ L-5


In 1935, the Gibson L-5 was relaunched with a 17-inch wide ‘Advanced’ body that had five-ply binding around the top and a triple bound back. Details included unbound f-holes, an X-braced top, a pointed neck heel and a 24¾ inch scale length. The first 17-Inch wide L-5 to roll off of the production line (serial number 92100) was delivered to Gibson sales manager Clarence Havenga on 18th July 1935. 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.

The Neck and Headstock

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 the ‘Gibson’ script logo. The bell shaped truss rod cover was bound with white plastic. Individual gold-plated open back Grover StaTite tuners were fitted but by 1938 these had been replaced by gold-plated Grover Imperials or gold-plated Kluson Sealfast machines.

The 20 fret ebony fingerboard once again had a pointed end and initially had wide pearl block inlays from the first fret. Within a short time, the model was upgraded with bound f-holes, a wide neck heel and narrow pearl fingerboard markers and in 1938, the L-5 switched to a longer 25-½ inch scale length.


Early examples were fitted with a flat tailpiece engraved with the ‘L-5’ legend but by 1936 we see L-5s with either the flat tailpiece or a hinged tailpiece with a silver centre insert and three engraved diamonds. The ‘Varitone’ tailpiece, which had a small hole at the bottom centre to accommodate an Allen wrench tension adjustment, made its appearance the following year. See Tailpieces on the Hardware page.

Late 30s


Though the Natural finish option was not officially introduced until 1939, 21 L-5s were shipped with a Natural finish in 1937 and 1938. See more on the Finish here.

Gibson reverted to parallel top bracing in 1939.

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-5 Premier was identical to the non-cutaway L-5 of the period, though the earliest L-5Ps had a fingerboard that was glued flush to the top of the guitar rather than elevated, as on the non-cutaway L-5. In 1940, the neck angle was altered so that the fingerboard was elevated once again. The L-5 Premier had parallel top bracing from its introduction as did all L-5s from 1939 on.