FOR SALE: 1965 Gibson Non-Reverse Firebird 3 in Cardinal Red !!

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 3/19/2008 01:21:00 AM -
I have always loved the Gibson Firebird & Thunderbird family, and in a way I think the non-reverse members of this family of guitars attract me even more, maybe because they were always looked down on when I was younger as the "ugly and cheap Firebirds".

I distinctly remember when I decided I really wanted a P-90 equipped non-reverse Firebird - I saw a band called Lungfish, from the DC area, play at a community center in Indianapolis during 1992 - great show - and the guitarist was playing a stripped non-reverse Firebird with two P-90s and it sounded raw !!!

Over the years I acquired a few different non-reverse Firebirds - all with P-90s and became aware of the amazing color selections the Firebird family came in.

The particular guitar this post is about was acquired through Daddy's Junky Music around 1999. It had a headstock break when I got it - and banjo-style tuners from a Reverse Firebird installed. It was actually this mod that led to the headstock break it appeared - since the case didn't really give enough clearance for the taller banjo tuners, leading to pressure on the headstock. Kind of a dopey mod anyway, since I think banjo tuners are much harder to tune with.

I planned to clean up the somewhat rough looking headstock repair and dowel the tuner holes to allow me to install kluson tuners - I got as far as doweling the holes and fitting some tuners but never redid the headstock - and the guitar went into an early 60's reverse Firebird case (thicker) and lay dormant for the next 7 years.

I recently pulled it out - driven I'll admit by the sudden astronomical appreciation of custom color Firebirds - and decided to properly repair the damage from years ago and fit some re-issue Kluson inline tuners and bring the guitar back to its original shiny red glory.

The headstock didn't look that bad, but the surface wasn't even on either side of the break and I could see a tiny hairline crack, meaning the repair wasn't well glued. I decided to sand down the finish until it was even all around the break and until the break was exposed so I could reglue it.

I used a thin cyanocrylate glue along both surfaces of the crack - applying the glue and allowing capillary action to draw it into the joint and then lightly clamping the headstock. I applied glue three times, to make sure it soaked in completely. I then applied grain filler to areas where bare wood had been exposed by sanding and eventually sanded down the entire headstock smooth again. I also redoweled one tuner hole for later drilling.

The next step will be to drill the doweled hole and check the fit for the repro tuners and ferrules. Once I'm satisfied no more woodwork is necessary, I will then start spraying the headstock with Cardinal Red lacquer. My hope is that color will match exactly - though I will have to feather in the transition from the new finish to the 40 year old checked finish at the headstock/neck transition. The repair is solid now, and within the next week or so this guitar should be done and ready to rock again.

(Update April 5th, 2008)
The Firebird is close to being ready - finally opened up the back control panel - very clean and never been unsoldered - and the pots date to the 39th week of 1965 - making this a late 1965 Firebird.

A few newer pics are posted below of the repair and refinished headstock. The new Cardinal Red came out a little bit darker than the original finish - maybe because the original faded over the last 43 years ?

Anyway - it looks very good, but I want to feather in the area between the original finish and the old finish a little better - and then this 'bird will be ready to fly !! Yes - I will be putting this one up for sale - keep your eyes open.


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  1. nice job! I have a much butchered version of the green model in the pic above.

  2. Busy with the same project, nearly finished 65/66 too