c.1935 Armstrong Orchestra Archtop Guitar

Update 2014: After much speculation about whether this is a Harmony product or not, I'm back in the "not sure" camp.

This rhinestone-encrusted, mother-of-toilet-seat-bedecked, sunburst, flamed maple and solid carved spruce top, 15 3/4" wide, hubba hubba guitar was (supposedly, and very likely) made by Harmony and sat towards the top of their line. Whoever owned the "Armstrong" brand and sold under that name was certainly not happy with anything short of high end and with heaps of class.

I worked recently on the model just above this, an Armstrong Dansant, and loved it -- but foolishly sold it. When this model, one rung down, popped up, I jumped at it and am super happy I did. It's going to be replacing something from my collection as I'm psyched to have found another one (as they're pretty darn rare).

This guitar sports 100% original fittings, though the top looks like it was oversprayed with a coat of nitro sometime many years ago and got a decent neck set at the same time. My work on it included a fret dress and general setup.

Bone nut, cool pearloid and colored inlaid headstock. Unlike the Dansant model, this one sports clear-ish/light pink-ish rhinestones, rather than the red ones I saw on the other.

Bound rosewood board with side dots and dot/flake inlay.

Did I mention the pickguard matches the headstock? Sweet!

Bone saddle bridge.

Good heavy Grover Deluxe tailpiece.

Except for the arched back, this guitar is almost identical in feel/size/body shape to Martin-made archtop guitars of the time. It actually sounds like a C-1 or similar, too.

Flamed maple back and sides. Not sure if it's solid or not but my guess is that it is, considering the hairline crack on the back that goes through.

Neck shape is a shallow V with a neck like an old Martin dreadnought.

Nice heavy Grover tuners, too.

One-piece flamed maple neck with steel reinforcement.

Here's some of the flame on the back.

I may pop a pickup jack in where this broken original endpin is.


Gary Waldman said…
François said…
Hi Jake, I'm François from the Harmony database website. I still have a doubt about the origin of these Armstrong Orchestra and Dansant. In a way they might be Harmony, but many details bugs me. The main concern is the general body shape, not really matching other harmony made guitars. Did you had a look inside and compared the construction style ? Or any stamps/markings inside ?
All the best
Unknown said…
I have an Armstrong Orchestra archtop here, if you want to see pics of it?
It has a very unusual curved peghead...