1952 National 1140 Electrified Archtop Guitar

Update October 2019: I've updated this post twice before, so now I'm starting-over again. I've completely updated the information on this guitar and included a new video clip and pictures, too.

I originally received this stylish archtop in trade back in 2017. It came to me as its "stock" acoustic self with no pickup, replacement keystone-style tuners, and a replacement tailpiece. Over time I've added an old 1961 Danelectro "lipstick" pickup to it, recut the pickguard to match, and fitted a shielded wiring harness. The knob is a 1950s bakelite "chickenhead" unit.

My last touches into electrified-cool with these were to fit relic'd Gotoh Kluson-style tuners (a nice upgrade) and a genuine, early-'60s, short-arm Bigsby vibrato. I can't tell you enough how great that Bigsby sounds and feels and how interesting it is to have a short version of the bar that actually works but stays out of the way while you're playing. It's like a "tap to mwah" button.

Construction-wise, these old National archtops are ahead of their times. The "Stylist" neck is actually a big, L-shaped hunk of magnesium at its core. A thinner layer of mahogany is sort-of wrapped around that to form the neck and a mahogany headstock is grafted onto that. The rosewood fretboard is glued to both the metal interior and the mahogany exterior of the neck. This design allows for a completely-adjustable neck gizmo concealed at the heel that allows for instant neck resets and neck angle adjustments.

While some National acoustics used Gibson-made bodies, this body is made by Kay and is made from thin, quality plywood throughout -- a ply spruce top that's press-arched over two tonebar braces and ply maple (flamed veneer) back and sides. Extra binding at the f-holes gives a slick-as-heck look at the oversized, deco-like pickguard and big National branding at the headstock complete the retro style.

The scale length, neck feel, board radius, nut width, and neck shape are almost identical to late-'40s and early-'50s Gibson necks. This means really cozy and "home base" for my hands. It handles a lot like an ES-125 but with a raised freboard extension and a little faster handling for the frets over the body.

Work included: a fret level/dress, cleaning, pickup and wiring harness install, pickguard modification, new vintage-style tuners, Bigsby install, cleaning, and setup. 

Setup: it plays perfectly with hair-under 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret, strung with 50w-11 gauges with a wound G string. That last bit is important as the original bridge is compensated for wound G and the instrument loves the feel of it. The neck is straight.

Scale length: 24 7/8"
Nut width: 1 11/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 7/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2 3/16"
Body length: 19 3/4"
Lower bout width: 15 3/8"
Waist width: 8 3/4"
Upper bout width: 11 1/8"
Side depth at endpin: 3 3/4" + arched back/top
Top wood: ply spruce
Back/sides wood: ply flamed maple
Neck wood: magnesium core with mahogany exterior
Bracing type: two tonebars
Fretboard: rosewood
Bridge: rosewood, adjustable, original
Neck feel: medium C-shape, ~10" board radius

Condition notes: minor wear-and-tear throughout the finish of the body with most on the back from buckle-wear and small bumps. The neck has a few hairline cracks in the mahogany exterior but they're nothing to worry about (and very typical for National "Sylist"-design necks) as the neck itself is basically composed of a big metal core. The tuners, pickup, knob, wiring harness, and Bigsby vibrato are all non-original.