ES 137 style centerblock construction details

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ES 137 style centerblock construction details

Postby Chris Walsh » Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:20 pm

I've had a request to build something along these lines... I've done a bit of research and have come up with only vague details.. Not so much worried about wood choice... more about the actual construction. My understanding is that the center block runs just beyond the stop it! Now, is the rest of the block similar to the 335"s where they are kerfed and contact the top and back plate the entire length of the center block? Or just a block at the bridge and tailpiece?? and the rest of the top plate free?? Is the back plate free?? I would think some serious feedback with that situation?? In my mind...I have the construction similar to the 335 style... thanks in advance for the help!!!
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Re: ES 137 style centerblock construction details

Postby Dan Smith » Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:53 pm

You might do a search for Ken Mckay and Freeman Keller builds.
Both have documented some incredible work.
Freeman is a member here.
Ever-body was kung fu fight-in,
Them kids was fast as light-nin.
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Re: ES 137 style centerblock construction details

Postby Brian Evans » Fri Jul 14, 2017 3:20 pm

They've done it several different ways over the years. The original ES335 had a solid maple block to the tail piece, fitted to the top and back. Maple, but the fitted sections were kerfed spruce. The ES345/355 had a slightly different center block to allow the electronics to get in through a pickup hole. The 1960's Epiphone Casino's were hollow with a bridge block and a Bigsby or trapeze tailpiece. ES137 has a full 335 style center block, but mahogany, stop tailpiece. ES 135 has a bridge block and trapeze tail piece

What I have found, and it's not a hard and fast rule, is that if it has a stop tailpiece and a tune-o-matic on studs, it's got a lot of block inside. If it has a trapeze tailpiece and a stud bridge, it may be more hollow with just a bridge block. If it has a floating bridge, it's probably hollow. People swear they can hear the difference from a thousand paces, I can't tell until it starts (or doesn't start) to feed back. I was never comfortable with a ES335 sitting down, I found it very tail-heavy.
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Re: ES 137 style centerblock construction details

Postby Freeman Keller » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:55 am

I can't answer about the ES-137 but I have built two ES-335 clones. For the first I used plans by Jami Unden which didn't give a lot of information about the center block, but did show it ending about an inch beyond the holes for the stop tailpiece. I made that block out of basswood and carved it to fit the curve of the pressed top and back


I knew this wasn't how Gibson had built the 335, so for the second one I made a full length center block of maple and two kerfed filler blocks to fit the top and back.


fwiw, the first guitar has a standard stop tailpiece, the second one got a Bigsby

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Re: ES 137 style centerblock construction details

Postby Freeman Keller » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:30 pm

I also have plans for an ES-175 (Australian Lutherie Supply) that shows a kind of ladder brace that has two 3/8 pieces running lengthwise and a couple of cross braces. I used a variation of this on an "Electric Archtop" - two spruce braces support the pickups with a floating ToM bridge and a trapeze tailpiece.



This seemed to make more sense for a deeper bodied guitar

Edit to add - one little trick to consider (that has nothing to do with the construction) - I prewired everything with the back off, then tied little strings to each pot, pickup, jack and switch (actually I used dental floss). I taped the insides of each hole and ran the floss thru the tape, tied a knot on the outside. All the electronic stuff was rattling around inside as I put the back on and did the finish, but I could reach thru each hole, pull the tape out, fish the floss out and pull the component into position. Because I bound the f-holes they were marginally tight for trying to stuff everything inside (it would all fit but I was afraid of damaging the finish).

On the guitars with the solid blocks I also put terminal strips in each pickup cavity - that way I could put the pups in when it was all done (or change them if I ever want to). I used special terminals designed for strain gauges - they are supposed to work with very low level signals.

If you decide to do it the usual fashion (thru the f-holes) at least do the wiring with the back off so you can get wire lengths and layout. You still have the problem of getting the pickup wires to the pots - I believe that some people route the sides of the cavities into the main body.
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Re: ES 137 style centerblock construction details

Postby Barry Daniels » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:59 pm

I believe that there is no magic sauce with the kerfed fitted blocks inside Gibsons. It was just an expedient method to use in their factory. On my thinline I carved a solid, 3/4 length spruce block to fit the arch of the top and back. Light yet solid.
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Re: ES 137 style centerblock construction details

Postby Joshua Levin-Epstein » Tue Jul 18, 2017 6:15 am

There are informative (and drool worthy) pictures at this site. The first 335s were very solid and were wired through the F holes. I think this is one of the reasons they sound so good. Dan Erlewine remarks how the people doing the wiring touched up the finish when they were done. The later 335s allowed the pots to go in through the bridge pick up cavity. Of course there was a lot of space left for the choke of the varitone in the 345 and 355.
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