1952 Gretsch Synchromatic 100 Electrified Archtop Guitar

My friend Phil sent this guitar to me a long time ago. I'd been putting it off because it was downright funky when it arrived here and I needed to work myself up to taking the plunge.

A DeArmond soundhole pickup from the '60s had been embedded into the top via hacking-away at the top and its bracing. The damage to the top veneer (it's a ply-body instrument) was "fixed" with wood filler and glue and the bracing was "supported" with some shoved-in "soundposts" installed under the ends which terminated at the new hole in the top. I've attached some photos "from before" at the end of the post.

Anyhow, I wanted to make this into a "rock box" that works and continue with the electrified thing, as, ya know, you can only move forward after something like this is done to a guitar. To that end I fixed all of the structural problems (reglued the main braces which had come attached, fit proper soundposts, and added a dowel running from the neckblock to endblock for added stability) and then installed a fresh electric pickup and wiring harness with proper grounding.

The pickup is a GuitarFetish Alnico 5 PAF-style humbucker and I hid it under a piece of tortoise pickguard (translucent) material that also covers the hole left in the top by the previous owner. It's a funky-but-cool setup and it's a style that was used on Kay electrics of the '40s and early '50s, some Harmony electrics of the same period, and a number of '40s off-brand archtop electrics as well. This puts the pickup a hair farther away from the strings "than normal" but that also gives it a slightly more relaxed, jazzier, cleaner tone. It has a fancy SoZo cap on the tone pot and both pots are full-size 500k running to a Switchcraft jack.

Yeah, and don't worry, it'll push an amp and break-up just fine. Listen to the clip! See what I mean? The target audience here is for those who are into an older jazzbox sound that can also lean into rock and "rootsy" Americana stuff.

Now that all the work is done, it plays spot-on and easy and it's ready to serve. I have it strung with 10s and, considering that a bit of neck warp has been adjusted-out via a fret level/dress, I don't know if I'd go much heavier than 11s. Think of this as an electric hollowbody and not an acoustic with a pickup in it.

Repairs included: reglued back seams, reglued main tonebar braces, added support dowel from neckblock to endblock inside, added soundposts (glued), replaced pickup install with new install and wiring harness, fret level/dress, quick compensation adjustments to bridge top, cleaning, setup.

Body wood: ply spruce over ply maple

Bridge: rosewood, '40s or '50s Kay-made replacement adjustable

Fretboard: rosewood

Neck wood: maple

Pickups: 1x GFS Alnico 5 PAF-style humbucker

Action height at 12th fret: hair over 1/16" bass 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: 46w-10 electric lights, unwound G

Neck shape: big C

Board radius: close to flat, maybe ~16"

Truss rod: non-adjustable

Neck relief: has mild relief, but frets are leveled to make effective 1/64" relief overall

Fret style: medium/wide-low brass

Scale length: 24 5/8" (Gibson-style)

Nut width: 1 3/4"

Body width: 16 1/8"

Body depth: 3 1/4" +arching

Condition notes: it's quite beat-up! Let's start with it being modified a ton: there's a hole cut in the top and through the bracing to allow an electric pickup to be installed. There's some "patched" cracking in the top veneer and some ugly-ized finish around this from when it was originally done back in the day. Furthermore the binding has all shrunk a bit (though it's not crumbling, thnakfully) and the finish all over the guitar is a little wavy/slightly globby like it got a bit of heat in storage somewhere. It still looks cool, mind you. The finish is also scratched-up and "played-hard" all over and shows some flaking and weather-check here and there all over.

Next-up: the bridge is a replacement Kay bridge from the '40s or '50s, not the original stairstep Gretsch type. The tuners, tailpiece, and nut are original. Clearly the pickup and its tortoise surround and the wiring harness and its clear knobs are not original.

Next-up: as mentioned, the neck has a small amount of warp to it that was removed, for playability's sake, via the fret level/dress work. The frets were low and wide (Gibson '60s-style) to begin-with, though, so players who want a more modern feel will definitely want to have it refretted.

It comes with: its original hard case in beat-up, bashed-in-at-the-headstock, condition. It works, though, and looks soooo good.

Here are some "in-process" shots below from when it had a DeArmond embedded in it...

Above is a shot of the top bracing getting reglued. In addition to regluing it nice and pat, I also installed soundposts under the ends (near the pickup hole) with glue and proper "staking" with a couple of finish nails. I also added a dowel that runs from the neckblock to the endblock to give the guitar some extra rigidity. It's a trick I use on instruments that may/may not be compromised by extra holes in the top and is invisible unless you use a mirror.