Old School Archtop
Back in 2010, while located in Montreal and still doing restoration work, I met a German women who was slowly going blind because of a particular condition.
She looked for some new -hobbies-
in her life, and decided to learn to play the guitar:
She happened to have her father's old guitar in a closet. She started to play it, and then some accident happened, and the guitar needed restoration.
It was a no name archtop, very intriguing.
I had to open it and reglue some braces, which I did.
Lucky me, I took notes and studied the
ladder bracing on it before closing the box back to original state.
I did feather the braces a little, out of logic and intuition :
When I finally strung-up this old guitar, it gave pure magic. It was the most thrilling guitar I encountered in my life. I would have liked to keep it, but I never asked because the German women needed it more than me. I was touched by the guitar's role in her path, and was happy
to hand it to her again.
She had never played any other guitar...so
she could tell it sounded good, but to me I had found the guitar I would like for myself.
So, the inspiration for the -magic- Old-school archtop had begun there.
When I thought about my presentation for the 2017 Woodstock Invitational Guitar
Showcase...it just thought about making a guitar that would be inspired by my meeting with the German archtop.
It all came naturally, and since I had worked the OM shape to my liking with the acoustic moulds, it evolved quickly into a build.
This is primarily how the -view- of the Old-school archtop project came to me ; It all came from a sound I heard, and from (from my perception) a true gift from life.
About this guitar:
Its scale length is longer than usual, and of a full 26.00" to accommodate lower tunings.
It has a voice of its own, miles away from the contemporary archtop offer. It has something reminiscent of the lute, very European. The ladder bracing yields a very complexe and -honkey- tone that I personally like, similar to American guitars like Harmony, Stella, and not too far from the Selmer-Maccafferri type of instruments.
For the Old school archtop, two removable ebony pickguards where made :
1-One with a custom made, offset humbucking pickup, calibrated for bronze strings by MJS pickups. Its 1/4" output jack (Thanks KP !) is built-in on top of the pickguard near the bridge, and there are absolutely no wires running inside the guitar. The ground wire is inlayed inside the neck and makes contact with the Waverly tuners, coming from the threaded bushing holding the pickguard at neck extension.
2- The other pickguard acts as your standard finger rest. The ebony is a little different for both pickguard, and I tried with each not to break the circular line of the sound hole.
Pickguards can be swapped, or removed, in a matter of seconds via one allen bolt using a dedicated tool:
Materials and construction : Douglas Fir top plate - Striped ebony back and sides - Modern laminated rim (ebony outer, indian rosewood inner) - Wide footprint tail block and neck block, torrefied rock maple, with neck -wings- support
attaching to rim - Torrefied rock maple neck, oil finished - Ebony bindings, fingerboard and appointments, with -retro-
orange/yellow purflings - Aged nickel plated Kluson type brass tailpiece, Nickel/cream Waverly butterbeans tuners -
All visual and acoustic very classic, as in Orville Gibson's first archtops, with added removable/retractable pickup.
As you can see, both neck block and tail block are beveled, to give the soundboard more longitudinal movement ; The arched top plate is (like on a cello) only touching the outer rim of the instrument.
To support neck pull, what I call neck -wings- are used (Klein, Doolin), and and this really free-up the top to vibrate its whole length and give true fundamental in most tunings.
First steps of finishing underway : The colour of the Douglas fir top is given by an oxydative process (not nearly a dye) using salts (sulphates) of copper and iron.