7/20/2013

c.1935 Oscar Schmidt-made Santacilla Archtop Guitar


This is number two of three archtop guitars I'm working on for a customer. It's the dark horse of the bunch and when the owner popped it out of the case I said, "hey! That's an Oscar Schmidt!" I barely see any OS archtop guitars (they only made a small number in the 30s) and so I was genuinely surprised to see this one toting its off-brand Santacilla label at the headstock.

This guitar was probably built to ape Martin's lower-budget R-17, all-mahogany archtop models which were built on a 000 body size. To that effect it has a 15 1/2" lower bout, mahogany body, and 25 1/4" scale. It's got that 20s-feeling OS wide nut (1 7/8") and flat-profile fretboard, though the neck shape is more of a 1930s medium-C shape. Amazingly, the board itself is ebony rather than the usual dyed-something OS fare.

Work included reshaping the fretboard extension and regluing it to level it off with the main part of the board (someone had apparently reset the neck in the past and used some form of Krazy Glue for the fretboard extension which was sort of heck to remove), a fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup. The tuners also got a little lube. It now plays great!


The guitar is all-original with the exception of these 1960s tuners (which actually look pretty similar to original types) and the missing pickguard.


The mahogany top is somewhat of a fake-out: the body is all laminate! OS was quick on the scene to use laminate tops, I suppose, as I'm only familiar with laminate tops on Kay and OS products from this time with the exception of Dobro-style wooden bodies.

Surprisingly, the tone on this is excellent and beefy: it's got a lot of bottom end, volume, and a creamy disposition. It's not at all what I expect from a laminate top and it compares pretty favorably with the 1950s and 1960s laminate-top Gibson archtop acoustics (which sound great for choppy 3-note chords and country-blues lead work) as well as Gibson-made Kalamazoo and Cromwell products. Really nice!



Faux-pearl dots in an ebony board. Note the funny little notches a previous owner added to the side of the neck to mark positions (they're tiny in person).


The stylized f-holes are pretty cute.




Here you can see how the finish has nearly flaked off the whole back of the (poplar?) neck.


I like the muted two-tone sunburst effect on the top and back (tobacco-burst). It's a good look.


The Gibson-esque "open book" headstock shape is cute as well.



I like the wood button as well.

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