Carved Archtop guitar builds

Orville Gibson was pretty much solely responsible for developing and building the first commercial Archtop guitars around 1900. At the time guitarists were struggling to be heard over the rest of the band, Gibson had built an archtop mandolin that was louder than the traditional design and he used the same principal to build a guitar. Unlike a flat top acoustic the string tension presses down on the top in the same fashion as a violin. Acoustic archtops were really made obsolete with the advent of electric guitars in the 1920s but have since continued more as a style of guitar although they are still used for their unique sound mainly for Jazz music.

An archtop guitar build is quite an undertaking but very rewarding, they are a lot of work and I can't imagine getting one done in much less than six months. I prefer to do a project like this by making it up as a kit and working on a number of pieces at once, carving the top and back is a major task and it's certainly not something that I could do in one go, but once you start assembling the components there's a great sense of accomplishment.

To date I've made a couple, one from the Benedetto book and one that's a copy of the first commercial archtop built by Orville Gibson, unlike an electric guitar you can't change the sound by simply swapping the pickups, as with any acoustic instrument the sound is made up by a combination of the wood and carving the top, back and internal braces, there's no standard measurements for these and getting the best tone is down to the experience of the builder, having only made two I'm pretty much a novice but click on the pictures below to have a gander through my efforts!

Click on the pictures below for build pages