The Gibson ES-3x5 "Ear-Topic"

Discussion in '"Vintage" Instruments' started by Castro, Dec 29, 2017.


  1. Castro

    Castro Member

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    Until now, I thought there were only two kind of ears Gibson made at the ES-3x5, the "Mickey Mouse" or the "pointy" ones. But I was wrong. :rolleyes2:
    At the moment I'm looking for a natural/blonde 335 with small ears, like my '74 335 in the picture below. And as more guitars/pictures I saw, I realised that there are more than just two kind of shapes Gibson made over the years.
    So what I want to know is, how many shapes Gibson made and can I ascribe specific ears to specific build years? I am pretty sure, that there is someboby here, who brings light into the darkness.

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    As a very crude guide and with overlaps and oddities (it is Gibson, after all) to take into account, it goes something like this:

    "58 - slightly pointy
    Late '58 to '62 - mickey mouse
    '63-'65 - medium pointy
    '66-'67 - very pointy
    '67-69 - mickey mouse
    '70-'77- a little bit pointy
    '78-'81 - pointy and with flat spots heading into the waist (the 'wonky' shape)
    '81-'83 - two shapes in use (plus the 369 and Artist still using the wonky version), both mickey mouse
    '84-current - mickey mouse except for reissues of pointy era versions.

    Unfortunately the blonde finishes are most common in the mickey mouse years. The finish was officially dropped in '60 in favour of cherry, brought back in the late 60s for the ES340 and then reappeared as a standard finish around '78, where they generally have the wonky shape.
     
  3. Castro

    Castro Member

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    Wow, thank you! Insteresting how often they changed the shape.

    Yeah, that is the problem. It's thomething like that what i'm looking for. Difficult to find here in Europe.
     
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  4. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    I know the first change was due to problems in manufacture in that the top veneers would crack when pressed into the tight curve of the original horn design. Subsequently it's open to conjecture but I guess the moulds and presses had a fairly short lifespan and each time the tools were renewed it was an opportunity to refine according to the tastes of the tool maker and/or managers.

    Those late 70s 335s show up in blonde fairly often although the body shape in that era is pretty much the furthest they went from 'classic' proportions, the waist being a fraction wider and the curves into the waist a little flatter. If you keep a close eye on Reverb (you can set it to EU only if you don't want to risk the CITES problems buying from the US) they do come up. You could also try looking for '70-'71 ES340s, some of which seen to have the early 70s shape, and ES347s from the late 70s - I think there's a blonde one in the EU on Reverb at the moment.
     
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  5. DBBlues

    DBBlues Formerly fullertone Gold Supporting Member

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    I love the names here. I suppose an owner of a wonky might be quite interested in a 60s mickey mouse.
     
  6. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    I forgot some people call the '66-'67 version fox ears as well, that should have been in there.

    Here's my 'wonky' 355 alongside a '65 with the more typical pointy horns. People may look down on these late Norlin 335s and they do look a bit odd - if as I do you spend way too much time staring at 335s - but old wonky there is a very, very good guitar by any standards.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. DBBlues

    DBBlues Formerly fullertone Gold Supporting Member

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    So black is pointy and red is wonky? I'm usually reasonably attentive to details, but I probably would have assumed that any differences were due to the relative angles of the guitars. I should say that even though my top guitar hero (John Lee Hooker) played these sorts of guitars, they always have seemed like not my type. Maybe I'm wandering in that direction. I thought that I didn't like big guitars, but a mighty large Kay Sherwood fell into my life and I love it.
     
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  8. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    Other way round! The red is the classic body shape with typical pointy horns and the black has the late 70s shape - the waist is a little too wide and the curves into the waist a little less obvious, particularly over the f hole which has quite flat. But I agree, it's harder to see when they're not head on.
     
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  9. TA22GT

    TA22GT Member

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    Great post! I've never really paid much attention other than that it has pointy or mickey mouse ears but once you see "wonky" it can't be unseen!
    Especially next to the classic shape!
    Both very nice guitars but I just love cherry the most of any 335/355. Enjoy!
     
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  10. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Member

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    I remember when my lovely wife gave me my ES-335. In my exuberance I posted a pic on a forum. By and large people were supportive but one guy had nothing to say except to figuratively cluck his mouth and literally say, "It's a shame about those mickey mouse ears. I'd never own it." That was the first time I had heard that there were people who qualified and disqualified ES-335s on the basis of their cutaway shapes. Talk about a first world problem! :)

    Bob
     
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  11. Castro

    Castro Member

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  12. Castro

    Castro Member

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    Indeed, but I always prefer the small ears. It's a matter of taste I think. For me the ES looks much more elegant with the small ears.
    Never I would say that the MM ears are ugly or whatever.
     
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  13. DBBlues

    DBBlues Formerly fullertone Gold Supporting Member

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    I'm laughing at myself, because I never really noticed any of these differences, and when given a photo, misidentified wonky!
     
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  14. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    Good point! The guard on the '79 is a replacement and, despite that guitar being a few mm wider at the waist, does come out a bit further. 355s have celluloid mock tortoiseshell guards that are noticeably unstable, shrinking, giving off noxious gases and sometimes falling apart altogether. I still have the original for that guitar but it's not in good shape. For some reason the guard on the '65 is still in good shape with a bit of warping and shrinking but nothing too concerning going on.
     
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  15. davess23

    davess23 Member

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    Castro, thanks for posting that es335.org article. I've owned several 3XX guitars, including my current 1968 335, but I never could understand what the debates over the ears were all about.
     
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  16. mxk116

    mxk116 Silver Supporting Member

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    Started reading this thread and learned some things within the first few posts. It also brought to mind one of Gil Yaron's epic build threads on TDPRI. I hope including a link here on TGP does not violate forum policy but there is some relevant info to the OP's inquiry. As one can read, Gil collaborated with Ken McKay in this 335TD build. The TDPRI thread is quite lengthy but worth the effort in learning about the history and construction of these iconic Gibson semi-hollow body instruments. Ken McKay built the bodies and goes into detail early on.

    http://www.tdpri.com/threads/1959-es-335td-proto-build.273300/#post3279755
     
  17. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    Love that thread - although it took me weeks to get through it! It really demonstrates Gil's attention to detail and passion for these guitars, apart from being hugely informative about 335s. Charlie Gelber who does the 335 blog rates those McKay bodies as being extremely close to a vintage version and he's usually pretty hardcore about the benefits of old wood in a 335.
     

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