If you’ve ever decided that it is time to update your first guitar after it has served you well for that beginning phase of your learning, you will be well aware of the multitude of instruments that are out there on the market.
There are so many questions that need to be considered. Do you purchase a classical guitar or an acoustic guitar? Perhaps you are seduced by the idea of an electric guitar? If it is an electric, is it a Fender, a Gibson or a Gretsch, or perhaps it’s a lesser known brand that will be both reliable and offer a more price friendly alternative?
I have found that most people begin with the notion that they will only ever own one guitar but this instrument has an unexplainable seductive power and most long-term players will inevitably own more than one instrument.
This section showcases some of the guitars that have found their way into my collection. All are of a higher quality and while most, apart from my personal instruments are for sale they all offer some insight into what you may be looking for when you are making the decision to upgrade. I hope you enjoy checking them out half as much as I have enjoyed finding them.
FOR SALE: WASHBURN R314 K PARLOR GUITAR, NUMBER 84 OF 250 (COLLECTOR’S EDITION)
In 2008, Washburn Guitars decided to celebrate 125 years as one of America’s premier guitar builders by initially offering for sale 250 individually numbered guitars from various iconic models they had built since their humble beginnings in 1883.
To authenticate the instruments even further they were artificially “aged” to look like they were in fact 125 years old. These original 250 instruments are different from the later mass produced options in that the tops are solid, not laminate, and the build qualities are substantially better.
From the very beginning, the Parlor guitar was a staple for the Washburn company. The Parlor was a smaller bodied instrument that, as the name suggests, could be played in the small front parlor rooms of well-to-do homes. For me, though, the vision of a thousand old blues players singing away their troubles on these lovely little guitars is a far more appealing image. These guitars have such a great acoustic blues tone!
Smaller than a concert guitar, the Parlor guitar has had a major revival in the last decades and original pre-1900 instruments now fetch substantial dollars, depending on their quality and condition. [See Conversations: “To restore or not restore? That is the question”.]
The model for sale here is the R314 K, numbered 84 of 250. The guitar sports a solid spruce top and Koa back and sides. The nut is bone and is an extremely comfortable 1&7/8th inches wide. The saddle is also bone and is compensated, which I think is a nice addition.
I have replaced the bridge pins with good quality ebony pins. The machine heads are functional and with a nice 24&3/4 inch scale length the guitar holds tune extremely well. In keeping with the original build quality the R314 K is X-braced which certainly enhances the guitar’s projection and tone and the braces are neatly carved and the glue joints are impeccable. The action is low and there is really little to fault in this lovely little instrument.
This is definitely a worthy example of the Parlor style guitar that Washburn became famous for producing in the late 1900’s. It also comes in the coffin style case that was synonymous with the original pre-1900 guitars. Playing time on this instrument since new would be no more than 10 hours and for the rest of its life it has lived in the case so it is effectively in mint condition. Definitely worth a look.
FOR SALE: EASTMAN UPTOWN AR804-CE
The Eastman Uptown AR804-CE, like all Eastman’s high end guitars, is one fine instrument and the one I have for sale is no exception. Given that production of this model was only continued for a few years and ceased completely in 2008 this is not only a unique instrument but also a rare find.
Modelled on the original Gibson L4 which was first introduced in 1911, the AR804-CE retains many of the specifications of its more illustrious cousin. Without making this description a “spec-fest” the Eastman sports the same oval sound hole that Gibson employed on the L4 until 1928 and has the typical 16 inch lower bout and is of the same depth as the Gibson.
Like the Gibson the Eastman has a completely hand carved archtop with solid maple back and sides (curly maple to be exact) and a wonderful spruce top. The fret board is ebony and the neck is 3 piece maple which adds to the neck’s strength. Importantly it is also X-braced which adds important depth to the tone as opposed to ladder bracing which tends to flatten the tone somewhat. Unlike the original Gibson’s, the AR804-CE sports a lovely Venetian cutaway and a Kent Armstrong floating pick-up with the single volume control positioned discretely under the Ebony pick guard.
I have had the wiring slightly lengthened and copper shielded by Alan Rigg because the original wiring was too tight and would have eventually caused unnecessary connection problems.
The machine heads are the Imperial art-deco style and work as they should. Add to this a 25 inch scale length and a comfortable 1.75 inch nut and you have a very playable and well-appointed instrument. It is worth noting that the original Eastman archtop tail pieces were a hinge design and were prone to snapping at the hinge. Mine did exactly that some 10 years after the guitar was built. I contacted Eastman US directly and they replaced the tailpiece free of charge with the newly designed one piece option. Now that’s service!
This particular guitar is one of the earlier examples of this series built in 2005 and is perfectly set up boasting that beautiful low action so typical of good archtop guitars. It comes in the Eastman fibreglass violin style hard case and requires absolutely no work. I presently have round wound strings on it but I am going to go back to flat wound 11-52s – a personal preference.
There is really not much more that needs to be said about this beautiful instrument other than it is in exceptional condition and is a great example of a bygone era but with all the necessary modern appointments. It is beautifully enhanced by Eastman’s decision to use nitro cellulose lacquer as the finish. Nitro cellulose is not a thick glossy lacquer and allows the wood to breathe and retain a lovely aged look – think the much sought after pre-L Fender Strats and Tele’s for example.This really is a great guitar and well worth a look.