Round Shoulder Dread
The Round Shoulder Dread, or as many call it today the Slope Shoulder Dread was first introduced in 1934 as the Gibson J-35. This guitar was much larger than the Gibson Nick Lucas model and was introduced to compete with the Martin D-18 which was introduced two years earlier in 1932. This guitar remained in production through 1941 and it appears that roughly 2,500 were produced.
During its initial production run it went through many changes in design and features. Internally the bracing systems and configurations could have been three tone bars-scalloped, three tone bars-unscalloped, two tone bars-scalloped, and two tone bars-unscalloped. You might say Gibson lacked consistency, or you might say they were always trying new things and pushing the envelope. I am not sure which, but it does make it challenging when evaluating and dating a vintage instrument. In addition to the J-35, Gibson also produced the Jumbo Deluxe, J-45, J-50, J-55 and the SJ or Southern Jumbo as Slope Shoulder Dreads.
This is an interesting fact. During the war, (1939-1945) 90% of Gibson factory workers were involved in the war effort and making things from wood for the military. That left 10%, or the best luthiers Gibson had, building guitars. I would guess that is why guitars built during those years are so highly sought after and command such high prices. Additionally as a result of the war some guitars were built with different materials, like poplar neck blocks, and no truss rods, and three on a plate tuners to manage cost or deal with material shortages. Most of these instruments were also finished in what has become the iconic Gibson sunburst finish.
The J-35 was replaced by the J-45 which was introduced in 1942 and remains in production today. This body is typically built from Mahogany or Rosewood back and sides and Sitka or Adirondack Spruce. I have also built this guitar using other luthier grade tone woods with good success.