Gibson Bone Crusher
Gibson’s J-45 lineage of acoustic guitars has had some noteworthy players over the years. John Lennon and The Beatles rocked the world with his J-160E, Bob Dylon called his early J-50 “a great guitar” and Noel Gallagher joins the multitude of J-45 players - we certainly can’t fault his taste in musical instruments.
Of course, The CF Martin company had its own series of jumbo-sized guitars, called dreadnoughts: notably the mahogany bodied D-18 and the rosewood bodied D and HD-28. Nowadays, each of these models is acknowledged to be a great design and what they all have in common is a 16” body, mahogany neck and scalloped “X” bracing. (The braces supporting the vibrating guitar’s top form an X behind the sound-hole. Scalloping the braces makes them lighter and more responsive to vibration. Today’s finest acoustic guitars are usually X braced and scalloped.)
In 1934 Gibson decided to show Martin just who could make the better guitar, and came out with the rosewood bodied Gibson Advanced Jumbo. You’ve maybe never heard of this guitar, and unless your name is Mark Knopfler, you almost certainly don’t own one. The Advanced Jumbo is a truly beautiful instrument, with a very powerful and clear voice. Its secret weapon was “Advanced Jumbo bracing” – deeply scalloped X bracing shifted forward to be even closer to a larger sound hole (potentially trading structural strength for volume and tone).
Since Martin’s HD-28 featured decorative herring-bone inlays, Gibson nicknamed their louder and more toneful guitar the Bone Crusher. Only 300 Bone Crushers were made between 1935 and 1940 (if you have one, please do let us know – I’ve tracked down just two so far).
In the nineties, those talented and dedicated Gibson craftsmen at Bozeman, Montana decided to come out with a square-shouldered re-issue of the bone crusher, and gave it, appropriately, the model designation J-60. Most were rosewood bodied and finished in antique sunburst as the originals, but some had a maple body with a natural finish spruce top. They had the Gibson logo in pre-war style “spaghetti” script inlayed in mother of pearl on the headstock and open gear tuners.
Then, for no apparent reason they created what is believed to be a run of just 12 high spec J-60 guitars. These had walnut back and sides, fabulous sitka spruce tops and enclosed gold plated tuners.
Description part 1
This guitar presents a real problem for anyone wanting to buy the best acoustic jumbo guitar ever made. Nicknamed “The Bonecrusher”, it’s mightier than the pre-war Martin HD-28, whose herring-bone inlays it was originally designed to crush, and is an upgraded modern version of the famous Gibson Advanced Jumbo. Only 300 of the original Advanced Jumbos were made and if you can find one for sale it’s probably going to run you upwards of £20,000.
The J-60 of the 1990s was effectively the re-issue of the Advanced Jumbo, plenty were made, and they fetch something of the order of £1500. However, the master builders at Gibson’s Bozeman Montana workshop came up with the idea of building a very few J-60s from walnut and bearclaw spruce. It’s rumoured that only 12 of these guitars were made, hence the dilemma – find one of 300 pre-war Advanced Jumbos, or one of 12 walnut J-60s!
“Enough preamble” I hear you cry, “what’s this guitar like to play? And why’s it walnut anyway when rosewood is supposed to be the dog’s bollocks of tone woods?”
Listen, a bit of vintage guitar history is good for the soul, plus we had to establish that this J-60 is not like most J-60s you can find (which also explains why it’s more expensive than most J-60s you can find since you probably wont find another). Also, enough of the questions, this is my show.
Walnut as a tone wood, sounds absolutely stunning. It’s not as clinically hard and dense as rosewood and brings some of the warmth and responsiveness of mahogany. You really have to experience it for yourself, but we’ve noticed it on every walnut guitar we’ve had and remain convinced that walnut is second only to Brazilian rosewood.
The top of this guitar is solid sitka spruce with some fine bearclaw figuring and lots of medullary rays (also called silking). You could easily lose yourself just staring into the grain of this wood. Hey, maybe the audience were gazing admiringly at the grain of my guitar top rather than adoringly at my playing the other night.
The fret board and bridge are ebony with mother of pearl dot inlays. The neck is constructed from two halves of mahogany around a thin middle section of what may be rosewood or even walnut (it’s barely 4mm wide, so not easy to tell).
Description part 2
The neck has a slight “Vee” profile, barely noticeable when playing, because it’s very comfortable and fitting snugly into the palm of your hand. The fretboard is 1¾” wide (at the nut); wide for a Gibson, but again, it feels right whether you are strumming, flat-picking or finger-picking.
So you hold a basic chord and let your thumb stroke the strings. Is it possible that this guitar can be so loud? The voice is impressive, clear and even across each string. You hit the chord with a bit more power, and yes, it responds with an even bigger voice. Is that a bark? Wow, no wonder this instrument is held in such high regard.
Here’s what Steven Stone told Vintage Guitar magazine about the Advanced Jumbo when it was released in the 90s:
"Right from the first G-run, this Gibson AJ sounds fantastic. It's loud and well-balanced, with a big bottom as well as sparkling, well-defined upper frequencies. The AJ's initial attack gives it a superb clarity on individual notes, along with excellent sustain. Even when I really dig in with my pick, the sound never gets muddy, only louder."
This heirloom instrument comes to you in its original Gibson Montana brown hard case with plush purple lining. A really good feature of the case is the sloping support for the back of the headstock – shame all case aren’t fitted like that.
Gibson workshop at Bozeman Montana
The Bozeman, Montana workshop was opened in the early 1990s in an effort to start re-creating top quality acoustic Gibson instruments, mainly using vintage designs and techniques.
Read the heart-warming story here: http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Lifestyle/Features/the-gibson-acoustic-story/
They operate a traditional apprenticeship scheme, and every craftsperson takes personal pride in his/her work. Woods are hand-selected, machines are controlled by hand. Most importantly, each brace is scalloped by hand so that it harmonically complements the top which it will support for the rest of its life.
Gibson walnut J-60 features
16” walnut body in natural finish
Solid sitka spruce top
3 piece mahogany neck, with light “V” profile
Six-ply bound body
1930s Advanced Jumbo style top bracing (scalloped, forward-shifted X bracing)
4” sound hole
25½” scale length
1¾” width at nut
20 fret ebony fingerboard (joins body at 14th fret)
Mother of pearl dot inlays
Gold plated enclosed tuners
Mother of pearl Gibson pre-war style “spaghetti” logo headstock
Small tortoiseshell pick guard
Original Gibson Montana hard shell case
J-60, J60, Gibson J-60, Gibson J60, Advanced Jumbo, Gibson AJ, AJ re-issue, Gibson Montana, walnut tone wood, walnut body, maple J-60, J-45