1939 Epiphone Zenith Carved-top Archtop Guitar

Yes, it's beautiful -- it's voluptuous -- and it's fiery. Epiphone (at this point still in New York) built these old carved-top archies like leading ladies from film at the time. They're all forward, 12-cylinder, aggressive, compressed power. Hyperbole, I know -- but there's a reason that these are becoming up-market instruments on the quick these days.

This is a consignment instrument and it's one of those rare cases where I don't have to do much tweaking before listing. This has been gone-through by the very competent local luthier Dave Richard (I'm pestering him to spring for the work full-time) and was simply brought in for sale. His work included a neck reset, total refret, new Gotoh Waverly-style tuners, a replacement (period) tailpiece, and a custom one-piece maple bridge -- among other things. It plays perfectly and is strung (very happily, I might add) with a set of mediums and is ready to go for ripping band work -- complete with a K&K pickup installed internally.

The guitar is mostly original save the hardware swap-out (bridge, tuners, and tailpiece -- though the tail is older). The Zenith model changed a lot over time and this is the full, 16" wide variety with laminate back and sides.

Its voice is classic Epi carved-top in that it punches directly forward and will easily make itself heard in a band situation. These handle a little different from a comparable Gibson product because they're much more suited to dedicated lead or chomp-chording work. Gibsons have a bit more "velvet" on the bottom end but don't have near as much straight-up cut on the upper-mids and treble side. This doesn't mean this guitar sounds thin -- it's not "thin" at all -- but it's very much a meaty, aggressive mids sound. Think an acoustic solution to what an electric guitar ultimately fulfilled in a band situation.

This has a skinny 1 5/8" nut that is compensated-for by way of a medium-size C-profile neck. I love the feel of a neck like this as the bigger front/back profile means the narrower nut doesn't feel small and instead reads to your hands as "very fast."

Nice rosewood board, pearl dots, and fresh medium-size refret. This has roughly a 12" radius to it.

The bespoke all-maple bridge is quite elegant and very modern. I noticed the B-string slot is uncompensated and can compensate that before shipping if desired.

Also: this guitar comes with its original adjustable bridge but the saddle portion of it was cut-down a bunch and would need replacement to be useful. I can make a new topper/saddle for it if re-installation of the adjustable bridge is desired.

Nice cut, huh?

The owner/consignor dated this to 1939 by its specifications and serial. The serial apparently points to 1940 but the specs are 1939.

The back's finish was apparently flaking-off (a very Epi thing to do) and so it got a bit of cleaning and an overspray to keep it stable. Unless I was told I wouldn't have expected it to have had any touchup except where the finish had obviously flaked near the waist, bass side. This is a superb job.

The repro-style tuners are much healthier than the original Epi tuners ever were.

The K&K was installed (nicely) at the tailpiece strap-hole.

It comes with a nice, purple-lined hard case and the owner's repair notes (outlined in the post).


Wow Awesome!

I'm looking to install k&k pickups internally in my Kay archtop. Any chance you can do a post or email me on how you installed them? Any tips you can give me would be GREATLY appreciated?