Archtop guitars are a relatively recent addition to my work. I had built the first one as my 30th anniversary project and now, years later, they are very much part of my building program. Typically I manage to build only a couple of custom Archtops per season and those are mainly ordered, but I hope to have at least one archtop guitar available in my inventory of instruments. Please check The Collection page for availability
Just like with my other instruments I mainly use hand tools in the building of the archtops. Using gauges and finger planes to carve the top and back gives me the freedom and flexibility in shaping the arching and contours of the plates. This slow and careful approach allows me to optimize the acoustic quality and balance it with the amplified sound of the hand carved archtop guitar.
Since initially I used Bob Benedettos book to guide me, my starting point has been the traditional shape and size of the archtop guitar. Of course being a designer at heart, I re-worked the shape and appearance just a little bit, slimming down the bulbous S-curve of the cutaway and adding my own headstock and F-hole designs.
I avoid using the white plastic bindings, preferring Macassar ebony to create a contrasting framing for the blonde curly maple back and sides. In keeping with this simple elegance, I leave the fingerboard unadorned. The tailpiece is sculptured out of ebony and attached solidly to the body by a brass bracket. The string pull-through design makes string changes fast and convenient. All the other fittings are also made from ebony.
My standard pick-up is a floating Kent Armstrong Humbucker with adjustable pole-pieces. Unobtrusive, but easily reached and adjusted, mini wheel pots for volume and tone control are fitted underneath the ebony finger rest.
There are several custom pick-up configurations available. Besides the magnetic pick-up, a transducer bridge pick-up for a more acoustic sound, or a combination of both of them, could be installed.
Most of the archtop guitars I’m building are the smaller 16” model, however I’ve added the standard size 17” model in recent years.
It's always hard to blow my own horn, so here’s the listing of my Koa Archtop by Mark Stutman at Folkway Music in Guleph.
NEW Oskar Graf 16" Koa Archtop
World class luthier Oskar Graf has been building string instruments one at a time for the last 40 years. His guitars are continually the finest we encounter, both in craftsmanship and tone, and we are especially honored to present his latest custom hand built Archtop for sale here at Folkway. Please visit www.grafguitars.com to learn more about Oskar.
This 16” cut-away beauty is carved from highly figured Hawaiian Koa and master-grade Sitka spruce. Hand carved ebony bridge, tailpiece, and pickguard; matching curly Koa neck. Simple but tastefully appointed with mitered multiple purflings, multi-layered headstock overlays, brass-purfled headstock face, gold Schaller tuners, and pearl Graf logo. 25.2” scale, round C neck carve with a 1-3/4” bone nut. Hand polished high-gloss lacquer finish with a hint of amber tone. Kent Armstrong floating pickup, with pickguard mounted volume and tone controls. So much of the beauty of this guitar is in the details of Graf’s masterwork – the bevel to the F-holes edges, the shape of the cut away, the carve of the bridge and the brass string ground inlayed into the tailpiece. Every minute aspect of this guitar’s design has been carefully planned and executed by one of the finest craftsmen of our time.
With the guitar in hands, the first thing you’ll notice is how light the guitar feels. This light weight translates directly to warmth and resonance when the guitar is played, and this archtop has a fullness unique to this builder’s instuments. Single note runs thoroughly fill the space around the player, while chord melodies inspire a slower pace and a little extra time to listen to the music being created. But if blazingly fast arpeggios are your thing, Graf’s perfect fretwork and neck carve won’t slow you down at all. A remarkable guitar in so many ways, prepare to fall quickly in love with this masterpiece.
For more information on the custom Archtop Guitar, please go to