1932 Epiphone Masterbilt Deluxe Carved-Top Archtop Guitar

For many Epiphone archtop fans, this is it. An early-'30s Deluxe is the carved-top Epi to have. After work, I can see why -- it's round-sounding and velvety-smooth, loud as all-get-out, and feels wonderful in the hands. It can take mediums just fine (show many any other old guitar from this time that can claim that) and it looks like a million bucks while it's doing all this, too. This one arrived in quite the state -- in its original, beat case -- but it's come back together just fine.

My friend David Richard is a much more devout fan of old Epiphone archtops, and he and I discussed the general trend of bracing and sonic changes with these instruments. To my ears, the early-'30s instruments can be all over the map. Some sound beautiful and proud like this fella, while others can be boxy and clumsy, while others fall somewhere in-between. Stepping-up the quality ladder in the Epi line at this time seems to be the right way to go. Interestingly, however, he and I both agree that by the mid-'40s the line seems to have ironed-out their designs and instruments up and down their pricing charts all sound pretty-excellent.

I worked on this for a customer, so at the moment it's not for sale.

Work included: a neck reset, seam and binding repairs, a refret (with some complicated fudging to deal with a backbow in the neck), one replacement inlay (see photo: it's silly but fun), lots of cleaning, tuner adjustments, and a setup. This one was a lot of work. The end-result is great, however -- it plays with bang-on 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret, has a straight neck, and is strung with 56w-13 gauges.

Scale length: 25 1/2"
Nut width: 1 5/8"
String spacing at nut: 1 7/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2 1/8"
Body length: 20 1/8"
Lower bout width: 16 1/2"
Waist width: 9 1/4"
Upper bout width: 11 1/4"
Side depth at endpin: 3 1/2"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: solid flamed maple
Neck wood: 5-piece flamed maple
Bracing type: tonebar
Fretboard: rosewood, bone nut
Bridge: rosewood, adjustable
Neck feel: medium C, 7 1/2" radius board

Condition notes: it's all-original save the frets and endpin. There's lots of wear to the finish all-over and especially the back of the neck, but there aren't any cracks which is a minor wonder in itself.

The third fret has replacement inlay I made for this, following the outline of the missing inlay. It's in ancient, yellowed celluloid. I figure at some point down the line, if the owner wants an exacting replica, he can find a pro pearl-cutter to make one.

Before the neck reset, the bridge was adjusted all the way down and still didn't have low-enough action. Now it's spot-on with plenty of room up/down to suit the player.

That back!


Phillips said…