7/24/2013

c.1944 Epiphone Olympic Archtop Guitar


This is the third of three archtop guitars I've been working on for a customer. This is the nicest of the batch but it's also the most abused: the entire guitar has been stripped and refinished natural and it came missing its pickguard, original tuners, and heel cap. It appears the neck was maybe amateurly (but sturdily) reset in the past, too.

Work included a fret level/dress, bridge saddle shave and compensation, bridge fitting, a new ebony strap button at the heel, new heel cap, light cleaning, new Grover tuners, and setup. I've gotta admit, for it's size (this is only a 15" lower bout guitar) this is one of the loudest and gutsiest archtops I've ever played. It practically sizzles and does that mwah 3-note jazz chord chop thing even when it's rocking typical roundwound strings. Something about that nicely carved top (yep, carved and not pressed) coupled with the long 25 1/2" scale must be doing that!

It also has a very fast neck with a narrow nut that feels more at home on today's guitars.


Does this top look more like carved birch than spruce to everyone else, too? I mean, it sounds like it could be spruce, but it sure doesn't look it!

Like Gibson archtops, the designers at Epiphone (at this time in New York) must have been thinking about ergonomics. This sits beautifully in the lap and I can tell it would be comfortable to play this for multi-hour gigs even while rocking out on it.

David Rawlings has been making this particular model extremely desirably lately which has led to a lot of these getting jacked up way in price (to around where they should be, really), but the owner of this bought the guitar without even knowing that at the time.


Nice "open book" headstock with an inlaid celluloid Epi logo. The tuners are brand new nickel-plated 18:1 Grover Sta-Tites. At around $40 from StewMac, I think these are some of the finest guitar tuners per dollar spent you can buy. They look elegant and old-fashioned and work perfectly.


Pearl dots in a rosewood board. For some darn reason, the board has been "ebonized" and this means it just does not match up with all of the other rosewood fittings on the guitar (the bridge and tailpiece spar). Still, this isn't too much of an issue since the guitar itself is so grand.


I had to recut the bridge topper slightly and also compensate the B string slot. I preserved the original shape to it, though.


Nice f-holes. There were a couple of hairline cracks that had been sort-of cleated here. I added a couple more cleats for better stability.

Note how the finish on the face is a little curious (it's not a professional job but it does look decent). Also note how weird the wood looks! This was intended to have either a sunburst or black finish originally, so much of the wood isn't fancy at all.


The back, sides, and neck are all nice-quality mahogany.



Here are those Grovers (and a plethora of filled-in screw holes from various other tuner sets).


I quickly added this stick-on tortoise heel cap just to cover the grungy bare wood. The strap button is a new offering from StewMac and it's ebony. I like this way better than the "tap first" ebony ones that don't show the screw. It's far easier and more practical to install without breaking the button.





Here you can see the curious way Epiphone cantilevered their fretboard extension! By the way, there is a truss rod on this and it's accessed below the fretboard over the body. They had to build these guitars this way to avoid a patent held by Gibson for the headstock-access rod.


Pretty soon this old white strap button will be replaced with the output jack of a K&K "Big Twin" pickup.


...and here's the internal label. The bridge foot is also inscribed 50584 as well.

1 comment:

Fernando said...

Is this baby avaiable to buy?