My NGD Orpheum Arch Top...

A discussion of techniques, and equipment for guitar. Fretted, bottleneck or slide, acoustic or electric, this is the place.

My NGD Orpheum Arch Top...

Postby voneville » Sun May 13, 2007 12:32 am

I was looking for an acoustic guitar so I put an ad on Craigslist to trade my Ibanez AF75D for a Dreadnaught or 000. I got a response from a guy who said he had an old Orpheum Archtop that he'd be willing to trade. He thought it was from the 40's or early 50's. I'm not really sure because there's not much info out there, although it does look like a Kay, and Kay did manufacture guitars under the Orpheum name, but I'm not sure during what years or whatever. It's a laminated top, which was not what I was hoping for, but it does sound really good. It's louder then I expected, especially when played with a pic.

How does it work for slide?
It doesn't like my medicine bottle for slide, it's too light. I think I want to pick up a brass slide and try that out. Bottleneck sounds okay, and I really don't like the ceramic so much (the feel on my finger, sounds fine). It really does sound good though.

Image

Not sure if I want to keep it flatwound or not.
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Postby texas blues » Sun May 13, 2007 1:09 am

Very nice find Voneville. You might try the round wounds just to brighten it up. Looks great! What's with the P90, black shoe polish spotted Tele?
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Postby voneville » Sun May 13, 2007 2:04 am

I might have too try those round wounds.

Oh, the F-it BastardCaster! That's an Affinity Tele science project ;)

That was my only guitar for about 6 years. I love it. I decided to try a
P-90 in the bridge a couple years back. When I chiseled out the hole for the P-90 I discovered that Poly comes off in really big chips. So I scrapped off the poly with my chisel and painted it flat black. The black spots are low spots from the dings it's suffered over the years as being the duty "Beater" guitar. When I re-sanded it to refinish it the low spots stayed. I've been meaning to fill the holes and refinish the guitar.

It's got a Wilkinson Roller Nut and a Guitar Fetish roller bridge with a B50 Bigsby Licensed trem. P-90 is also a GFS. I'm going to replace the tuners and install another P-90 in the bridge and install a Strat pup in the middle possibly.

I'm not sure if the body is alder or Agathis, it has a veneer top. It really sounds awesome with the P-90 though. Gets a low down dirty bluesy sound that is perfect for Elmore James George Thorogood type stuff. Also, the neck is one of the best necks I've ever played with the exception of being a tad too narrow at the nut.

Here's a better pic:
Image
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Postby leftyguitarman » Sun May 13, 2007 3:49 am

Nice find on the archtop. I would really like to have one.

And I think that "F-it BastardCaster" is the best name I've ever heard for a guitar. hahah
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Postby texas blues » Sun May 13, 2007 5:03 am

Voneville...the bastardcaster looks like juke joint heaven. Don't change a thing! It looks so horrible its a thing of beauty! Fender should do a version of that ala the Gibson BFG which honestly is horrible.
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Postby voneville » Sun May 13, 2007 12:55 pm

texas blues wrote:Voneville...the bastardcaster looks like juke joint heaven. Don't change a thing! It looks so horrible its a thing of beauty! Fender should do a version of that ala the Gibson BFG which honestly is horrible.


Yea, it does have a lot of charm :) I've gone back and forth about doing the refin on it. I actually do like it as is also.
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Postby mickeypainless » Sun May 13, 2007 2:26 pm

Dat Arch is a beauty, ENJOY!
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Postby bignick » Sun May 13, 2007 6:42 pm

That right there is my kind of Tele. You could throw darts at it and it wouldn't matter. Kick @ss. Pop that other P90 in there and get us some pics.

:)
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Postby guitarslim101 » Sun May 13, 2007 7:29 pm

Cool. I love archtops...oh man, talk about deja-vu.
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Postby zhyla » Mon May 14, 2007 4:12 am

Voneville, both Kay and Harmony made guitars for Orpheum. I can tell you your guitar is a Kay because of the hole for the pick guard. Harmony's always have the hole at the top of the shoulder, Kays for some reason are always a ways down.

Don't feel too bad your guitar has a laminate top, the way archtops are braced (two long tone bars run the length of the top), they tend to resonate well in spite of the the top material.

Always glad to see a fellow archtop owner! I have a couple Harmony's, they're a blast to play.

Regarding strings, I've got some semi-flat nickel 12's on my slide archtop, they work well. I just took the phosphor bronze strings off my new (old, 30's) archtop and put on the Gibson L-5 strings. They sound a little different but way better than the bronze strings.
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Postby Mississippi John » Thu May 17, 2007 4:49 pm

I have an Orpheum mandolin from the 30s and am EXTREMELY happy with it! Admittedly, is is not a Gibson A2, but dollar for dollar, I don't think you could buy a better sounding new mandolin for less than $500 - and I paid only $150!! They are simple, but well made with good materials.

One thing I've heard on mando discussions groups is that plywood from this era is not necessarily a bad thing. Quite often it was hand-made (glued and pressed buy hand as opposed to how it is done today with huge heating presses) with very few layers and from good woods. In fact, Macaffari=Selmer guitars (Django Reinhardt) used plywood backs because they believed them to be superior to maple!

Lastly, from what I know, Orpheum was just a different marketing name for the Stradolin company - they didn't make any instruments themselves but contracted the work to makers such as Oscar Scmidt, Harmony and Kay. I think you have a very good quality instrument on your hands!!

Beautiful guitar - would make me very proud to own!!
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Postby voneville » Wed May 30, 2007 2:56 am

Thanks for the info and good words. I've been playing the old arch a lot and am thouroughly in love with it. I took it out on the ship with me and decided that it's probably not the best idea because of the extreme conditions and all, much more so on the east coast then the west coast, but it sure was fun having a sweet old guitar to play on my off time. When I got home and played my Tele (my MIM, not the bastardcaster, I felt much more in control, the archtop is great for practice cause you have to work it!)

Here's a clip, I'm not the best player mind you, but I played 3 guitar parts on this track, all with the archtop.

http://www.dereksikesphotography.com/badblues.mp3
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Postby leftyguitarman » Wed May 30, 2007 3:22 am

I like that! I love the tone of that archtop.
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