Jazz Guitar
Learn how to play jazz guitar with our eBook bundle
+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 22 of 22
  1. #1

    Your Ideas On Archtop Design ?

    Fifteen years ago I took up building guitars after decades of playing, repairing and adjusting them. I went through the stages of replicating Martin and Gibson acoustics then all manner of Fender and PRS style electrics. Over the last few years I've done my own designs but have reached I point of thinking about where to go to next.

    I feel that archtops maybe the next logical step. I would really like to get a sense from the forum members of what you feel the current design principles are or could be. The only plans of any detail I can find are from Georgia Luthier Supply. They show a big jazz box with 3" sides and a 17" lower bout yet when I search for images of many current builders they are building guitars which seem to have finer proportions.

    So if there's anyone that would like to give me an idea of where I could head, what dimensions and proportions I should/could be thinking about, I'd be grateful for your input.

    I've added these couple of pics of my latest build and so this would be where I'm starting from. This is 25" scale guitar made from what we call Silky Oak in Australia. The pickups are Kent Armstrong P90 [ noiseless ] and the bridge is top loading. The finish is a thin nitro-cellulose. The body is typical construction of a figured quarter sawn cap on a back sawn body. I developed the design from all the agreeable parts of many well know solid bodied electric guitars. I'm sure you can see all the usual features and lines that have been used by high output production builders.
    Attached Images Attached Images Your Ideas On Archtop Design ?-p2080152-jpg Your Ideas On Archtop Design ?-p2080151-jpg 
    Last edited by Andy54; 02-22-2018 at 02:15 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    www.rwtwguitars.com
    Posts
    1,051
    I assume you have the Robert Benedetto book on archtop building? I think a lot of us who started in the last couple of decades start with that. There are things to like and not like about his design and approach, but like you did with flattops I think it is best to get a couple of the standard design before you can truly understand why you are moving away from it.

    I believe the Georgia Luthier Supply plans are for an L-5, which is about as iconic as it gets. As in anything, modern luthiers are trying to distinguish themselves by making what can't be had from the factories. Either by making historically true reproductions or trying to make modern evolutions of the venerable design.

    I personally build with a 16" lower bout, which is on the smaller size. I think that is far more comfortable. My guitars weigh less than 4lbs, so they are quite far from the L-5 standard. However, I built several traditional arch tops before I moved to a more radical design.

    Good luck on your quest!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    559
    There are only a few archtop plans to choose from. The Benedetto plan is a very good one. A plan that is also very good is the Steven Anderson plan for a New Yorker available from GAL.Instrument Plans | Guild of American Luthiers

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Petaluma, CA, USA
    Posts
    74
    The world of archtops is so diverse. Sure, get the books, get the plans, build a few, but at some point you have to, or at least I think you have to, pick a sound or music style or aesthetic to make your own. Mabye that's coaxing the most out of the thin small body or trying to out Gibson the L5 or starting with an Art Nouveau look......... with vintage tonality or modern tonality....... There seems to be customers for all these variations so what get's you excited? Start there and adapt if necessary based on the response from customers.
    Barry Grzebik - Grez Guitars
    www.grezguitars.com

  5. #5
    I'm a player not a builder so my knowledge is extremely limited but...

    Yeah, Benedetto. As one archtop luthier said "we're all building Johnny Smiths now". It's not the only model to build but it's a benchmark for modern archtops.

    17" lower bout
    3 or 3 1/8 body depth
    25" scale length
    either 1 12/16" or 1 11/16" nut width (Johnny Smith vs. L5 width)
    floating pickup (i.e. "acoustic" archtop)

    also to consider:
    carved a bit thinner for acoustic volume?
    a lighter guitar than a L5 or Wes

  6. #6
    I am not interested in another Benedetto clone at all. I am a traditionalist in all senses. I hate too much gingerbread on guitars but i still like position markers on FB, no dots for sure. Metal tailpieces with all ebony FB, bridge, and do something to show it is your guitar.....whatever that is in appointments.
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    559
    I think that at first the student builder must follow the masters. The student should only move forward after he has learned how to successfully copy his favorite designs.
    Some new builders want to reinvent the guitar on their first build.
    I think it helps to know how to copy a great instrument before trying to improve upon it.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Twin Cities
    Posts
    2,879
    What Matt said. Understanding the fundamentals is a prerequisite and the architecture and physics of the archtop guitar are really interesting. You have to know how the L-5CES works, how the Benedetto works, how the D'Angelico works, how the Johnny Smith works (especially the way the neck is connected to the body, which is still more or less unique to those instruments and hasn't been used by most other builders).

    Having said that, there is a guy in (IIRC) the UK making a really interesting archtop guitar. I had his website bookmarked but can't find the bookmark now; maybe someone else will remember this. Anyway, in his design the neck extends above the body of the guitar all the way to the "bridge." The strings are attached at both ends to this structure and the pickup(s) is/are mounted on this. This structure is then mounted on an archtop body at the traditional neck heel location, with the "bridge" transmitting vibrations from the neck structure to the body. In the demos they sound surprisingly good and the electric sound is very interesting- modern, I would call it rather than the traditional archtop sound.

    Edit: NK Forster! Another design of his was mentioned in the Howe Orme thread in the gizmos subforum.

    NK Forster Guitars Archtop guitars - NK Forster Guitars

    The other evolutionary/revolutionary designs are the Ken Parker archtops:

    Ken Parker Archtops Home

    and the Tom Ribbecke Halfling:

    Master Series – Ribbecke Guitars

    Halfling(R) – Ribbecke Guitars

    The bass he and Bobby Vega made for Jack Casady is pretty interesting, too. In addition to this article, there is a long video chat with Ribbecke and Casady about the design and intent of the instrument. Very interesting to hear how they thought about it and worked together on it.

    The Diana Bass by Tom Ribbecke | Jack Casady
    Last edited by Cunamara; 02-23-2018 at 04:51 PM.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark View Post
    I am not interested in another Benedetto clone at all. I am a traditionalist in all senses. I hate too much gingerbread on guitars but i still like position markers on FB, no dots for sure. Metal tailpieces with all ebony FB, bridge, and do something to show it is your guitar.....whatever that is in appointments.

    How does this hit ya?

    Benedetto Jack Wilkins Model 2007 Blonde | Reverb

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt View Post
    I spent years with Barker and Bill Hollenbeck, mostly in Hollenbeck s shop. I for reasons I cannot say publicly without causing huge red flags will just say. It is not a guitar I would want but a fine guitar. In the end i am purely interested in the acoustic output of an archtop, the pickup is an afterthought but guitar should sound good amplified.

    I like 18 inch guitars over others and really the benchmarks are a Super 400 and a Dangelico or Daquisto. A builder who could copy these guitars but still maintain his own identity would be my choice. Montelleone hit the mark, Steve Anderson, Bill Hollenbeck, and others for sure.

    i do not want to leave out my forum friend Matt Cushman, he builds a fine guitar and is low key about it. Frankly he has the talent to do whatever he chooses, I love to have an 18 from him someday but from what he says he has not built an 18. Correct me Matt if I am wrong.

    i noitice on Archtop.com an L5 from 70’s sold fast priced much higher than boutique guitars. Matt is right study the master s before going solo with new ideas. Much like playing the guitar, you better study Johnny Smith and Tal Farlow before you ge off on a tangent.
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark View Post
    I like 18 inch guitars over others and really the benchmarks are a Super 400 and a Dangelico or Daquisto. A builder who could copy these guitars but still maintain his own identity would be my choice. Montelleone hit the mark, Steve Anderson, Bill Hollenbeck, and others for sure.
    OK. Well the first two are dead so that makes it pretty simple. A Super 400 and hang it up. Works for me.

  12. #12
    Gentleman and others, thanks so much for your input I really appreciate the direction you've given me.

    If I were to build from the Georgia Luthier plan I'd say I'd be treading in the footsteps of many of the great archtop builders. I must say though that the designs of the "outliers" have an attraction too me. I don'y think I would have found them without a long internet search.

    The most striking fellow is NK Forster. I think I'd actually have to play one of his guitars to understand why the body isn't just a vestigial part of his design

    The greatest problem I have is getting traditional timbers like spruce and maple at a price I can justify. I'm going to see what some Australian alternatives [ Bunya/Kauri Pine ] might sound like.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Location
    www.rwtwguitars.com
    Posts
    1,051
    FWIW, I’ve use Bunya as a substitute for Spruce (even though I’m not in Australia, we have an urban wood program at the school and there are a lot of Australian ornamentals here in San Diego). I built a flat top with it, but I think it gave me a good idea of its properties. It is less lively than spruce, and not as mellow as cedar. But still very usable. Most archtops are played as electric guitars, so the slightly dampened sound may actually be a good thing.

    As far as back and side wood, Tasmanian Blackwood, aka Black Acacia, is a kissing cousin to Koa and an excellent tone wood. It LOVES to splinter, so it will be a challenge to carve. But it would make a spectacular guitar.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    559
    The 18" archtop guitar is certain to be next on my list of new projects. You may have noticed there are many on the board who are big fans of the big bodies. After hearing a few of these guitars lately I was inspired to start planning for my own 18" build. Going from 17" to 18" can be complicated by many little things, like most of my preferred binding strips are supplied cut too short to wrap around an 18" box with 2 pieces. The side wood is also usually cut too short for an 18". Thankfully, TKL now makes an 18" case at an affordable price. Scaling up a bit should be no problem. It sounds strange, but I learned a lot about building archtop guitars from building F-style mandolins.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Chicago area
    Posts
    329
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt View Post
    I'm a player not a builder so my knowledge is extremely limited but...

    Yeah, Benedetto. As one archtop luthier said "we're all building Johnny Smiths now". It's not the only model to build but it's a benchmark for modern archtops.

    17" lower bout
    3 or 3 1/8 body depth
    25" scale length
    either 1 12/16" or 1 11/16" nut width (Johnny Smith vs. L5 width)
    floating pickup (i.e. "acoustic" archtop)

    also to consider:
    carved a bit thinner for acoustic volume?
    a lighter guitar than a L5 or Wes
    For a while I thought I liked short scale with wider fingerboard (i.e. 25" and 1 3/4"), but I discovered I really prefer the 25 1/2" scale with the slightly narrower nut (1 11/16). It just seems to play easier for me. The longer scale seems to be roomier than the wider fingerboard and it also seems to drive the guitar better. I also really like a floater too with the thinner carve as there's not much holding the top back. I guess these thoughts vary from player to player of course.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Mannheim, Germany
    Posts
    156
    I'd like to offer my thoughts on this topic from a player's perspective :
    having played (and loved !) all types of electric and acoustic archtop guitars by
    Gibson (J. Smith, Byrdland, L5 CES, Super-400 CES, Super-300, ES-175, Super-400C) and from some custom builders (Roger Borys, Robert Benedetto, Victor Baker, Mark Campellone, Steven Anderson and soon Bryant Trenier) in the course of the past 35 years - gosh, that's a long time ! - I have some definite ideas about their design in general and what I'd like to see/hear in the future.

    Sound :
    My ideal archtop (as a solo instrument) should have a balanced tone with warm, defined lows, projecting but not overbearing mids and a "tamed" treble register, good volume (not louder than an equally fine/sized steelstring ) and GOOD sustain. A strong fundamental tone is important without too many silvery overtones, as is a really direct response, i.e. it should speak easily with a light touch but not compress too soon when played with a heavy pick and a strong attack. The guitar should "work", regardless of the use of a pick or my fingernails. The sound I hear in my head has little to do with the bark of Eddie Lang or George Grosz, it's much more mellow and sweet , a "pretty" tone ! Still many of even modern /current archtops tend to sound harsh, brittle and agressive , built for power - they function fine in a band setting, pounding out chords but I wouldn't want one like that for a solo performance, be it alone on my sofa in front of the fireplace or in a recording studio.
    I really like the idea of a sound port in the upper rim - I have a nylonstring guitar with such a feature and I love it ! A simple idea with a big effect (for MY ears) : I hear so much more of what I play, in a direct way and in addition to the normal reflected sound !

    Playability / Ergonomics :
    I'm a rather big guy and a Super-400 is not too large for me. However, I once owned a Borys guitar with an 18" body that was a little too deep - it had a huge sound but it was too unwieldy, uncomfortable really. A 2,5" to 3" rim is sufficient I think and whether you feel more comfortable with a 15", 16" or 17" wide body is really a personal preference. It's up to the builder to coax the optimal tone out of the box, regardless of the size. It also depends on one's personal preference re the choice of scale length, neck size and shape, fret size etc. A really neat idea is a bevel for the right forearm and a second bevel at the upper rear edge, where the guitar rests against your chest/stomach. That makes a definitive difference in playing comfort ! I personally also don't need a really deep cutaway - with the neck going up the the 14th fret I already have plenty of notes at my disposal so a shallow cutaway that allows access to frets # 15/17 is enough for me. The non-cut 16" L5 shape stands alone as a perfectly proportioned masterpiece of musical instrument design and really a work of art. When I listen to Julian Lage playing his 30's L5 I don't feel him being limited by the lack of a cutaway ! His TONE could be nicer, though ;-) But hey, I'm not criticizing ! The notes he plays are MUSIC .....


    Wood :
    Regarding the wood I'm convinced that one could safely rely on domestic timbers, without sacrificing tone. The recent developement concerning "torrefied" (i.e. thermically treated/baked) spruce and maple makes it possible to use much younger wood and that will make it cheaper, too. The use of plywood (in a sandwich construction like a double top and/or in a multi-ply design), not only for the sides but also for the back and top has just begun to be really developed further in the field of purely acoustic archtops. Synthetic materials like carbon fiber and Nomex (honey-comb like Kevlar sheets) offer a drastic reduction of weight, as does the epoxy/carbon mix several builders now use for fingerboards that look like real ebony.

    The design and the size of the f-holes - the placement of sound holes in general - can drastically alter the sound and the response of a guitar so that is a big playing field. As for the different methods of attaching the neck (traditional dovetail/glue or detachable with wedges, pins or screws) I think there is merit in all of them - I'm not a woodworker and I don't claim to be able to hear a difference.
    If the cost factor plays a bigger role then there might be a "best" solution, depending on the skill of the luthier.
    When I look at the current trends in the (MUCH larger) custom steelstring market, I am amazed by the dazzling level of workmanship, the preoccupation with exotic and precious woods, the most intricate inlay work, radical designs for bridges, headstocks, neck/body joints , flash and bling all over the place .... the prices are climbing at a strong and steady rate and fewer and fewer player are able to afford these pieces. However, the builders are really pushing the envelope, not afraid of radical new solutions and designs and that in itself is good. Even the traditonally very conservative group of the classical guitar players and luthiers are coming of age and are arriving in the 21st century : Luthiers like Robert Ruck, Matthias Dammann, Robert Humphrey and Greg Smallman laid the groundwork by including/inventing/developing soundports, elevated fingerboards, double tops and lattice bracing.

    I think players and builders in ALL fields of GUITAR should look at each other's work, share opinions and experiences freely and push the guitar along.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Midwest USA
    Posts
    181
    I have several archtops, both laminate and carved. My favorite guitar, and one I think Gibson Custom Shop should make, is a Billy Bean model ES-175 with one humbucking pickup moved up to the end of the fretboard. The neck will be a 25 1/2 " scale like a Gibson Dove. I am really lucky to be the conservator of his last guitar, and it is a great modification.
    Your Ideas On Archtop Design ?-img_3159-jpg
    Me with Billy Bean's nephew and modified 1964 Gibson ES-175.
    Ted
    Guitar Addicts Anonymous
    A 12 fret program

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    3,357
    Andy54:
    There have been quite a few fine archtop builders over the past century. In addition to the many excellent suggestions made above, don't forget that, at the end of the day, the archtop guitar is just a particular kind of box for generating sound, with very few limiting rules. You can do whatever you want, however you want, so long as people don't get hurt and laws don't get broken. If you spend a bit of time and use a bit of wood on some ideas that don't pan out, it's no big deal, and you'll certainly learn a lot. It does help to have a good overview of the instruments that have come before, to help avoid some dead ends. It also helps to play a variety of archtop guitar designs if one can, as the proof is very much in the pudding.

    Here's one design approach, developed right after WWII in Germany by Wenzel Rossmeisl for his Roger guitars, that incorporates some traditional ideas with some innovative ideas. These ideas never made it to North America. I'm not suggesting you try this - just pointing out that there are plenty of ways to skin a cat. Roger guitars are sort of the opposite of Andersen guitars, which have virually no recarve. Yet they both both typically soud pretty good acoustically. I like the Roger design so much so that I will be putting together some guitars similar to this in the not-too-distant future:


    Last edited by Hammertone; 06-17-2018 at 06:03 PM.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Twin Cities
    Posts
    2,879
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Cushman View Post
    It sounds strange, but I learned a lot about building archtop guitars from building F-style mandolins.
    Well, D'Angelico built violins first. A mandolin is halfway between a violin and a guitar.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Victoria, BC Canada
    Posts
    201
    Do yourself a favour and get a Pinterest account. One of the best resources I found to see and search for different design ideas of all kinds. Truly remarkable!
    _____________________________________

    https://www.facebook.com/Custom.Pickups

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Mannheim, Germany
    Posts
    156
    When building guitars is a hobby and one doesn't need to make money by selling them then the sky is the limit and you can pursue whichever far-out ideas you might have.

  22. #22
    Build one with narrow neck, like 1 5/8 nut width, and 9.5 radius. Gibson scale length. Does anyone build arch tops like that?

    But regardless, whatever it is, please, please don't put a wooden tailpiece on it, use the metal one! I can't stand all those modern archtops for that reason alone.

    Id buy one then!

Join our Facebook Page

Get in Touch


Jazz Guitar eBooks
How To Get a Jazz Guitar Tone?
Privacy Policy

 

 

Follow us on:

Jazz Guitar Online on FacebookJazz Guitar Online on TwitterJazz Guitar Online on YoutubeJazz Guitar Online RSS Feed