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Thread: Gilchrist Archtops

  1. #1

    Default Gilchrist Archtops

    Hello,

    First time posting here. As a jazz guitarist, I thought some of you might help me with this, considering Steve Gilchrist is such a prominent figure in the mandolin world. Has anyone ever played a Steve Gilchrist archtop? Though he has made many world-class mandolins throughout his career, his archtops are as rare as can be. I would love to have the opportunity to try one. I have heard that his 16" Loar inspired archtops are truly phenomenal. Here are some he is building currently:

    Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville are accepting orders for his next batch of instruments set for the fall of 2014.

    The guitar on the bottom is a 16" Junior model with ebony appointments. This instrument is 20K. The one above it is the Standard model which is 25K.

    Looking at the log of Gilchrist guitars, it seems he hasn't made many. http://www.mandomusic.com/gilchristinstruments.html

    I believe I have only seen one Gilchrist archtop come up for sale used. Please chime with any comments if you've ever owned one or played one. This may be the guitar to go "all-in" on.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    played his '34?? reissue style (no blocks , dots, cremona) L5-superb, and really expensive-really!

    Played , felt and sounded like nothing I have played before or since. Finish was noticeably superb. Big Builders finishes look like a six year old with a spray can by comparison. the guitar was balanced, loud, rich.

    But.......it was nearly 8x the price of a genuine vintage gibby, and regardless of the amazing quality and difference, I simply couldn't ...I could come 'adequately close' for a fraction.

    The guitar you have pictured in blonde, though plain, is amazing. what does it sound similar to?

  3. #3

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    The blonde model is the Junior version, somewhat plainer, but I actually prefer it to the Standad. There was someone on the Martin guitar forum who played one and, like you, said the feel and sound were like nothing else. I would love to hear a sound clip of One of these archtops. If anyone has one to share that would be greatly appreciated.

  4. #4
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    I would imagine that they're every bit as good as is mandolins and his mandolins are exceptional. I've not had the pleasure of hearing or playing one of his arch tops. Not sure I'd know what to do with one. Apparently there's a player out here in the LA area that has 2 of them but I've yet to run across him. Steve Earle also plays one. Have you called and talked to Walter or Christie Carter? They would have handled more of them than anyone but Steve himself.

  5. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    You are in a premium grade of guitar. For that price I would see if I could find someone who has one and try it out. Does it come with some sort of pickup? Have you tried other makers in that price range? I believe John Monteleone is much higher in price but there are others. Not that I am trying to dissuade you but for $20K-25K you should be able to get exactly the guitar you want. In fact I would also expect to have a neck profile to my liking as well. Of course, I don't know what you are playing now and what you are looking for.
    Jim

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  6. #6

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    I unfortunately have no way to afford one. I was just seeing if anyone owned one, or had experience playing one. It would be nice to see some other pics, since they are so scarce.

  7. #7
    Registered User dcoventry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Ever since starting on mando, I have been loving archtop instruments. I've been trying to get my flat top playing buddies to try them. They don't get it, yet.

    $1800 for my demo Eastman, basically brand new. It's such a pleasure to play. A nicely chunky neck, versatile tone and when you dig in, the beast is LOUD.
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    2005 Rigel G5 #2196
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    Remember to grin while you pick, it throws folks off!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    as a jazz guitarist wannabe,
    and having an high end archtop myself (not gil or monte or real benedetto high)-a fully acoustic L5C D'Acq type,

    fyi 25K was the asking price of the Gil 34-ish L5, used, but near mint, I played-as I recall-x braced, bronze strings

    there are some serious archtops guitars available in that range, as im certain you know
    in fact, that's the top of the range, short of custom and bling, from what I have seen

    many more so from many superb contemporary builders a tier (barely) below
    and imho way lower pricing, like one to drool over AND at least one you can gig with and still be the envy of all

    I wish you luck -
    the problem with this kind of thing, a truly superb instrument, is that once it gets into you, its really hard to move on
    its like ....emotional and irrational......
    I know

  9. #9
    Registered User dcoventry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    http://www.michaellewisinstruments.com/

    I want a mando AND an archtop from this guy.
    2005 Rigel G5 #2196
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    Remember to grin while you pick, it throws folks off!

  10. #10
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Quote Originally Posted by dcoventry View Post
    http://www.michaellewisinstruments.com/

    I want a mando AND an archtop from this guy.
    Yes, we can all dream...
    Jim

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  11. #11

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Michael Lewis is an incredible luthier. I've shared some email correspondence with him in the past. His instruments are second to none.

  12. #12
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    I have great respect for Mr. Gilchrist as a luthier and many here would accept nothing other than one of his mandolins -- cost not necessarily a consideration.

    However, paying $25K for a Gilchrist is certainly not what I would recommend (as if anyone cares what I recommend). But I did look into arch top guitars for 3 years before making some mandocellos so I am not clueless on the topic.

    You can get can get the best arch top guitar in the world -- a vintage Gibson S-400 CES for about half (more or less) that price. If I were in the market of a top arch top I would not even consider any other options. And if you want a "bargin" get a Gibson S-300 -- same guitar with less fancy stuff.

    Nothing comes close to the sound of one of those 18' monsters.
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    Bernie
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  14. #13

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    TCP168, agree with your comments regarding Steve Gilchrist's mandolins. I am primarily a mandolin player, however, have played more than a handful of his arch top guitars (including the first one pictured in your post above). I feel they are the best instruments (relatively) that he builds (the guitars are even better than his mandolins). They are very alive/responsive, full of tone, projection and musicality--the kind of instruments that you want to keep playing.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mandomusic; Jan-29-2014 at 12:28am.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Those are incredibly beautiful tweed blocks on the fingerboard of that first guitar pictured.
    I've seen that pattern on a few of his Artist model mandolins too.

  16. #15

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Mandomusic, thanks for sharing your experience. I bet they are otherworldly, and in that premium of guitar, other luthiers are actually in the same range. Monteleone's works of art are probably start at twice as much as Gilchrist's Junior model. Linda Manzer, Michael Lewis (though he makes some less decorated models that are less expensive), Kim Walker (though I don't believe he makes archtops any more)--these makers, like Gilchrist are at the top if their game. A name to watch out for us Paul Duff, as he is starting to make L-5 loar style guitars. I bet they are going to be stellar.

    My main guitar now is a cedar topped Bob Holo (Portland OR builder) Selmer style. Just an incredible jazz guitar in every respect. Swing, manouche, etc. You'll have difficulty finding them for sale.

    I will post pictures later.

  17. #16

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

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  18. #17
    Registered User dcoventry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/72976

    Brother, can you loan me a dime?
    2005 Rigel G5 #2196
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    2012 Eastman 905 Archtop Guitar, BLOND!

    Remember to grin while you pick, it throws folks off!

  19. #18

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    dcoventry, those 17" Collings archtops, especially with a cutaway, are rarer than hen's teeth too. I remember seeing that archtop for sale a while ago. I guess it's back on the market. Remarkable!

  20. #19
    Registered User dcoventry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Quote Originally Posted by TPC168 View Post
    dcoventry, those 17" Collings archtops, especially with a cutaway, are rarer than hen's teeth too. I remember seeing that archtop for sale a while ago. I guess it's back on the market. Remarkable!
    Yeah, I realize the rarity and all. Stunning work. Interesting that the pickguard is so long it obscures the lower bridge adjustment screw, I think.

    I'm not an especial fan of Collings mandos, nothing personal, but the guitars I find very palatable. Very. Really very in the case of this archtop.
    2005 Rigel G5 #2196
    2005 Phoenix Jazz #400
    1988 Jeff Traugott Acoustic #4
    2012 Eastman 905 Archtop Guitar, BLOND!

    Remember to grin while you pick, it throws folks off!

  21. #20

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Dear TPC168--I've played one of the fairly recent Gilchrist 16" archtops, the Junior model. I've also played a number of Monteleones, D'Aquistos over the years, and one of the Collings 16" archtops. My thoughts as follows. The Monteleones and the D'Aquistos were 17" and 18" instruments, both aiming for the same general category of sounds--very BIG but complex notes that sound great for anything, but perfect for jazz soloing. D'Aquisto, I believe, was the great luthier genius of our era. Unsurpassed. Incredible headroom, clarity, evenness. That said, I played a new Monteleone this summer that was the equal of, and maybe a bit more modern and glassier in tone than, the D'A, and it made me think he has raised his game. The Gilchrist I played was a "perfect" instrument in that every note and register was simply crystal clear and musical. Incredible setup and played like the proverbial butter. Being 16" it was more focused and had somewhat less of a big jazz sound, less of the "blip" in the notes' attack. The Collings was aiming for the same thing as the Gil, but to my ears was simply not at the same refined level, nor as even. An excellent instrument but not like the Gilchrist. I think Gilchrist is probably making the best 16" archtop on the planet right now, although Monteleone is doing amazing things with a more modern sound in mind. My opinions of course. All best, Richard

  22. #21

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Wow, Richard thanks for the report. I would love to try a Monteleone someday. A guy who lives close by has a D'Aquisto and a Mirabella, both incredible guitars. I've loved the sound of some of the Monteleone's I've heard. They seem to have this openness and lushness that sort of ride the line between flattop and archtop. As for the Gilchrist, I think it's apparent these guitars are probably at the top of the spectrum. I'd have to sell all my gear two or three times over.

  23. #22

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Six years ago, later this summer, I was on the hunt for a mandolin. I went to Nashville and played several great mandolins twice that summer. Then the 5 Junior on the right appeared for sale (it was less than a year old, at the time) and I was able to trade a '45 000-18 towards it, with cash. Since then, I've only owned two other mandolins, each briefly, but it is the perfect mandolin for me. I knew that I wanted a 93 or 94 X-braced Gil and this mandolin, absolutely, nailed the sound.

    Then, in December of 2015, we were at Carter's, while in Nashville. I wandered into the "nice" room and was playing some archtops, including two D'Aquistos. I picked up the L5 Jr, on the left and played a few tunes with a guy in the store. Two hours later, walking through the mall, when I couldn't stop talking about the sound of THAT GUITAR, my wife told me that if I wanted to buy it, we needed to get back across town. We ran to the car and worked out the deal. This archtop is the pinnacle, for me.

    Over the past ten years, I've been fortunate to play a 16" Collings, D'Aquistos, D'Angelicos', a bunch of Epis, some great L5s, L7s and L10s and a couple of Strombergs. I have never played an instrument that the sound literally jumps off the strings of.
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    I'm very fortunate to have been looking at just the right time, twice.

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  25. #23
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Wow, that's quite the pair!

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  27. #24

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Yes, it is. And now, there's this gorgeous F4 junior at TME from the same batch as the F5 junior.

    http://themusicemporium.com/mandolin...ist-f4-jr-2010

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  29. #25

    Default Re: Gilchrist Archtops

    Play every great guitar you can get your hands on and definitely make a road trip to NYC; the right guitar will find you.

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