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  1. #1

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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
    Attached Images Attached Images Help idenitfying German Archtop-img_20171124_170406085_hdr-jpg Help idenitfying German Archtop-img_20171124_161938705-jpg Help idenitfying German Archtop-img_20171124_161925720-jpg Help idenitfying German Archtop-img_20171124_161856460_hdr-jpg Help idenitfying German Archtop-img_20171124_161845395-jpg 


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  3. #2

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

  4. #3

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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

  5. #4

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    That guitar looks like it could've been played / set up / modified as a lap instrument of some fret, w/ large nut ?? 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.

  6. #5

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    Dennis, you know you are probably right bud. I didn’t think of that.

  7. #6

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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!!


  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max405 View Post
    Dennis, you know you are probably right bud. I didn’t think of that.

    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.


  9. #8

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

    Whatever way, it looks like a nice guitar. The general style was copied by several West German builders (Alosa, Lang, A. Hoyer, G. Glassl [who built for Hopf and others]) once Wenzel Rossmeisl chose not to pursue it. 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 stanrd 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; 02-03-2019 at 03:51 PM.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  10. #9
    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

  11. #10

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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.

  12. #11

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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:

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-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:

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-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 Help idenitfying German Archtop-bitterer-joseph-mittenwald-high-end-archtop-jpg Help idenitfying German Archtop-bitterer-joseph-mittenwald-high-end-archtop-owned-randy-bachman-jpg 
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 11-25-2017 at 01:08 PM.

  13. #12

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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 Help idenitfying German Archtop-bitterrer-rb1_1897-lo-jpg Help idenitfying German Archtop-bitterrer-rb2_1898-lo-jpg 
    Last edited by Hammertone; 11-25-2017 at 01:23 PM.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  14. #13

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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.

  15. #14

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    Here's another one that is an excellent guitar with an uncertain provenance:
    Attached Images Attached Images Help idenitfying German Archtop-hoyer-solist-not-sbc-1front-jpg 
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  16. #15

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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 Help idenitfying German Archtop-alosa-1-jpg 
    Last edited by Hammertone; 12-01-2017 at 04:51 PM.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  17. #16
    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

  18. #17

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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!
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  19. #18

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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:

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-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.

  20. #19

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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.

  21. #20

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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!

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-neubauer-blonde-black-split-sound-holes-regular-venetian-cutaway-blonde-deep-jpg

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-neubauer-blonde-split-sound-holes-b-logo-jpg

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

  22. #21

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    Another stylish, sunburst Lang Super hommage by the Neubauers:

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-neubauer-lang-copy-jpg

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-neubauer-lang-copy-b-jpg

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

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-neubauer-naturell-roger-style-cats-eye-sound-holes-deep-cutaway-jpg

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-neubauer-naturell-roger-style-cats-eye-sound-holes-b-fancy-headstock-jpg

    One more blonde cat's eyes Neubauer:

  23. #22

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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; 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.

  24. #23
    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

  25. #24

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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?
    "You've got to be in the sun to feel the sun. It's that way with music too." - Sidney Bechet

  26. #25
    Hi - thanks, i am thinking it was probably made in the 1950's, fascinating reading!

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by tuxtimb View Post
    ...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 the Shellex catalogue. 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; 02-06-2019 at 08:15 PM.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  28. #27

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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.

  29. #28

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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.

  30. #29

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

  31. #30

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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.

  32. #31

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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.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  33. #32
    Hi, its been a long time but finally i have a playable guitar, I say playable as opposed to something to be looked at!
    A lot of work has gone into this, sometimes you wonder if it is all worth it!
    Note the re issue pup and a new scratch plate - which is ebony ( with a proper inlay no transfer), socket for the pup is under the scratch plate.
    The neck is/was very straight so the action is low, it also has 24 frets, which seems unusual....
    Not sure if this is the right place to post this, i am not used to forum etiquette.
    Attached Images Attached Images Help idenitfying German Archtop-img_20190203_111420587-jpg Help idenitfying German Archtop-img_20190203_111436296-jpg Help idenitfying German Archtop-img_20190203_111452651-jpg Help idenitfying German Archtop-img_20190203_111507794-jpg 

  34. #33

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    Don't worry - this should be the right place for posting new pics of your guitar. It looks great now, should also sound great - congrats!

    Players used to adjustable truss rod guitars only will hardly believe that such a neck stays "very straight" over decades …

  35. #34
    Many thanks - much appreciated, and all the history you have on these old guitars is fascinating

  36. #35

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    That is a thing of beauty and well worth the effort. Obviously a first class or should I say einfach klasse restoration and the pickguard sets it off beautifully. I have a big soft spot for these German archtops. Also my dad studied violin making in Mittenwald so you guitar is very interesting to me as I didn't know there were guitars made round there too.

  37. #36

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    >> Also my dad studied violin making in Mittenwald so you guitar is very interesting to me as I didn't know there were guitars made round there too. <<

    Oh, great - somehow I'm feeling I should say some words about the former guitar making in Mittenwald, or rather about the expatriate Schönbach violin makers stranding there around 1946, and one persistently reported error in Roger Raimond Rossmeisl's biography, once spread by himself, probably due to geopolitical historical contexts. In Germany, guitar making has also been a political matter.
    I may have commented before ... but I can't remember where and when ...

  38. #37

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    Some history for the interested folks here:
    The violin making school in Mittenwald/Bavaria was established in 1858. Here a pic of the school in the 1920s:

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-mittenwald-geigenbauschule-ca-1920-jpg

    They also made some plucked musical instruments, like guitars of all sorts. However, nobody has ever come across an archtop guitar de facto made in Mittenwald before the late 1940s or so.
    In fact, it was Wenzel Rossmeisl there who was the first one to make such guitars when starting his workshop in September 1955.
    If I remember correctly, the guitar department of Mittenwald wasn't founded before the early 1970s. This means, until then the violin makers had been ruling (well, I think they still do so). After the war, when Schönbach had became Czech again, and almost all German-speaking luthiers were expelled, some of them were also directed to Mittenwald by the authorities. It was a hard time, and even harder both for the stranded Schönbach folks and the old-established Mittenwald luthiers; the animosities went high on both sides - the US Republikans and Democrats aren't the first ones to argue over refugees.
    An article of the German Spiegel Magazin tells a bit about that story: Totengraber des Geigenbaus - DER SPIEGEL 29/1949 (in German only). While the Schönbach people were labeled by the locals to be 'gravediggers of violin making' then, it's undebatable today that they gave the set Mittenwald stringed_instrument_making considerable new technologies and prospects.

    Wenzel's son Roger Raimond who had emigrated from the Berlin workshop to the USA always claimed of having trained under the wings of his teacher and mentor Franz Hirsch, the Grand Seigneur of archtop guitar making in the germanophone world, in the Mittenwald school between 1937 and 1945 - as also Philip Kubicki (RIP) once reported:

    "In the late 1930s, Wenzel sent young Roger away to school in Mittenwald, Southern Germany. Mittenwald is almost on the Austrian border near Garmish-Parkenkirchen, and is famous for its winter sports. Perhaps the most exquisite of Germany’s alpine villages, the brilliantly-painted town has an old world charm. Mittenwald also happened to be the home of one of the oldest and most famous violin and guitarmaking schools in the world, with a 300-year history of violin making. Today, the school still turns out master craftsmen. The added advantage of the school for the senior Rossmeisl was its remoteness from the coming war and safekeeping of his son, Roger.

    Around the age of 10, Roger began his stay at the school as one of its youngest students. The school offered a full-range curriculum, from math and language to science and art, with a major emphasis on stringed-instrument making. The method of teaching in the school was one of master and apprentice. There was a strict attitude, and respect for the master was understood. For a time, Roger was responsible for getting up before everyone else to light the fire in the stove to heat the workroom. Located in the Alps, Mittenwald is very cold in the winter.

    Skills were taught with the use of hand tools where modern-day crafters would use power tools. The workbenches for guitarmakers and violin makers were heavy, thick and solid. There were about four ways to clamp a workpiece in the bench. One of Roger’s m
    asters was Franz Hirsch, a well-known guitar and lutemaker born in the 1800s. The table tops were occasionally scraped clean and flat, and Roger remembered Herr Hirsch coming around with a flatness gauge to check table tops. If the table top flatness did not measure up to Franz’s standards, students would have to scrape it again and again, until it was perfect.

    The school believed in old-world classical traditions that translated into how instruments were made. Some students studied the making of violins, cellos and upright basses or bowed instruments, while others pursued the plucked instruments."

    That's only partially true, since Roger was indeed trained by Franz Hirsch, but the latter was never a teacher in Mittenwald - and Roger never a registered student at the Mittenwald violin school!
    The whole truth becomes evident (beside the actual information given by the Mittenwald school) when watching old photos.
    On we find a family photo (from Wenzel's and his wife Marianne's estate), showing the young adult Roger and his father allegedly in front of their Berlin workshop after the war end in 1945, after Wenzel had been fetching home his son from Mittenwald. The date is correct, but the entrance of the quite imposing Berlin workshop in the Lutherstrasse looked different - and their second locality in Berlin in the Lützowstrasse was just a storage shed on a backyard property!

    What's correct is that the photo was taken in front of Franz Hirsch's workshop in Schönbach, Falkensteinerstrasse 315. It's the same building, a former inn, in the foreground on the postcard in post #18 above. Around 70 years later, after decades of communism, the former noble double door looks to be replaced by a simpler and smaller one:

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-schonbach-luby-house-315-falkensteiner-strasse-entrance-franz-hirschs-workshop-le-jpg
    On the left: Schönbach, Falkensteinerstrasse 315, 1945 - Roger and his father standing in front of Franz Hirsch's workshop, the place where Roger was trained between ca. 1937 and 1945. On the right: Schönbach-Luby, the same place about 70 years later.

    While the Czechs and Soviets immediately took over Schönbach in spring 1945, US soldiers were present in Schönbach, if just to keep a bit military order, until the autumn of the same year, until the Allies were able to deal out what had to become the Soviet occupation zone, the US zone, etc. In the region of North Bohemia, all Germans were expropriated, many killed even after the official end of war, and the governmental expulsion took place during the whole year in 1946.

    So why did Roger Raimond choose to change the site of his former guitar making education?

    That's easy to answer: in the USA, politically, the late 1940s and 1950's were marked by McCarthy's anticommunism. Although the Schönbach violin school (were Franz Hirsch and his students had learnt), established in 1873, was similarly reputed as Mittenwald in West Germany, almost nobody in the US would have been able to recognize it's former reputation after that. The globe turned on, and after 1945/46, Schönbach, renamed in Luby (Czech: the rim or rib), sank behind the Iron Curtain of the Soviets.

    After his emigration in 1953, Roger's goal had been to get the US citizenship as soon as possible - just to escape his creditors in Germany. Well, we all know that worked out for him, though, tragically, eventually helped to break his neck after his return to Germany from renowned companies like Gibson, Rickenbacker and Fender.

  39. #38

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    Thanks, Doc! I love it! Whether it's about the history of jazz guitar, or any other matter, it's not surprising that much of what has been written about the past is nothing but a pack of lies. It makes sense to me. Hey, so much of what is written about today is equally untrue, written to advance all sorts of agendas fom the personal to the global. It is simply the way of the world.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  40. #39

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    Still trying to figure this one out.
    Attached Images Attached Images Help idenitfying German Archtop-hoyer-solist-not-sbc-1front-jpg 
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone View Post
    ... Whether it's about the history of jazz guitar, or any other matter, it's not surprising that much of what has been written about the past is nothing but a pack of lies. It makes sense to me. Hey, so much of what is written about today is equally untrue, written to advance all sorts of agendas fom the personal to the global. It is simply the way of the world.

    Well, I agree, but would you pass this cognition bluntly to the young generation, if every new generation of youngsters thinks, at first, they could turn the earth upside down? Chances are they wouldn't believe you, instead think of the world abounding in embittered old geezers … which, of course, is true!

    "Actually, it makes no sense to love people, this bunch of selfishness (to which you yourself belong). I do it anyway. I love them with all their trifle and banality. With their stupidity and cheap frugality and oh so rare heroism. And yet every person is always an event to me every day, as if he had just fallen off Orion." (the painter Max Beckmann, an early jazz fan)

    Fallen off Orion … is also your guitar above. Sorry, but, due to this droll headstock plate, could we call it 'floodlight beam'?

  42. #41

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    TUXTIMB...... I am almost speechless, what a nice job you did on that poor baby!!!

  43. #42

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    In general body feature and shape it is not unlike mine which I was lead to believe is maybe a Fasan. However the F-holes fretboard markers and a few other features are very different Mine is all solid carved spruce top and maple back, Plays beautifully and sounds really good. I've done some work on it. It now has a solid ebony repro bridge(no fret saddles) and sounds much better as a result.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone View Post
    Still trying to figure this one out.

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone View Post
    Still trying to figure this one out.
    My guitar is not a Fasan.
    The body style is very much that of the original Roger Super Special/Hoyer Solist.
    None of the hardware is original.
    Last edited by Hammertone; 09-08-2019 at 06:10 PM.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  45. #44

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    Are you referring to your guitar?

    My guitar was actually sold to me as a Klira I think. I bought it because for a very nice sounding and playing solid carved top archtop it was, a steal. There are NO markings on it but the build quality seems high. A fellow from Hofner I contacted claimed it was Fasan made for the export market, late 50s , high quality, He seemed very certain. It does seem to share some features with some though one just like mine is hard to fin. There was this one on the internet being sold as a Fasan with a similar shaped 'squarish' body, the same shaped F-holes and soundholes, fretboard and headstock markings, fretboard shape, bridge , nut, binding etc. I think I have found one other online with the fretboard markings, but no other) However it really seems like the German archtops all shared a bunch of features and it's hard to pin down identity on some. Beautiful guitars, unique and very interesting!

    Last edited by What now?; 09-08-2019 at 06:03 PM.

  46. #45

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    I edited my post for clarity. I was referring to my guitar.

    West German makers assembled their guitars with parts from common suppliers, including:
    -tailpieces from Mueller
    -bridges from Teller
    -tuning machines from Kolb, Van Gent and more
    -pre-cut mother of pearl inlays and headstock overlays from Shellex
    -wood from Kollitz
    There were other suppliers as well

    Carved neck blanks were also often outsourced, as were rough-carved spruce top plates; sometimes entire boxes (bodies) were outsourced, or even assembled guitars. This accounts for many of the similarities, in addition to common assumptions about what these guitars should look like and how they should be made. Soundhole shapes and overall body shapes are often a bit of a signature that makes it easy to determine where the guitars were put together.
    Last edited by Hammertone; 09-10-2019 at 01:13 PM.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  47. #46

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    That's interesting. Many of them definitely look assembled from some common pool of parts. Hey , you seem to be knowledgeable about German archtops, do you think mine is a Fasan? it's definitely all solid wood, carved and seems to be for the most part quite well made. (I have luthier training so I know that much at least.)

  48. #47

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    I've seen a few Fasan (Franz Sandner) archtops with those distinctive f-hole wide/flat ends. This f-hole style was also used on some guitars by Tellson (Oscar Teller), but Tellson f-holes are usually not as exaggerated as Fasan f-holes of this type. However, Teller used a similar shaped headstock as yours on many of his instruments, and also made archtops with circular soundholes. He also used that tailpiece on his fancy guitars.

    Further research should allow for a more definite ID, but those are the two most likely candidates, IMO. To me, yours looks like a Fasan copy of a Tellson, ha!

    Also, yours has been electrified using mid-'50s (up to '58) Hofner parts. AFAIK, no other makers used these parts, suggesting that the electric components were added after the guitar was built, unless Sandner had some dealings with Hofner at the time (unlikely, IMO).

    Some Tellsons, from
    Attached Images Attached Images Help idenitfying German Archtop-tellson-jpg 
    Last edited by Hammertone; 09-10-2019 at 01:18 PM.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  49. #48

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    Yes that one looks up a notch quality-wise.
    Have you seen any others with the geometric diamond and bar/parallelagram inlays on the headstock and fretboard?

  50. #49

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    tuxtim You did a great Job with that rare Jazz Box

  51. #50

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    Yes, the guitar pictured by the OP looks great now!

    Otherwise, the span of attention is too short not to get confused by all the pics of 'Frankenstein' guitars. To misuse a quote by Protagoras: the forces that prevent me from knowing it are numerous, and also the question is confused, and human life is short

    So, merely, the usual rhetorical questions: which hardware is still original, and which parts were changed or added? Which necks do originally belong to which corresponding bodies, and which guitars were possibly 'frankensteined', resp. the neck originally bought in from a second or third party'? Are there fotos from the entire guitars, plus of some tell-tale details? Are sound holes, and cutaway, pixxs strictly taken from the front view (that is, not angled) and shot with a camera not using these small and distorting wide angle lenses?
    Is the word "Sonderklasse" engraved on the lyra tailpiece of the second Fasan, or that guitar supposed to be a Fasan? This term was used by Isana …

    Sorry to say that we might not be able to tell the maker or makers for sure, even if we had all of the above answered questions resolved!

    "What now?" is an appropriate remark. Asking the gut feeling --- yes, it might well be a Fasan guitar (Franz Sandner in Nauheim, a town southwest of the Frankfurt airport), though the neck shape doesn't fit exactly to the Fasan style as a whole! The neck might as well have come from Fasan's neighboring colleague Isana (Josef Sandner - both former Schönbach luthiers, but not directly related). Until the 1960's many of the former Schönbach refugees in West Germany helped each other making components, or even whole guitars, if necessary …

    Franz Sandner, like most Schönbach luthiers, IMO, was a hardworking guy, but run more or less in the postwar archtop guitar craze by making a lot of cheap and middle-ranged archtop guitars, though in the 1950s a few really nice and great sounding boxes were carved. Most of the Fasans were exported, so we don't know much about these guitars in Germany today.

    F-hole archtop guitars with the feature of a third central sound hole could be considered, then, to be a transition line trying to draw players from the classical and folk/country style towards newer popular music genres. The most iconic model in Germany was Arnold Hoyer's "Herr im Frack" (which, btw. was available also without round sound hole, or even with 'sickle-shaped' holes).
    All these guys - even Framus in the 1950's - didn't work in the industrial style (like many US companies were able to do shortly after the war), but still manufactured slowly, more by hand and customer-oriented, so we find all sorts of specification variations. By the time a flyer or catalog was printed (if any, at all), the model designations and/or hardware details, etc., were often already outdated. Then, the rest was mixed up by short-living customer fads, the sale numbers, newly appearing and formative 'heroes' on the music market, the actual moon phase, or simply availability on the shelf, or the daily beer consumption.

    That said, here two pics of (more or less 'approved') Fasan made guitars, that may give an indication:

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-fasan-three-soundholes-cut-sunburst-jpg

    Help idenitfying German Archtop-fasan-noncut-blonde-jpg

    Fasan & Co. is still existing, led by the founder's grandson Dietmar Schuh. They are even busy to make some archtop guitars again. The small pilot run of these guitars was crafted by a self-employed guitar maker (outsourcing), while the big following batch has been made in China. No unusual procedure today: get two or three models handcrafted, let the Chinese copy and manufacture the rest, and sell the final product with the tag "made to the original specifications", for a good profit.

    Ahem, undoubtedly, the Chinese are able to make fine products for world's demand. Yet, the western world should know, since the doom of the Roman Empire, what happens, when companies and people rest on their laurels for some decades, conveniently making a good living just by reselling products that they themselves do no longer know exactly or care about the details: there will be no further own development and meaningful innovation, no own production line. After some years, the skills will suffer, the teachers disappear, the craftsmen get replaced by semi-skilled workers, the management turns megalomaniac, and social solidarity disintegrates. Boom!

    What's actually a bit annoying to me (and other lovers) of German vintage archtop guitars: Fasan blithely and deliberately mixes the models they made themselves in the past, with the much more known Isana models. Elvis played one or two Isanas during his military stay in Germany … Ok, that's mainly the fault of the buyers, they often know little, if anything at all, about these guitars, the former makers and manufacturing, the history, etc.

    Like comparable plants, now and in the past, Fasan is certainly taking advantage by creating sort of a 'misterious' aura in respect of their new guitar making. Transparency - no chance! It's not just my guess alone that Fasan are not making guitars in their old workshop building in Nauheim. A related company - quite growing, it seems - is probably residing there, mainly overhauling old German stomper guitars in a quite idiosyncratic way: German Vintage Guitar . Their master mind is a proven expert of marketing, and we can bet he has a close joint venture with the present owner and CEO of Fasan, Dietmar Schuh.

    Unfortunately, neither gentlemen does have an expertise with Artur Lang guitars - not approximately by now -, yet it was Mr. Schuh who recently registered the German trademark of 'Artur Lang' and his former 'LA'-logo, a name that once stood for highest quality. How do they say? Evil to him who evil thinks.
    Artur Lang, one of the most knowledgeable, uncompromising and capable archtop guitar makers so far, who was not concerned with accumulating maximal money, but gaining best possible results in his guitars, will certainly not turn over in his grave, but have an affirming heartily laugh!

    Curious to know when the first Chinese Artur Lang will emerge; the path is thorny and long, though it's just a matter of time. In the 1960's Gibson, one decade later the German guitar companies like Framus and Hoyer, laughed at the vast Japanese efforts to close up on the world market. Nobody laughs anymore. The economical development in China will even be more rapid and hefty, and grow also until the point when a state will inevitably start to disintegrate again, like most highly developed nations, usuallly from the inside out. The Roman Empire was not the last one to do so.
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 09-10-2019 at 09:37 PM.