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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.

  27. #26

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    Here's another one that is an excellent guitar with an uncertain provenance:
    Attached Images Attached Images Vintage German Archtops-hoyer-solist-not-sbc-1front-jpg 

  28. #27

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    Here's another one, I believe. Could be from Sandner, or Neubauer (based on the pix below). It's currently being slightly restored with more appropriate tuners and a proper Teller bridge:
    Attached Images Attached Images Vintage German Archtops-alosa-1-jpg 
    Last edited by Hammertone; 12-01-2017 at 04:51 PM.

  29. #28

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    Thanks for all the information and pictures, it is fascinating, so the guitar is certainly quite interesting, and i will make sure it is well cared for and restored carefully..
    I am not keen on ebay entrepreneurs, as you have shown things get changed..not always for the better.. but for people like myself it does make these old guitars accessible, I have learnt to be very very suspicious...
    My German Archtop collection now numbers 5 and will probably grow some more - thanks for all the help
    Excellent stuff
    Tim

  30. #29

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    Knowledge is a wonderful thing.
    The are are plenty of nice folks on ebay as well, although a healthy dose of skepticism is fine by me.
    Nothing that a phone call or reasonable email exchange can't sort out, in my experience.
    As far as helping out with German archtops, there are a few people here who are perfectly happy to share what they know, so please use us as a resource.
    Cool guitar!

  31. #30

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    >> Knowledge is a wonderful thing. <<


    Yep, it is! In the case of this nice guitar project, however, I'd still put this in the subjunctive.

    In an attempt to help Tim out with identifying the possible original maker of this guitar, I think it will be necessary to stir up again part of that vexing German vintage archtop guitar maker's soup: it's about resellers' labels, distributors' labels, repairers' labels, and - often - no labels at all. Mix this with the confusing former Schönbach luthiers' workshop system (that was applied to many new shop in West Germany), with the divided German countries (that still enabled some passenger traffic and exchange of goods in the first years after 1949), the economy of scarcity in both countries, later only in the east part... so, there we are at the point of our departure to a looong-winding story!


    Except archtop guitar makers like Otwin or Este who started out in the late 1920s and early 30s, and the Roger, Hofner, Bräuer, brands, etc., and that large Schönbach based producer cooperative (countless trade names like Radiotone, Dallas, Martin Coletti, and so on), in West Germany all started with Arnold Hoyer, his father and relatives, and usually the whole working family, in Tennenlohe. Originally, the Eger and Schönbach area were monastery-related German foundations since the 12th century, and happened to be a borderland of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy until the end of WW I. After the monarchy had blown up, Schönbach, "the music city", became part of the newly established Czech Republic. A former citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, who had proverbially wangled the German citizenship, named Hitler, changed that situation anew without bloodshed - an exception - in 1938.

    Hoyer was able to depart from Schönbach with his relatives, the tools and the precious tonewood stock, by help of the US Military, before the latter had to leave Schönbach to the Czechs and Soviets. It is obvious that Hoyer has had a political reason to get away as early as possible. Even the smart Wenzel Rossmeisl with his close connections to the European 30s popular music (in Germany that meant: Berlin) and movie scene (UFA) had to work for Hoyer for some months during 1945.


    The small nucleus of fine solid carved German archtop guitar making (not sure if Hofner got that right before the war) was the home of Franz Hirsch (1879-1964), located in a former Schönbach inn:

    Vintage German Archtops-hirsch-franz-no-315-schonbach-buchner-berg-pc-1930s-004b-jpg



    There, the urbane and agile guitarist Wenzel Rossmeisl had been the "brain", Hirsch probably more the counselor and the "hand". As already mentioned, the Schönbach violin (and guitar) making school was something special in that field, and Hirsch had some fabulous personnel and students: his son-in-law Anton Neubauer (born in 1906), Anton's brother August (also born in 1906), the young Gustav Glassl (1923-1995) and the youngster Roger Rossmeisl (1927-1979) - Wenzel's son. The Hoyer family, Josef being the father of Arnold (1905-1967), had their plant next to Hirsch; as far as we know they didn't make carved arched guitars, but Arnold must have learned a lot next doors. It was also the place where Wenzel himself somehow learnt the guitar maker profession.


    Like most German natives in the (then again) Czech Republic under Soviet administration, Hirsch and the Neubauers were deported in 1946. Hirsch and his son-in-law Anton plus Anton's son Helmut (born in 1937) were allocated to Tennenlohe, where they worked, probably as homeworkers, for Hoyer, self-independantly (as far as that was possible for mere mortals, back then), and the Rossmeisls.
    Wenzel developed the deep cutaway Super Spezial models with the typical sharp cat's eye sound holes like all of the Supers had sported since the 30s; these models were built by Hirsch (and the Neubauers?) and starkly marketed by Wenzel in the Berlin scene and on fairs.
    The Super Spezials were really fine guitars, searched for by the best German guitarists. The draw back was they were simply being made with too much manual labor, too elaborate and too expensive to find bigger spread among a people who were still starving or freezing in the winter. And quality tonewood was hardly available, not even enough fire wood (at the tender age of 17 my mom had to blow up tree stumps with dynamite... ). That was why Wenzel developed the German carve Roger guitars, and left Hirsch and the Neubauers standing in the cold in 1947.

    With Wenzel's new German carve models, it would have been conflicting to praise and market the sophisticated, totally hand carved, cello-arched Super Spezials at the same time. All Super Spezial guitars were made by Hirsch, even those that were sold (or given free) to guitar idols (Django Reinhardt, Barney Kessel, Johannes Rediske, etc.) by Roger when he had to run the workshop while his father had been arrested in a terrible GDR prison between 1951 and 53. Roger had been both in a financial and certainly interpersonal emergency - due to the divorce of his parents.


    Franz Hirsch and the Neubauers continued to make all sorts of custom-made guitars, that were in high demand, not only archtops, but also special replicas of antique guitars. In 1955, Hirsch, Anton and Helmut Neubauer were ready to start again their own workshop in the nearby Bubenreuth.

    August Neubauer, the brother of Anton, was allocated in Hesse, where he also very successfully made master guitars, though we don't know if he made more than a few archtops.

    Gustav Glassl, a specially trained so-called Schachtelmacher (body- or box maker) worked for Arnold Hoyer until 1949, when he got self-employed. Glassl was the man who hated the sharp-angled cat's eye sound holes. Like the rounded "eyes" of violin f-holes, he started to make the smoother, rounded cat's eye sound holes guitars at Hoyer, the players' favorite "Solist" and the 18" "Special", then models for Alosa, later fabulous guitars for Hopf (the 320 L = Lang homage, the 320SL and the 319 models, among others. When Hopf archtops disappeared, he marketed the models himself - though marketing was certainly not his strength.



    I guess for the general understanding I'll have to lose even some more words on the specific situation of the German violin makers after the war, and to the split sound holes models like pictured above by Hammertone, resp. to the doyen of German archtop guitar making, Artur Lang - before coming back to the OP's project and the Hammertone/RB guitar: it's all interwoven!

    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 11-30-2017 at 07:07 PM.

  32. #31

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    For German violin makers it was really hard to survive the postwar years, for several reasons:

    First of all, they often had been displaced or had lost their home, workshop, tonewoods or former employees.
    Second, decent tonewood had been hard to come by, so violin makers had to content themselves with doing smaller repair work.
    Third, people were busy to spent their spare earnings - often only earned through black market activities - for essential goods.

    Last, but not least, the Allied Forces, especially the Americans, brought what is called a soft power, i.e. their culture, the jazz music, that relaxed feeling of life that so many young Germans longed for after twelve terrible years. Such soft power factors cannot be underestimated for any country in the long term... you have to know that in the government of Adenauer, the first German chancellor between 1949 and 1963, up to 60% of his cabinet members were former Nazi officials, covertly or overtly; it wasn't much better if you look at the judges, mayors, and so on.
    Soon the Teenies and Twens, not only in Germany, got hooked on the US swing and early rock'n'roll music. The guitar became the most popular musical instrument, shaking the masses. The German violin makers went on starving, but some of them started selling or even making archtop guitars. That was a delicate path because up to this day classical musicians tend to look down on popular musicians - so do the violin makers themselves. It's still not ok for many violin makers and the classical customers to show a fine archtop guitar next to violin-related instruments - though meanwhile that polarized situation has improved. It's understandable if you look at the high craftsmanship that many master violins show, compared to the mass of guitar offers - reflected also in the average price of these instruments.

    In Germany, the violin makers either changed over to the opposite camp - just the largest companies like Framus and Höfner were able to offer violins and guitars at the same time - or, more frequently, they bridged the critical years.
    In Berlin, Olga Adelmann, the very first female violin master maker worldwide, talked about her hard years after 1945 that lasted until the mid 1950s. Between 1951 and 53 Olga was arguably the best guitar maker for Roger Rossmeisl - you can read about that (sorry, in German language only): Olga Adelmann . After her "guitar experience" Olga worked again as a successful violin maker - as did the majority of her collegues.

    Btw., every time someone is raving about his or her great acoustic Gibson archtop from the 1930/40s, I agree inwardly: there was a time when Gibson also used to offer violins, and that violin makers' expertise was certainly not to the detriment of the higher archtop guitar line.

    Other German violin makers tried the balancing act of making guitars either from parts they bought in from guitar brands and completed "customized" guitars or they manufactured the bodies themselves and ordered the necks as blanks or ready-for-use parts. The hardware was also ordered ready-made. Names, for example, are often not well-known brands like Pilar, Goldfuss or Herbert Wurlitzer in East Germany. In the east it wasn't much of a problem for the violin makers because most of their guitars were sold through producers' cooperatives.

    In the end, good archtop guitars don't grow on trees: the number of such luthiers in Germany was manageable, and I think the same was in the so much bigger United States.

    Sometimes you can't identify old German archtops through single constructional details, like the headstock shape, the neck heel, the purfling/binding, the fretboard inlays, the hardware, and so on - this would be misleading. The main single factor is the body: it's shape (length, width, waist, rounded or flatted bottom end, cutaway and cutaway horn), the arching (pattern, recurve, graduation) and the bracing or cleat shaping. The problem is that some, but not many, of these custom makers were real custom makers: they were able to build an archtop guitar in every imaginable way or in the way the customer wanted, not just modifying a regular model by simply offering higher hardware, a different binding or another finish - the way it's often done today. I call these makers "chameleons". In East Germany important chameleons were Kurt Seifert, the father of Heinz Seifert, and Herbert Todt - all of them certainly rank among the best GDR luthiers. In Markneukirchen, they even had an approved method of making the bodies without using an outer or inner mould! In West Germany the most notorious archtop chameleon was Gustav Glassl.


    Mittenwald wasn't an archtop guitar center. If Wenzel Rossmeisl hadn't put up his small workshop there between 1955 and 1960, I don't know if more than a handful archtop guitars would have been built in Mittenwald in the early to mid 1950s. This is the period in which the OP's guitar above must have been made. So, we have that label of Josef Bitterer/Mittenwald in that guitar. We know that a handful or so of these models exist, not more. We know that these guitars show stronger marks of the Roger-Hirsch-Neubauer Super Special models (but neither this body shape nor this neck nor the zero fret, etc., do point to Roger). Nobody has ever reported about Josef Bitterer, or his son, working on an archtop guitar. Even in the poor 1950's Germany it must have been unprofitable for a violin maker to design, build, finish an archtop guitar in such small numbers, above all, because the maximum achievable price and the provision of appropriate structural tools and tonewood stocks, as well as necessary replacement hardware, space requirements, etc., would not have justified the effort.

    The conclusion: the Bitterer label can be nothing more than a reseller's label. Who then was the actual maker?

    The answer is: it must be another West German chameleon, and definitely a fine maker, somehow related to Roger-Hirsch-Neubauer-Glassl from that blurry early to mid 1950s era!

    Here Hammertone's blonde Lang copy with split sound holes above comes into play. The body shape would fit, even that deep cutaway with the shallow, flat cutaway horn. The arching could fit - always hard to evaluate on pics. We have spotted some of these with a regular Venetian cutaway, shorter sound holes, different fretboard inlays and headstocks. All of them show a preference for fancy, individualized headstock inlays. And one or two had the label Neubauer on them! So Neubauer must be the original maker of the OP's guitar, though we don't know exactly which Neubauer. Since Anton Neubauer, his father-in-law Franz Hirsch (he was already 71 years old in 1950) and his son Helmut Neubauer shared a home and workshop in Tennenlohe from 1946 to 1954, and in Bubenreuth after 1955, your guess is as good as mine.

    Once I owned an Anton Neubauer archtop, but it featured a more conventional cutaway body shape and cello-style f-holes - a very well built, good sounding guitar. Since my collection of Neubauer guitar pics was stolen some years ago, I feel the more happy that HR now has supplied me with pics from his collection that show that it were the Neubauer who could well have built the OP's guitar above, as well as Hammertone's Lang copy above. Some pics will follow.


    Since some years we know that the Lang archtops with split sound holes - we call it the Super model - came with different sound hole length, respective sound hole areas, different by intention, of course. It's often hard to spot on pics. The longer holes came earlier...
    We were surprised to find out this year that the Glassl Lang Super copies, the Hopf 320 L, show the same! And the Glassls were available with different fretboard inlays, Lang rhomboids, L-5 style block inlays and the mirrored lance or bow tie inlays, as seen on Hammertone's blonde guitar above.
    And it was HR who pointed out on pics that the Nebauer split sound holes models not only had so different cutaway shapes, fretboard and fancy headstock inlays, but also different sound holes sizes. Kudos to him!
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 11-30-2017 at 07:20 PM.

  33. #32

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    Some pics of high-end Neubauer archtops (later they also made quite a number of bread-and-butter laminated guitars, easy to recognize).

    A blonde and a black Neubauer Lang homage, the Neubauer label on the body of the blonde one, and the headstock of the black one.
    Note the different cutaways!

    Vintage German Archtops-neubauer-blonde-black-split-sound-holes-regular-venetian-cutaway-blonde-deep-jpg

    Vintage German Archtops-neubauer-blonde-split-sound-holes-b-logo-jpg

    Vintage German Archtops-neubauer-black-split-sound-holes-b-fancy-headstock-jpg
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 11-30-2017 at 07:09 PM.

  34. #33

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    Another stylish, sunburst Lang Super hommage by the Neubauers:

    Vintage German Archtops-neubauer-lang-copy-jpg

    Vintage German Archtops-neubauer-lang-copy-b-jpg


    ... and a blonde deep cutaway Neubauer with cat's eyes sound holes and its headstock:

    Vintage German Archtops-neubauer-naturell-roger-style-cats-eye-sound-holes-deep-cutaway-jpg


    Vintage German Archtops-neubauer-naturell-roger-style-cats-eye-sound-holes-b-fancy-headstock-jpg



    One more blonde cat's eyes Neubauer: http://german-vintage-guitar.com/ima...ages/770_0.jpg

  35. #34

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    Good luck with the restoration work, Tim!

    A PITA could be the Galalith shafts - thick non-metal shafts without bushings can cause trouble - unless you're a violin player!
    I'd try to get the correct bushings, new shafts if the original ones are beyond repair. Or look for a complete replacement (for example at www.musikkeller.com) just take care to measure the shafts' distances precisely...

    Not sure from the tiny pic detail, but it could be that the neck of your guitar was a Arnold Hoyer Solist blank. Unless abused, these are really well-made, quite comfortable necks! As already mentioned above, Hirsch and the Neubauers were working for Hoyer in Tennenlohe between 1946 and 1954.

  36. #35

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    Hi that makes fascinating reading, and some excellent detective work! I can see that making an easier to manufacture guitar such as the Roger made good business sense, they seemed to have sold well and their solid construction no doubt helped with their survival.
    I have a Roger junior and is solid and heavy compared to the Bitterer labelled guitar.
    I can also see that it would not be economic for a violin maker to produce archtops.
    One thing that stand out on this guitar are the complex fretboard inlays, I can't find anything similar on the internet, would that be a possible clue as to the maker?
    I really do appreciate the history and background,it does bring it all alive, and a reference to just how difficult it was to survive in post war Europe. Guitars would have been luxury items, given the hard times and scarcity of good wood it is amazing that there was a living to be made.
    The guitar is in good condition, beautiful timber - the body is solid, well glued and the bindings have not shrunk, The machine heads (tuners) all work well.
    The neck (7 piece) is very slim and in good condition it has an ebony fretboard, there is a crack/break at the heel which has an old repair and is solid.
    The neck will be levelled and re fretted and re finished ( the paint was a mess of black spray)
    The guitar has had much overspraying on the body, the sides have been oversprayed and look terrible!
    The tail piece should be a lyre shaped ( shadow in the paint! so i need to find one of those) but the bridge seems to be original and fits the marks on the soundboard perfectly.
    It feels large, light,solid and well balanced....the top has beautiful curves!
    All your help is much appreciated -I hope all your knowledge is going into print!
    many thanks
    Tim

  37. #36

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    I recognized that name Mittenwald immediately. Several months ago I'd been contemplating the purchase of a new Cello and I came across his name while researching certain German Cello's on the used market.

    That RW archtop looks very remarkable! Tim, have you been successful in identifying the general year that it was built?

  38. #37

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    Hi - thanks, i am thinking it was probably made in the 1950's, fascinating reading!
    Tim

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by tuxtimb
    ...One thing that stand out on this guitar are the complex fretboard inlays, I can't find anything similar on the internet, would that be a possible clue as to the maker?...
    Not really. The West German makers rarely made their own inlays for the fretboards and headstocks - almost all of them were ordered from Shellex or from a similar supplier. These were combined in some characteristic ways by certain makers. For instance, even though Arnold Hoyer's Special/Special SL models and Hofner's 465/468/470 models used "bow-tie" inlays, they did so in slightly different ways. The fretboard inlays on your guitar certainly tip their hat to Lang - he used parallelogram inlays on many of his guitars, although he didn't wrap them with any purfling.

    The same goes for tailpieces and bridges - West German makers purchased their tailpieces from Mueller (ABM), their bridges from Teller, and their tuning machines from Kolb, Van Gent, Rubner.

    It's a parallel universe, well worth exploring.
    Last edited by Hammertone; 10-28-2020 at 10:39 PM.

  40. #39

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    Hi I am from Germany.

    In germany we have many little Violin Luthiers. They often make Archtops too. Your guitar is not a factory guitar, it seems that she was build from a Luthier (Josef Bitterer). Its not a real famous Luthier i think, but its probably handmade.

    In "Mittenwald" is a big school for instrument Builders. Maybe Josef Riterrer has something to do with the instrument building school in Mittenwald. They have a long tradition in building Instruments.

    Its hard to say a price for the guitar. But its not a cheap factory guitar like some of the old Höfner or Something.

  41. #40

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    Imo the ones with the divided holes ( like the Lang "copy" with the kidney pickguard ) are made by August Neubauer. Notice that the logo is different from the one used by helmut/anton.

  42. #41

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    Yet another question about make-model. Who knows what brand and model this is?
    Vintage German Archtops-31773049_10211003322791780_1618959188895989760_n-jpg

  43. #42

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    its almost impossible to tell from that photo... we need photos from front and back, and maybe from more details. it has nice inlays , good bridge, fine tuners, so its probably a model from the higher end of program.

  44. #43

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    It appears to have a truss rod cover, which suggests it was built in the 1960s.
    The hardware and inlays all appear to be West German.

  45. #44

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    I've read a few threads and looked a few pictures of vintage german archtops such as Artur Lang, Roger, Seifert, or Nebauber.

    The few of them I heard sounded really great and I was wondering if any of these luthiers made smaller body guitars, 16" maybe...

    Also I've seen a semi Seifert favorit for sale, anyone familiar with those guitars?


    Vintage German Archtops-german-archtops-jpg

  46. #45

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    There are many old German archtops that are 16” or 16.5” I have a 16” Seifert that is a great electric guitar, and have played others by Otwin, Hoyer, Sloi, Isana, and other makers. I also have a Roger Junior that is 16.5”

  47. #46

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    Old German archtops are fascinating - at least visually. The country's long traditions in luthiery are evident. (E.g. my uncle went to study in Mittenwald to become a leading violin maker in Finland.) Deep carved tops, cat's eye f-holes, exotic electronics. I have only owned a mid-60s Hofner, which was ok in all respects, but the few I have held more recently have had various neck issues: sharp v, too thick, bent & no truss rod etc. Hofners' fretboards were reputedly incorrect, making intonation a challenge. There must be an expert on this Forum who could say something of the usability, sound quality and collector value of these Teutonic jazz axes. cmajor9 already named several makes, of which only Hoyer was familiar. Perhaps someone could kindly refer me to an old thread on the topic.

  48. #47

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    Excellent thread! The U.S. troops in Germany as a market, a revelation. My first guitar back in 1959 was a Migma from East Germany, a piece of crap that one night exploded under my bed. End of lessons, which started again several years later - but ended too soon. Aeromodeling was my thing.

  49. #48

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    Thanks for thé replies, yes that was one of the threads I’ve read. I really like the Hoyer designs. They really remind me of Bernstein’s zeidler, but they look gigantic. Roger’s are really nice looking too but the ones I found were really deep.
    Im trying to find some really acoustic hand carved archtop not bigger than a 175... the Seifert I found looks really cool I wonder how it sounds. I’ll try to post a picture

  50. #49

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    Here it is, I think it’s Heinz Seifert not Kurt...
    Attached Images Attached Images Vintage German Archtops-86e20d98-7963-4677-ba3f-953461636435-jpg 

  51. #50

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    Yes, that’s a Heinz Seifert guitar, with a Rellog pickup (single coil). I have a similar model which is very comforatable to play (and with a more modern-feeling neck that many old German guitars). I’m only unsure of how original it might be in that configuration - that seller on eBay.de has been known to ‘dress up’ their guitars a bit.