9/14/2014

c.1935 Harmony-made Biltmore Diana Archtop Guitar




This guitar came in for consignment from a friend of mine and during today's light work of setups and whatnot I... set it all up. Harmony made this for the Biltmore brand which can be seen at the super-cool celluloid deco headplate. Unlike most of their archtops this one is quite fancy and has what appears to be a carved spruce top over solid birdseye maple back and sides.

It looks like it was refretted in the past (a good job) but it was poorly setup and the (newer rosewood) bridge needed much fitting, the frets needed a very light dressing/leveling, the nut needed setup work and the tuners needed a lube. That's all done and it plays spot-on despite its bigger V-neck shape, longish 25 1/8" scale, and regular light (12s) strings. The top is carved in a similar manner to an Epiphone carved-top guitar with a high arch and likewise it has a zingy, punchy-loud, crisp sort of sound. It's not at all like a Gibson-flavored carved-top and I tend to think this type of tone is ideal for a lead player in a group while a Gibson-flavored guitar of similar design would be much more suited to chordal thumping. When you drive this guitar hard it's all clarity with a bit of a compressed "mwah" on the low end that cuts right through.



The top is bound in fancy multi-ply celluloid and topped with a bound black celluloid pickguard. Both the radiused fretboard and bridge are rosewood and the fittings are nice-quality.


Original bone nut... and way-cool deco headplate!


The rosewood board has fancy pearl inlay and nice multi-ply binding with side dots. The nut is just a hair under 1 3/4" in width.



This bridge was amazingly-poorly fit to begin with but now it's snug with the top and pulling extra bass out of the guitar.




The solid birdseye maple back is super-gorgeous. It has a long hairline crack which was repaired (with good cleating) a long time back, it appears. It's good to go.


The (perhaps original?) old Kluson tuners work just fine after a lube. Beforehand they were pretty stiff, though!


The neck set is perfect. I think that work was done in the past as well.


There's some finish checking/loss on the sides but it still looks handsome.



Side depth is 3 3/8" and this has nice birdseye on the sides, too.



Here you can see the fairly high arch to the top.


...and it comes with a modern, lightly-used hard tweed arched case. Nice!

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