The first one

Some pictures of the first archtop guitar. Specifications follow.


Top: Spruce (book matched; hand carved)

Back/sides: Curly maple (book matched; hand carved)

Neck: One piece curly maple (unvarnished, finished only in linseed oil and wax)

Fingerboard/tailpiece/bridge: Ebony

Tuners: Waverly with ebony knobs

Scale: 25 inches

Top bracing: X-brace

The Varnish

I used the recipe from Joseph Michelman’s book Violin Varnish, published in 1946. It is an oil varnish prepared basicaly from linseed oil, turpentine and rosin. Michelman was a violin maker and chemist. His research was to recreate the lost varnishes used in the golden age of violin making (16th to 18th century) which posessses the most sought after instruments.

The fact that the varnish on these instruments endure centuries are one of the reasons I use it. Also, it’s softness helps wood movement to occur without cracks while changes in relative humidity happen. This plastic nature of the varnish also permits it to heal itself from minor blemishes, finger prints or small scratches. In a week or so, marks left on the surface, simply vanish. And, last but not least, it’s appearance. From the pictures you can see there’s no doubt that I seek to incorporate the violin aesthetics into guitar making. A downside from this finish? It’s kind of sticky. Periodically applying wax helps.

If you have any questions regarding the instrument, please let me know at:

This instrument is for sale!

– R. V. Vanni