By Greg Olwell // From the April 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar
When introduced in 1929, the Gibson L-10—with its ebony finish, nickel hardware, and relatively simple ornamentation—was a lower-cost alternative to the flagship L-5. But for years the Gibson L-10 has been something of a secret weapon for archtop enthusiasts who need the steak, but not all of the sizzle, of the glitzy L-5.
The L-10 was the Kalamazoo, Michigan, company’s second f-hole archtop guitar, and at $175 was $100 less than the flashy L-5. The savings came from the less expensive decorative details and a mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, but many players love L-10s because they were built with the same high attention to detail as the L-5s.
Like Gibson’s L-5, L-7, and L-12 archtops, the L-10 received the Advanced designation in 1935, meaning that its body was widened from 16 to 17 inches and X-braced. At this time, the L-10 was also given a new look, with a sunburst finish, a checkerboard pattern inlay around the top, and double-triangle inlays on the fingerboard.
The relatively fancy L-10 seen here was made in early 1932 and is currently used by San Francisco guitarist Eddie Scher. Its fretboard is decorated with ornate rectangular picture-frame inlays—a motif borrowed from Gibson’s highly ornamented banjos—and its headstock sports a double-handled vase inlay. Some of the early L-10s have maple necks, but this one is the standard mahogany, with a pronounced V-shape that makes it extremely comfortable to play. The guitar’s voice is bone-dry and punchy—robust enough to be heard unamplified, both for comping and soloing, in busy restaurants and clubs.
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.