3/24/2018

1943 Epiphone Olympic Carved-Top Archtop Guitar




Who thought I'd be working on two poplar-topped wartime Epiphones so recently? I didn't. This one's in via consignment/trade and it's a good'n. I really liked the last poplar-topped Epi, so I wasn't surprised that, after work, I gave this a go and thought to myself, "hrum, yessir, that'll do it." Compared to their spruce-topped guitars of around the same time, these have a slightly woodier tone to them. It's not quite the same as the difference between a 00-18 and 00-17 in the spruce-vs-mahogany-top way, but there's definitely an interesting change in the timbre and I like it.

The guitar is pretty clean, so the work on this was relatively minor. I gave it a fret level/dress, added a heel cap, reglued some binding, recut the bridge base slightly and added proper adjustment posts and wheels, compensated the saddle, and gave it a good setup. The neck is straight and the truss rod works well and the guitar itself is entirely crack-free. The tuners are replacement, StewMac repro units put on by the last owner and the tailpiece might be slightly-later (early '50s? late '40s?), but I'm not completely sure. I usually expect the "rosewood trapeze" units on these wartime guitars. There are three splits in the binding but they're all repaired/stable.

Specs are: 25 1/2" scale length, 15 3/8" lower bout width, 11" upper bout, 8 5/8" waist, and 3 1/4" depth. The nut is 1 5/8" and it has a 1 7/16" string spacing at the nut and 2 1/8" spacing at the bridge. The board has a ~10" radius and the neck has a medium-sized, soft-V profile to its rear that's quite fast. Action is spot-on at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret and I've strung it with 54w-12 nickel-wound strings (I like nickel and monel on archtops, especially). I did try it out with a floating archtop pickup for a few minutes and thought it had a superb sound if one was thinking of going that route with it. This has a carved poplar top over ply mahogany (I believe) back and sides. The neck is maple and the fretboard and bridge are rosewood.


The greeny-yellow to black sunburst is painfully cool, no?


Epiphone used an ebonized-maple headstock veneer and you can see a little chip-out/repair in it from when I took the nut off. The ebonization agent makes the stuff brittle as heck over time.

The tuners and ferrules are new, StewMac repros in openback-Kluson style.


There are pearl dots and side dots in the board. The frets also have plenty of life left in them.



While this looks great in the pics, the pickguard looks even better in person as it is celluloid with just slightly-different tortoise-like effects to the color as you look at it in the sun.






I'm pretty sure the back and sides are ply mahogany on this guitar, though it's possible they're also the ply-walnut used on many Epis. The stain is so reddish and dark that I can't confirm. Note that the finish has all the usual weather-check you'd expect and that there's some handling and use-wear throughout the back.









The NY Epi registry plugs this as 1943.


A beat-up, useful-for-storage chip case comes with it.

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