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  1. #1

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    A couple of days ago, I got together with another forum member (he can identify himself if he chooses to) to compare our D'Angelico Excel guitars. Mine is from 1935 (I bought it from forum member Max405 a few years back) and his is from 1936. The tone on both guitars was very similar, both having a sweet, round tone from the low E all the way up to the last notes available on the high E and both guitars had an evenness of volume on every note (something that D'Angelico's guitars are known for).

    There were differences. Mine has a 2 3/4 inch rim thickness while his is the more usual 3 1/4 rim that most D'Angelico guitars from the 30's and 40's have (I presume mine was custom made for a customer who preferred the slightly thinner body). There is some extra bass response in the thicker guitar, but not much. Also the neck profile is noticeably slimmer on mine (both are quite comfortable with a perfect C profile). The 36 has an inlay on the 1st fret while the 35 does not, the 36 has a wider headstock (a trait that D'Angelico would keep until the end) and a slightly shallower cutout for the finial atop the headstock.

    It is a treat to have an acoustic guitar jam on a pair of D'Angelicos. That was a fun hang!

    Here is a picture of the sibling guitars:

    Two D'Angelico Excels-two-das-jpg

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  3. #2

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    John D’Angelico will ALWAYS be the true master archtop builder.
    Not to mention nothing looks better than a real DA. Nothing !

  4. #3

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    The bigger one looks like someone played a game of tennis with it

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by omphalopsychos View Post
    The bigger one looks like someone played a game of tennis with it
    John D'Angelico and Jimmy D'Aquisto would have agreed and would have suggested some refinish work.

    Today, collectors have an aversion to doing what was once considered routine maintenance and there is a fetish for new guitars to look old artificially. Essentially, people are willing to may more for a guitar if the luthier has used it in a tennis game or two.

    Back in the 80's, if someone told me that this idea of artificially aged guitars was coming, I would have told them to put the bong away for a bit.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by vinnyv1k View Post
    John D’Angelico will ALWAYS be the true master archtop builder.
    Not to mention nothing looks better than a real DA. Nothing !
    I agree on both counts. Playing a genuine DA has a very cool vibe. It feels as though you are somehow connected to the great jazz guitarists of the past.

  7. #6

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    It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely !

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger View Post
    A couple of days ago, I got together with another forum member (he can identify himself if he chooses to) to compare our D'Angelico Excel guitars. Mine is from 1935 (I bought it from forum member Max405 a few years back) and his is from 1936. The tone on both guitars was very similar, both having a sweet, round tone from the low E all the way up to the last notes available on the high E and both guitars had an evenness of volume on every note (something that D'Angelico's guitars are known for).
    There were differences. Mine has a 2 3/4 inch rim thickness while his is the more usual 3 1/4 rim that most D'Angelico guitars from the 30's and 40's have (I presume mine was custom made for a customer who preferred the slightly thinner body). There is some extra bass response in the thicker guitar, but not much. Also the neck profile is noticeably slimmer on mine (both are quite comfortable with a perfect C profile). The 36 has an inlay on the 1st fret while the 35 does not, the 36 has a wider headstock (a trait that D'Angelico would keep until the end) and a slightly shallower cutout for the finial atop the headstock.
    It is a treat to have an acoustic guitar jam on a pair of D'Angelicos. That was a fun hang!
    Here is a picture of the sibling guitars:
    Two D'Angelico Excels-two-das-jpg
    Wow!
    Quote Originally Posted by omphalopsychos View Post
    The bigger one looks like someone played a game of tennis with it
    I was gonna say badmitten, but I did not know how to spell it...

    This proves some things..
    The restoration on the little one was pretty much perfect.
    The fact that the big one is all original is truly remarkable. It is mind blowing how beautiful that guitar is AND its the coolest thing ever to see TWO of those in the same Photograph, let alone the same State!
    Lastly, Italians tend shrink as a they get older.

    Thanks for posting this. I LOVE it.
    JD

  9. #8

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    It's interesting to notice the two quite different bridge-bases and reading that the tone/volume/response of the two was not that much different... for me this kinda puts the on-going discussion about bridge design/size etc. into a new perspective.
    I dig the futuristic designs scraped into the inlays - it's in intriguing contrast to the much more baroque headstock.
    Were these ever re-bound ? The binding looks so much more white/cream colored than many of the guitars in Rudy Pensa's book.... what a classy pair, I'd love to hear them !

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by gitman View Post
    It's interesting to notice the two quite different bridge-bases and reading that the tone/volume/response of the two was not that much different... for me this kinda puts the on-going discussion about bridge design/size etc. into a new perspective.
    I dig the futuristic designs scraped into the inlays - it's in intriguing contrast to the much more baroque headstock.
    Were these ever re-bound ? The binding looks so much more white/cream colored than many of the guitars in Rudy Pensa's book.... what a classy pair, I'd love to hear them !
    Both of these guitars have the original binding. It is a different binding from any New Yorker that I have seen and any Excel made from the 40's on (Which used the same bindings that one sees on a New Yorker).

    The 35 has a newer bridge made by New York luthier Manny Salvador. The 36 appears to be all original except for the frets. The bridge is Ebony and there are some holes drilled into the base. I wonder if that was a John D'Angelico thing in the 30's or an aftermarket mod? Perhaps Deacon Mark, FSW6, Sgcim or Wintermoon (our resident DA experts) could shed some light on the "ventilated" bridge base?

    On the 35, New York luthier Manny Salvador reset the neck, planed the fingerboard and refreted the guitar (with a new nut), made a new bridge and pickguard and installed a new set of tuners. California luthier Bill Reinhart finished the restoration by refinishing the guitar in nitro and having the tailpiece replated.

  11. #10

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    I see absolutely nothing wrong with a refinish on a old guitar just like restoring a 1955 Chevy.

    As Marco would say it only bothers the cork sniffers.

  12. #11

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    "The bridge is Ebony and there are some holes drilled into the base. I wonder if that was a John D'Angelico thing in the 30's or an aftermarket mod? Perhaps Deacon Mark, FSW6, Sgcim or Wintermoon (our resident DA experts) could shed some light on the "ventilated" bridge base?"

    Hard to say about the holes but DA was experimenting a lot in the mid 30s w headstock and f hole design as well as inlays [like the deco f'board inlays and straight cut holes on these two] I do know some modern luthiers who drilled out the bases or hollowed them out underneath, the thinking being that less mass is beneficial to tone.
    Long ago I had a '36 Excel w/the shallow body depth and have seen a few others from that period.
    The wear on the '36 in the pic wouldn't bother me one bit, it's the sign of a well played 85 yr old instrument.
    A guitar would have to be in very bad shape for me to consider refinishing it but maybe SS's was before the refin, it sounds like that guitar needed a lot of work to get it into playing shape. Won't do much good being original but unplayable
    which is really the bottom line.





  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger View Post
    Both of these guitars have the original binding. It is a different binding from any New Yorker that I have seen and any Excel made from the 40's on (Which used the same bindings that one sees on a New Yorker).

    The 35 has a newer bridge made by New York luthier Manny Salvador. The 36 appears to be all original except for the frets. The bridge is Ebony and there are some holes drilled into the base. I wonder if that was a John D'Angelico thing in the 30's or an aftermarket mod? Perhaps Deacon Mark, FSW6, Sgcim or Wintermoon (our resident DA experts) could shed some light on the "ventilated" bridge base?

    On the 35, New York luthier Manny Salvador reset the neck, planed the fingerboard and refreted the guitar (with a new nut), made a new bridge and pickguard and installed a new set of tuners. California luthier Bill Reinhart finished the restoration by refinishing the guitar in nitro and having the tailpiece replated.
    I have seen many D'angelico guitars for sure in person although not so many these last few years. One thing is I can spot and original D'angelico bridge and I cannot tell you how but just that I have seen so many. The way they are carved and the whole bridge just is something I know to be original although a perfect duplicate carved by a pro might pass.

    I don't know about the ventilated bridge that would be new. I do know that most luthiers will mark the treble or bass side of the bridge with a small awl. Bill Barker and Hollenbeck put the indentation on the bass side of the bridge. I don't think John did but cannot remember. He carved bridges that were different and my 37 New Yorker has the stairstep bridge going down with inlay in each step. I always like the touch of inlay on the bridge even like a Gibson L5.

    Of course body depths and necks are all over the map. My 49 NY is pretty standard 3 1/8th or close. The 37 is a bit wider but not much but the necks are very different. Pickguards are another animal entirely. Many have bit the dust with gassing especially the ones in the 1950's. My 37 though is completely original and is etched in places, zero signs of any deterioration. The 49 I made a duplicated pickguard and in fact it is the second duplicate pickguard, I did not like the first one I made better duplicate.

    Neck widths are the most common variance and I hardly ever remember playing D'angelico that ever match. I have sat in a room with at least 15-20 of them and no 2 necks were even close from what I remember. They probably were in some respects for all I gather each D'a was pretty much a one off. My 49 is 1 21/16 and the 37 is 1 3/4 with plenty of wood. Funny they are both so different but feel great to me both. They sound completely different though but Stringwinger has really a couple of almost identical twins. I would have loved to been present for the playing and hear these guitars.

    Playing and original D'angelico is just a vibe that is hard to describe. I guess to me the analogy is like praying for intercession from a canonized Saint on one hand, and praying for intercession from a canonized Saint at there place of there actual burial. You get a bit more personal up close.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by vinnyv1k View Post
    I see absolutely nothing wrong with a refinish on a old guitar just like restoring a 1955 Chevy.

    As Marco would say it only bothers the cork sniffers.
    Cork sniffers are not real guitarist, guitars are made to be played and if you play one everyday over time it will not look new. It can certainly look great and in fine condition but the guitar will on go downhill in terms of looks as the years pass. An acrylic lacquer will stand up better than nitro and will not cause yellowing. Done correct with the proper thickness and mix acrylic will sound as good and look better and not check as much. The problem is that it is not traditional.

  15. #14

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    Stringswinger,
    Thanks for sharing pics of these fine instruments. I have a 35’ snakehead DA which may have been in the same tennis match with your larger friend - but you quickly forget those scuffs after strumming one chord.

    These guitars were played hard and loud during the big band era with heavy strings and high action - which liberated the total potential of the instrument, more so than what we find on modern Archtops. As Jimmy D’Aquisto use to say to me “ you have to beat the heck out of it each day for a good 15 mins to loosen up the top”. He also said “if you play it quiet it remains quiet”. Perhaps there is a lot of truth in why these big band era guitars sound so great.

    As you note- there is an immediate connection with the past when you cradle theses instruments on your lap and start playing. There is a power and a smoothness reminiscent of an old caddy..... nothing quite like it.

    Enjoy them you guys - they are wonderful examples.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post

    The wear on the '36 in the pic wouldn't bother me one bit, it's the sign of a well played 85 yr old instrument.
    A guitar would have to be in very bad shape for me to consider refinishing it but maybe SS's was before the refin, it sounds like that guitar needed a lot of work to get it into playing shape. Won't do much good being original but unplayable
    which is really the bottom line.
    My 48 Style B has the same wear on the body as the 36 Excel does, so if it was mine, I would not refinish it. I saw pictures of my 35 before the restoration and it NEEDED to be refinished, I am happy that the work was done. She will be a fine player for me for the rest of my days. I am a player first and foremost and care mostly about tone and playability.

  17. #16

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    That '48 have the original binding SS?
    '47-'48ish is when he started using bad binding, unknown to him at the time of course.
    Jimmy D used a bad batch on many guitars as well, wonder if he got it from the same supplier.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger View Post
    ”I am a player first and foremost and care mostly about tone and playability.”
    Pretty close to how I am. One difference
    “....and care mostly about tone, playability and how it looks”..
    I think you can play a guitar (at home, not on the road or the bandstand) for many years and not beat it up. The natural affects of time will deteriorate these beauties but you definitely can slow down that process by being careful, keeping the surfaces treated with protective stuff and remove your body oils and perspiration from the guitar after every time you play it with a CLEAN microfiber and some silicon free spray detailer.
    Keep the guitar in the right humidity environment and it will stay nice and stable.
    But doing this with multiple owners for 85 years is not feasible.
    And Jimmy’s statement about playing it hard for 15 minutes every day to open it up and keep it open is so true.
    My old Tal was one of the best acoustic guitars I ever heard after a night of Nile Rodgers impersonation. But a week later, unplayed, it closed right back up.
    JD

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    That '48 have the original binding SS?
    '47-'48ish is when he started using bad binding, unknown to him at the time of course.
    Jimmy D used a bad batch on many guitars as well, wonder if he got it from the same supplier.
    Yep, no problem with the binding and it is all original (maybe I got some of the last of the old stuff?). The original pickguard is long gone on that guitar. When I got it it had an older Gibson style guard (clearly not the original) that was pretty warped. I lived with that guard until it started gassing out (at which point that guard went to the dump). I used an allparts Gibson guard for a few years after that, but a year or two ago, I had our very own Deacon Mark make me an appropriate guard for that guitar.

    My 37 Style A has the original binding and original pickguard.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger View Post
    Yep, no problem with the binding and it is all original (maybe I got some of the last of the old stuff?). The original pickguard is long gone on that guitar. When I got it it had an older Gibson style guard (clearly not the original) that was pretty warped. I lived with that guard until it started gassing out (at which point that guard went to the dump). I used an allparts Gibson guard for a few years after that, but a year or two ago, I had our very own Deacon Mark make me an appropriate guard for that guitar.

    My 37 Style A has the original binding and original pickguard.
    Yeah, some of his guards from the 30s are still ok, different batches of celluloid react differently over time. Most vintage L-5 guards have bit the dust (I've seen some only 10-15 yrs old that are shot) but a lot of 20's L-5s still have the original guards, more stable celluloid batch apparently.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger View Post
    Yep, no problem with the binding and it is all original (maybe I got some of the last of the old stuff?). The original pickguard is long gone on that guitar. When I got it it had an older Gibson style guard (clearly not the original) that was pretty warped. I lived with that guard until it started gassing out (at which point that guard went to the dump). I used an allparts Gibson guard for a few years after that, but a year or two ago, I had our very own Deacon Mark make me an appropriate guard for that guitar.

    My 37 Style A has the original binding and original pickguard.
    Wow! The binding and the pickguard were shot on my '35 Snakehead. I got Carlo Greco to do the binding, and Roger Borys got a new pickguard for it, based on photos of my father playing it in the 30's. Somehow, my father wound up with a stock Gibson bridge on it from a local music store years ago, and Roger insisted on making a special bridge for it, also.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger View Post
    John D'Angelico and Jimmy D'Aquisto would have agreed and would have suggested some refinish work.

    Today, collectors have an aversion to doing what was once considered routine maintenance and there is a fetish for new guitars to look old artificially. Essentially, people are willing to may more for a guitar if the luthier has used it in a tennis game or two.

    Back in the 80's, if someone told me that this idea of artificially aged guitars was coming, I would have told them to put the bong away for a bit.
    .......Of course a refinish would've been routine maintenance if the ' refinishers' were either John D'A or Jimmy D'A. Can you imagine being able to just walk into their shop ? Damn I'd have been over there every day just to breathe the air !!

    In all, D'A's are just plain magic, and always will be.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis D View Post
    .......Of course a refinish would've been routine maintenance if the ' refinishers' were either John D'A or Jimmy D'A. Can you imagine being able to just walk into their shop ? Damn I'd have been over there every day just to breathe the air !!

    In all, D'A's are just plain magic, and always will be.
    Does a D'Angelico that was refinished by D'Aquisto take the usual hit that a refinished vintage guitar usually takes? Of course by now, that refinish job is itself, "vintage".

    The refinish on my 35 Excel was done by Bill Reinhardt, a Bay Area craftsman who does pretty good work. Look at the picture in the first post of this thread. If it was "antiqued", it might be hard to tell the difference.

  24. #23

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    SS, If I remember correctly, he was on the hand selected team of restoration specialists that refinished one of Django's original guitars.
    I think he told me that himself, if I am not mistaken.
    By the way, when I got the Excel, the surface was dulled down a little bit. I wasnt having any of that! Out came the Menzerna and the Porter Cable.. I got that sucker lookin like John just Buffed it out the day before!

    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger View Post
    Does a D'Angelico that was refinished by D'Aquisto take the usual hit that a refinished vintage guitar usually takes? Of course by now, that refinish job is itself, "vintage".

    The refinish on my 35 Excel was done by Bill Reinhardt, a Bay Area craftsman who does pretty good work. Look at the picture in the first post of this thread. If it was "antiqued", it might be hard to tell the difference.

  25. #24

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    "Does a D'Angelico that was refinished by D'Aquisto take the usual hit that a refinished vintage guitar usually takes? Of course by now, that refinish job is itself, "vintage".

    It does take a hit but less than if someone else did it. An old refin might look better today than a newer one but it's still a refin in the end.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    "Does a D'Angelico that was refinished by D'Aquisto take the usual hit that a refinished vintage guitar usually takes? Of course by now, that refinish job is itself, "vintage".

    It does take a hit but less than if someone else did it. An old refin might look better today than a newer one but it's still a refin in the end.
    ..I have to wonder if there'd be any hit at all......Assuming John D'A or Jim D'Aq did a decent job on the refinish and * I could prove they did the work *, I think you're in that ' yeah, so what ' territory.....maybe you ask more because they had their hands on it more ! : )

    ...just mho, of course....