9/28/2013

c.1940 Vega Electrovox Archtop Electric Guitar


While following the size, shape, and feel of contemporaneous Vega acoustic archtop guitars, this Vega Electrovox electric actually has an all-laminate (flamed maple) body with double "soundposts" below the bridge for top stability and feedback reduction. It's a 16" body and the narrow upper bout and waist makes this even more comfortable in the lap than the many 16" Gibson archtops that I adore. With the single coil pickup in the bridge position and this hollowbody soundpost design, it sounds like a cross between a 50s Gretsch full-hollowbody archtop electric and something like a 60s semihollow guitar. It does swing and early jazz sounds as well as rootsy blues and folk-rock, no problem.


I love that curvaceous shape! ...the flamed maple veneer doesn't hurt, either.


No trussrod, 40s/50s Vega headstock shape.


Rosewood board, radiused, with brass frets and white face dots. It's also bound.

The real "work" on this guitar was a fret level/dress (to remove as much warp as I could from this neck which is thin for its time) as well as general cleaning and setup. I also fit the bridge a bit better to the top.

While I removed the majority of relief to the neck, there's still between 1/64" relief on the bass and slightly higher than 1/64" on the treble side. For most players this kind of relief is standard, though, so it's all good to me. It plays with 1/16" action at the 12th fret on the treble and 3/32" on the bass. I've got it strung with 50w-11 GHS "Brite Flats" to keep it safe for the long haul... the neck on this feels more like a modern electric neck than something from its period of build and there's no truss rod, so it doesn't hurt to keep things lighter. The profile actually reminds me a lot of late 50s/early 60s Gibson electrics.

Update: While the 50w-11 strings seemed fine tension-wise for standard pitch, I dropped the gauge to regular electric 10s with a wound G (18w) a few days ago and like that sound and slinky feel for rockabilly and whatnot.


Rosewood adjustable bridge and thumbwheel-adjustable pickup height!


Volume/tone knobs and jack. The tone knob is a three-way with "dark/mud" to the left, "normal/full output" in the center, and a "bass cut" or treble to the right. I like the center position the best, but the "treble" position is actually awesome if you're wanting to strum cowboy-style chords like you would on a normal acoustic... it has a 50s/60s DeArmond soundhole pickup sort of tone that way. The center position, with your amp's tone turned just slightly down, nails that Western swing lead guitar sound.



Yeah, who can complain about the gorgeous maple?



After a lube, the tuners work well and are smooth.


Good neck joint.




The pickup uses a tortoise-celluloid "box" to enclose the coil. How slick is that?



The binding, especially on the top edge, is crumbling. At some point it's going to need to be re-bound, but not yet!


Unfortunately, Vega serial numbers for guitars are next to useless as there's no clear list for them, but this one is in the 56000s. I'm assuming this guitar dates from 1937 through the mid 40s as that's the run-time of this model from what I've seen out on the web. The labels and logo decal are contemporaneous with late 30s and early 40s Vega lap steels (which one finds more often).

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