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Author Topic: Archtop Guitars  (Read 2736 times)

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Major Morgan

  • Guest
Archtop Guitars
« on: May 25, 2005, 08:43:42 AM »
Hello. I would appreciate your thoughts / advice. For a while now, I have been interested in vintage archtops, in particular smaller, cheapish, non-cutaway acoustics eg Vega, Cromwell, Kraftsman, Epiphone Zenith, Gibson L50 etc. I would be looking to use it for fingerpicking country blues and possibly even slide.

In my part of England these are very hard to come across and the only one I have played was a 1930's Cromwell which was great and I regret not getting it (it was pretty cheap).

I would love to hear from anyone who has anything like this and / or has thoughts on their suitability and which are the best bargains to look for etc.



  • Guest
Re: Archtop Guitars
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2005, 11:03:01 PM »
For my tastes, most of the better-quality acoustic archtops are too harsh and bright, and just don't respond very well to my style of light-moderate picking.  If I use a pick and drive the strings hard, they really come to life - but then I can't play the kind of songs I like in that manner.

 But some of the small-body, student-grade models from the 30s and 40s are a different animal altogether.  I think they benefit from the extremely lightweight construction, it reduces that in-your-face punch of a big archtop, replacing it with an intimate, echoey resonance that is achievable with just my bare fingers.  I used to own a WWII-era Harmony Patrician archtop.  It was all mahogany, very very lightweight and had a very resonant tone, not harsh at all.  These crop up on Ebay fairly often, rarely exceeding $400.  Not sure why I sold mine, looking back on it.  I currently have a little '35 Epiphone Olympic that also has a haunting tone and works very well for fingerstyle blues.  David Rawlings (partner of Gillian Welch) uses one almost exclusively, to great effect.  Olympics turn up on Ebay occasionally, and rarely command more than $600-800 or so.  Another pretty fine-sounding archtop is the old Recording King.  Some models were made by Gibson, but not all.  I don't think mine was Gibson-made, but it was very very good.  Another case of "why did I get rid of that?".  I hope you complete your quest, if you get the right one you will be so pleased.  It definitely adds some new color to your tonal palette.


  • Guest
Re: Archtop Guitars
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2005, 06:45:17 AM »
another guitar that sounds pretty good is the harmony "patrician", made in the late 40's and mid fifties, you see them on ebay at a reasonable frequency. they sell typically for 100 - 400, they are an archtop that harmony saw as a viable market effort and therefore were made with good materials and actual carved tops. there are even some real nice ones with real inlay and tortoise shell headstock overlays. be patient and you can get a good one. they have a very good sound for blues/fingerstyle and surprising volume.

Offline blueshome

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Re: Archtop Guitars
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2005, 06:52:15 AM »
Major Morgan,

Music Ground in Leeds have a large stock of old archtops (mainly Hofner, but a variety of others).
Some silly prices though, but it might be worth giving them a call, they're not too far from you.


Offline crookedtune

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  • Posts: 15
Re: Archtop Guitars
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2005, 06:10:09 PM »
I agree with Duke and the others.  Archtops vary a whole lot, and better doesn't necessarily mean better.

I recently found an old Supertone archtop from the 30's or so, (basically a Sears-Roebuck catalog instrument out of a Chicago factory).  The usual problem with these is that the necks are warped and bow a lot.  Someone had taken the time with this one to install a quality truss rod, and set it up for honest-to-goodness playing action.  The result is a vintage and weathered-looking old blues box that has killer tone and action. The sound is drier and more hollow than most flattops, and I find it to be very evocative of old 78 recordings.  I'm having trouble putting it down. 

 I paid $250 for this guitar on eBay, and sold my $1200 Martin J-40 a week later.  No regrets!  (Although, I won't necessarily advise buying instruments sight-unseen on eBay......I just got lucky this one time).


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