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  1. #1

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    I bought this guitar from a reverb seller earlier in the year. He was unsure of the exact provenance, but felt that 1950s Germany was likely. A luthier friend of mine has been coaching me through a few restoration tasks. We are replacing the fretboard, installing a truss rod, fixing a few minor cracks and separations, adding period-correct tuners, buffing the hell out of it, and will likely add one of those excellent-sounding Vintage Vibes floating Charlie Christian pickups and pickguard that have popped up on the forum a few times over recent months. I think it's a gorgeous and interesting looking guitar, and certainly hope the end product sounds as nice as it looks.

    There are no identifying marks that we've been able to find. A very soft wood was used for the original fretboard. The original scale was something like 24.25", but with the new fretboard we'll be upping that to 24.75". I exchanged a couple of messages with Hammertone around the time I bought it—he pointed out how high up the f-holes. It has that cool round sound hole in addition to the f-holes. The inlays were thin plastic of some sort and had to be sacrificed during the planing of the original fretboard, which didn't work out anyhow.

    I don't suspect this is a very valuable guitar, but would like to know if anyone has some ideas on its possible provenance.
    Attached Images Attached Images Vintage German Archtops-img_9969-jpg Vintage German Archtops-img_9970-jpg Vintage German Archtops-img_9971-jpg Vintage German Archtops-img_9972-jpg Vintage German Archtops-img_9976-jpg 

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    No idea (and if Hammertone doesn't know, I surely don't!), but I hope you document the restoration for us.

  4. #3

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    the f holes are really not high..the wide /center part of the f hole is usually parallel to the bridge..so that's fairly normal..what's odd is the distance from bridge to end of the guitar..that's almost cello like

    shame you have to lose those neck markers..that's half the fun..

    cheers

  5. #4

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    As neatomic says, "what's odd is the distance from bridge to end of the guitar..that's almost cello like."

    Yes, the guitar has an unusually long/extended/stretched-out body, even with the shorter-than-usual scale (many German archtops use @24 1/2" - 25" scale). This
    results in more real estate behind the bridge than one usually sees in these instruments. Very interesting guitar.
    What's the length of the body from top to bottom?


    Last edited by Hammertone; 08-06-2016 at 08:06 PM.

  6. #5

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    I'll be watching this thread. I am curious, and our other source of info seems to have disappeared...

    Just thinking about f-holes relatively high up... I ran into someone selling a Rickenbacker Electric Spanish from around 1940 (not the Electro Spanish lap steel but the Electric Spanish).

  7. #6

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    Guitars like this one give us a hard time trying to identify the maker. Similar models with the typical third (center) sound hole were both made in West and East Germany, often by nameless makers and homeworkers, often by using prefabricated neck blanks, etc..
    I think the additional, conventional round sound hole was an attempt to draw players to the archtop camp. We have to consider that many violin makers in Germany were struggling after the war. The catching-up of the public to play/listen to swing music was high, and the influence of this music spread by the western occupuying forces was strong. Sometimes, the soft power - like culture - can be as effective as political power... And these violin makers knew how to make archtop instruments, more than to make flattop guitars.

    The tuning machines of this guitar have been replaced - the tailpiece looks like an early and cheap postwar West German replacement? These sound holes look similar to some that were used by Markneukirchen based makers, for example, Ammon Meinel: Schlaggitarren.de – Hersteller .
    However, nothing else does fit into a Meinel made guitar... so I'm sorry to say that you have to take this guitar by now for what you want. We can't even be sure telling from the pics if it was made in the West or the East. Wenzel Rossmeisl really mixed both German guitar making scenes up in the late forties and early fifties... The (original?) fret size and cutting manner, and the lacquer point more to the East, and if I had to evaluate from these four pics, without having other data on hand, I'd say - with great reservations - this guitar could be made in or around Markneukirchen.

    The body proportions can easily get distorted during the making of photographs (wide angle lens, perspective, etc.). Yes, it seems as if this round bottom is more extended than usual. To confirm this, we would have to know the body dimensions, the bouts, the length and the waist: often, the length is conventional, and just the waist placed higher than usual in relation to the length.
    There are fine builders (whose names we don't know yet - who cares much anyway?) who made something like a 'long-pattern' model, like the following 16" GDR archtop models demonstrate: their body length is longer than with most comparable 16" archtops, making also the string 'afterlength' longer.

    Vintage German Archtops-sampo-16-archtop-brand-name-distributor-lippold-hammig-markneukirchen-jpg


    Your guitar may appear a bit rough and skimped - so many of them suffered after the late fifties, when the original archtop boom declined - but the carving of the solid plates, especially the recarve and fluting around the edges, looks fine, like one would expect from a trained violin builder. Hence the hassle of restoring might be rewarding in the end.
    If people are asking what basically new archtop guitar constructions are offered on the market, I have to smile to myself. Though many ways lead to Rome, there are strict guiding threads between Cremonese master instruments made after the mid 16th century, and archtop guitars by makers like D'Angelico, D'Aquisto or Lang - maybe these threads are not always visible at first glance, but they are definitely there.






    Life never stops. Nature ends an admirable activity by death; and nothing can be passed, except the noble fruit of labor, the thought -everything else disappears. This is the law of life and here lies the beautiful, the sublime: Nothing can be passed, just the thought.
    - Le Corbusier -
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 08-05-2016 at 01:36 PM.

  8. #7

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    Some luthiers are more willing to experiment than others, and even if most of their own attempts or works referring to the violin masters (who were experimenting like crazy over centuries) were not overly successful in terms of money or lasting impact: such jobs helped them to understand wood and resonances better.
    D'Angelico made a guitar for Tommy Lucas from a commercial cello body fitted with his own neck and tailpiece (the photo I have is probably under copy right... ). Cellos have a lower bout of circa 440mm (17.3") and a body length of circa 745mm (29.3").





    Once Roy Haynes stood with Thelonious Monk on the road behind the Apollo Theater. Monk took a coin out of his pocket, walked across the street, tapped the coin against a streetlight, came back and said: I have thought so!
    This meant a certain sound he had elicited.


    My job is the simple one of getting the most of the best to the greatest number of people for the least.
    - Charles Eames

    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 08-07-2016 at 06:10 AM.

  9. #8

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    Well, some seem to suffer from the collapse of the European Guitar Forum mainly because warnings against fake and frauds can no longer apply. And it's quite easy to fool buyers with European guitars.
    Just one example: looking at the label of this German guitar, actually presented by one of the "more knowledgeable" guys Brüder Buchner, Regensburg 1947 | Lacquercracks , some will realize that it's a newer fake label.
    That causal agent proved to be witty: the "Brüder Buchner" (Buchner Brothers) ran a delicatessen store in Regensburg. A street called "Lobmarerstr." never existed there. However, some folks closer connected to European guitars will know the (trustable) surname "Lob" in the German city "Lohmar"...

  10. #9

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    I looked over some pics of similar guitars and found this blonde one:

    Vintage German Archtops-aa-jpg

    Vintage German Archtops-bb-jpg
    Vintage German Archtops-cc-jpg


    Some details show that the blonde guitar (on the right) could have been made in Luby (the postwar name of Schönbach/Eger), probably in the 1950s. The former producers' cooperative plus several prewar plants had been nationalized by the Czechs, and the company named 'Cremona'. Most of their 1950/60s production was so-so, though a few luthiers were allowed to make a small amount of nice and fully carved archtops: Bräuer- or Pilar-related folks, with the still unclear connection to the (West) Berlin Pilar workshop.
    The missing third soundhole, different FB inlays, different tailpiece, even different carving patterns? This can, but must not necessarily mean something because the proportion of manual elements and personal freedom in archtop guitar making was high at that time. Also, the availibility of hardware parts may have played a role, as did the relative intake of beer on a workday, or the moon phase.


    What I want to demonstrate is that the correct identifying of vintage European archtops can still give considerable headaches, even with a dozen or more hi-res fotos on hand. What's needed is exact examining, the dimensions of the bodies (the main part of any guitar) and pics of the guts. Details are helpful, since certain builders worked in a specific way. But if several employees gathered in the same workshop (to my knowledge most German-related guitar makers did so - except Lang)... then the homeworking families... the widespread putting-out system and use of prefabricated (third-party) blanks - details are only the icing on the cake!
    Such an ardous procedure is definitely not what the members of this forum are used to or willing to do. Easy to accept by myself: it's entirely sufficient to concentrate on the scarce higher end European archtops.
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 08-08-2016 at 06:33 AM.

  11. #10
    Hey that is the closest resemblance I have seen! I will provide more details once my buddy's shop has finished moving. Everything is in storage right now until at least another couple of weeks.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ol' Fret
    Well, some seem to suffer from the collapse of the European Guitar Forum mainly because warnings against fake and frauds can no longer apply. And it's quite easy to fool buyers with European guitars.
    Just one example: looking at the label of this German guitar, actually presented by one of the "more knowledgeable" guys Brüder Buchner, Regensburg 1947 | Lacquercracks , some will realize that it's a newer fake label.
    That causal agent proved to be witty: the "Brüder Buchner" (Buchner Brothers) ran a delicatessen store in Regensburg. A street called "Lobmarerstr." never existed there. However, some folks closer connected to European guitars will know the (trustable) surname "Lob" in the German city "Lohmar"...
    imo no fake.

    1) label reads colmarerstrasse...
    2) I found thew company in an old 1947 register
    3 ) I have found several posiible geigenbauers by the name of Büchner...

    it seems they gave up very soon ... or changed their business, like S. Todt who started to sell fish.....

    btw. the neck of the guitar is not original....

  13. #12

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    My first inclination was that it could be a Musima.. a company from Markneukirchen near the Czech border. There were alot of telltale signs to me. If it isn't a Musima.. whoever it was made by sure does alot of things similar to the Musima factory did (but then again.. that wouldn't be uncommon for alot of these old Eastern Bloc manufacturers.. obviously!) and you would be correct in saying it wouldn't be worth a fortune. I can't understand the blank headstock though.. which would indicate to me it isn't Musima at all.. I've never seen a Musima with a blank headstock before. Then I read Ol Fret's posts and I'd say he isn't too far off.. I'd go with his information. Somewhat of a puzzler all the same. This isn't really my field to be honest, I know people who I'd be confident in saying could tell you exactly what it is right away. If I can I'll show them the pictures and get back to you on it.
    Last edited by JoePassFan; 06-27-2017 at 11:16 AM.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by cracks
    imo no fake.

    1) label reads colmarerstrasse...
    2) I found thew company in an old 1947 register
    3 ) I have found several posiible geigenbauers by the name of Büchner...

    it seems they gave up very soon ... or changed their business, like S. Todt who started to sell fish.....

    btw. the neck of the guitar is not original....

    Oops, now I was almost ready to withdraw slowly from guitar-related media! Also it seems that the English language gets increasingly difficult to understand for my shrinking brains... Anyway, welcome here onboard - I really hope you and your family are fine, Cracks!

    Yes, the Colmarerstrasse does exist in Regensburg! You can not know, but I have lived 13 years in that city, in the neighboring district, about 2km away from the Konradsiedlung (originally something like a socially disadvantaged district), where the Colmarerstrasse is located. It is quite conceivable that, after the war, there were temporary expellees from Schönbach (the "fourth national tribe" in Bavaria). Regensburg at the intersection between Bavaria, Austria-Hungary and later the CSSR had always had a rich scene of musical instruments, well-known violin virtuosos like Ludwig Spohr and even W. A. Mozart found it praiseworthy, and still in the 1990's a befriended cellist of the Bern Symphony Orchestra used to visit me when searching for another valuable vintage instrument in Regensburg.

    The familiar names of that scene, old or young, were known to me. I have never heard of the Buchner Brothers as stringed or plucked instrument makers. Is any other instrument made by them known, except your guitar? What proof do you have about that Buchner workshop in Regensburg?

    In principle it is indeed possible that the Buchners made instruments for very short time in Regensburg. 1947 was an extremely chaotic time in Germany, and especially Regensburg remained a neglected, backward district capital city until the 1970s. The old medieval town is still so beautiful. German jazz guitarists such as Helmut Kagerer and Helmut Nieberle (my teacher for a too short time) know why they are living there for decades.
    The family name Buchner and Büchner was/is very common in both Schönbach and Regensburg; one of my former neighbors was so called and was a big animal, but not in the instrument making/trade.

    That guitar label, IMO, looks suspicious for fake in the photos. I am disturbed by several things, but in particular, that the blue ink appears too fresh, too little faded after 70 years. This could be the case if the guitar was taken out of its case only very rarely - but from an external point of view, the instrument seems to show stronger signs of usage and years of play wear.


    Sorry in advance for my current inability to answer promptly: I am preparing for a stay in Zambia! You know how much I appreciate poor, but honest rural Africans. Or jazz musicians and colleagues of yours like, for example, the one who recorded the following field clip in Malawi in 1967 (and of whom I feel happy to know him):

    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 06-27-2017 at 07:50 PM.

  15. #14

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    Hi, i have been getting more into German Archtops, and have acquired one with WR on the headstock, but a makers label inside, with the name Josef Bitterrer Mittenwald. Josef seems to have been a violin maker?
    It is well made with lovely timber and complex inlays ( The WR is inlaid not stuck on top)
    any thoughts would be much appreciated
    many thanks
    Tim
    Attached Images Attached Images Vintage German Archtops-img_20171124_170406085_hdr-jpg Vintage German Archtops-img_20171124_161938705-jpg Vintage German Archtops-img_20171124_161925720-jpg Vintage German Archtops-img_20171124_161856460_hdr-jpg Vintage German Archtops-img_20171124_161845395-jpg 

  16. #15

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    Not my field but I'd look back for players with the initials RW.

  17. #16

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    I’ve never seen frets that worn before. Wow!
    I would have thought the frets had to be changed years before the owner found them to be unplayable.
    German luthiers seem to make Italian Luthiers’ works rather subdued by comparison. I never thought that would be possible.
    Joe D

  18. #17

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    That guitar looks like it could've been played / set up / modified as a lap instrument of some kind......zero fret, w/ large nut ?? ....it has major grooves in the frets just like zither players put in frets on zithers. My Grandpa and Uncle played zithers and guitars and had major callouses....

    ...It looks similar to a ' Hopf ' ? HOPF

    ...Just a couple guesses......
    Last edited by Dennis D; 11-24-2017 at 09:56 PM.

  19. #18

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    yea those frets certainly resemble what damage a brass/chrome slide can do to a fret/fretboard..but it could just as well be the fret materials...i'd imagine they are probably a soft nickel/silver combo

    those extreme cats eye holes give it hopf/hoyer vibe


    cool guitar...those tuning pegs are quite interesting...the covered posts!!


    cheers

  20. #19

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    And you listen to the music from the movie ' The Third Man ' - all zither, and then listen to some of the classic Django recordings, and he must've liked that zither sound, 'cause he sure seemed to use it a lot !

    The gypsies - -Austria, etc - -just a little north of you in the old country, Joe.

    Dennis

  21. #20

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    Nice guitar. Could be one of a few things. Or not.
    -Roger Super Special copy made by Joseph Bitterrer.
    -Roger Super Special or a high-end copy, modifed & customized by Joseph Bitterrer
    -Roger Super Special copy made by someone else.

    Whatever way, it looks like a really nice guitar. The general style was developed by Franz Hirsch, in collaboration with Wensel Rossmeisl. Rossmeisl chose not to pursue it, opting for his overt German carve on a more American style, at which point Franz Hirsch stopped building guitars for Roger. The deep cutaway style was then copied by several West German builders (Alosa, Lang, A. Hoyer, G. Glassl [who built for Hopf] and others). The tuners are pretty standard stuff for the era - that style was used on many German archtops right into the mid-1960s - essentially modified classical slot-head tuners on a paddle headstock. The flat/deep string spacer behind the zero fret is also pretty standard for various German makers.

    If this guitar is restored PROPERLY, with the right hardware, right bridge, a decent refret and whatever else it needs, I bet it will be great. tuxtimb, if you need any help locating the right parts, let me know. This project is worth being done properly.

    Roger Super Special:


    Typical (Hoyer Solist) copy - note the rounded, not pointed, narrow ends of the soundholes:
    Last edited by Hammertone; 10-28-2020 at 10:34 PM.

  22. #21

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    Thanks for all the replies, the guitar is beautifully put together and I can see it has the same sound holes as the Hoyer and the same body shape as the Roger. It will need the neck levelling and a refret plus I was going to refinish it,and maybe leave it a natural wood finish (like the hoyer) as the original finish has turned quite dark and yellow.
    What would be some good pointers for restoring this properly?
    many thanks
    Tim

  23. #22

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    You lucky bugger. I love those old German archtops too, and that one look particularly nice. My dad studied violin making in Mittenwald, there is a well known school there and it is a bit of a centre for instrument making.

  24. #23

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    My two cents as "the good doctor" (Hammertone will laugh at my still halfway functioning mirror neurons), starting with a little rant - so this is the rather bad doctor:

    That commercial seller on eBay Germany is becoming known for a certain pattern of behavior: buying guitars online, changing them in a certain way, and reselling them with the offer of a history of origin, which is both entertaining and fantastic, only has the disadvantage of concealing the truth.

    Look here: Used gear Europe - where from? Ebay / Reverb / Zikinf . You can be sure there are more examples like this, here an actual offer:

    Vintage German Archtops-hoyer-arnold-special-acoustic-electric-sunburst-left-sold-ebay-de-right-jpg



    Congrats to this nice guitar - I know it was on the radar of some during the offer! The actual seller must have bought it on an Austrian website. There the guitar was offered looking like the following pic is showing - and the guitar maker's name was already given on the Austrian offer:

    Vintage German Archtops-bitterer-joseph-acoustic-archtop-guitar-bought-gebraucht-kaufen-jpg


    This guitar was made by the violin maker Joseph Bitterer (1902, Schönbach - 1970, Mittenwald). Bitterer, the son and pupil of his father Andreas, received his diploma by the violin making school in Schönbach in 1926. That school had excellent violin and guitar making classes, and is considered by many as leading and superior to the Mittenwald school, at least in the period between the two world wars. De facto, it were the Schönbach expatriates who revitalized the Mittenwald school after WW II.
    Joseph Bitterer got known for making "ordinary good-class trade violins", later he was assisted by his son Georg.

    For a violin maker it's not a big thing to make a good sounding archtop guitar, rather the opposite! After 1946, the US Military and Administration spread the US style jazz music in Germany, especially in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, located near Mittenwald. In Germany jazz had already been played in the 1920's and 30's, but certainly without that "black music thing", the blues feeling. The demand for archtop guitars was there, and some, though not too many, violin makers did their best to supply the local players with archtop guitars. US made guitars were not in the least affordable in the devastated country.


    Some more thought concerning the differentiation of this guitar model (probably made in the 1950's) from other handmade guitars like Wenzel and Roger Rossmeisl, Franz Hirsch, Anton and Helmut Neubauer, Gustav Glassl or Arnold Hoyer, should follow. Except Wenzel and Helmut Neubauer all of them were graduates of the Schönbach violin school - like Artur Lang had been. Yes, there's evidence that Roger Rossmeisl never was a pupil of the Mittenwald violin school...

    And I think it would be helpful also to waste some words on the unfortunately often really poor condition of German vintage archtops...


    I've spotted that Bitterer archtop, which certainly was designed according the rare Roger Super Special (made between 1946 or so and 1953), more than one time, though I'm afraid most pics are gone. Here's a shot of Randy Bachman with another one. I know... how many folks here will think I'd not only be a good or bad doctor, but also a crazy one. Admittedly, that neck of Randy's black guitar look so different, etc., etc., but, folks, that's not what matters in this context!
    Attached Images Attached Images Vintage German Archtops-bitterer-joseph-mittenwald-high-end-archtop-jpg Vintage German Archtops-bitterer-joseph-mittenwald-high-end-archtop-owned-randy-bachman-jpg 
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 11-25-2017 at 01:08 PM.

  25. #24

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    The black one belonged to me for a few years before I traded it with RB. I found it in Alaska, of all places, where it was completely and expertly rebuilt and refinished. It is an excellent guitar in all respects. No label, so at the time I believed that it was either a reworked Roger Super Special or a very good copy of one. Modern ABM tailpiece, Schaller hardware and pickup, and (I suspect) a very reworked or even replaced neck that used the original fingerboard and headstock overlay. Just a great guitar. Pix:
    Attached Images Attached Images Vintage German Archtops-bitterrer-rb1_1897-lo-jpg Vintage German Archtops-bitterrer-rb2_1898-lo-jpg 
    Last edited by Hammertone; 11-25-2017 at 01:23 PM.

  26. #25

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    >> I believed that it was either a reworked Roger Super Special or a very good copy of one <<


    No single Roger, Hirsch, Glassl or Hoyer archtop ever showed that deep cutaway combined with such a small, not well-marked "cutaway horn" (= upper bout shape on the treble side of cutaway archtops)!

    Wenzel Rossmeisl never gave away his designs or guitar parts to other builders or marketers - at least not voluntarily. His Roger Super Special was a short-lived collaboration between Franz Hirsch, the maker of all Roger guitars until 1946/47, and himself who after the war had been inspired by the L-5P design. He thought that the deeper the cutaway, the better the accessibility to the upper fretboard, a fact which proves to be true. On the other hand, it is not easy for the average archtop guitar maker to bend a deep cutaway body with a more pronounced, voluminous cutaway horn.
    I've studied many Glassl guitars, the man who accomplished that constructive form better than most others (except Lang), and found one possible structural draw-back. Lang, the good luthier, stopped the making of deep cutaway models after 1956 for some reason. IMO, Lang was one of the most advanced archtop guitar makers in his one-man custom workshop, at that time.