Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar
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This mid-1930s Radiotone 7812 is the sort of instrument big band jazz guitarists bought in the UK - Gibsons and other high end American instruments were rarely available (or affordable).

Radiotones were made in Schönbach, a small town in Czechoslovakia (today Luby u Chebu in the Czech Republic), which was an important lutherie centre before World War 2. It's a proper carved top archtop, which makes more than a nod in the direction of Gibson's L-5 and L-7 models. Solid spruce top, flame maple back and sides and the ebony on the fingerboard is of a quality you just can't find these days. Interestingly, the end pin was the termination of a steel rod that went right through the body and engaged with a threaded insert in the heel block. This wasn't used to adjust the action as the neck joint was a glued mortice and tenon type, but rather to ensure stability.

Unfortunately it hadn't worn its years easily - the finish had been stripped off in the 1970s, the celluloid binding was missing or replaced with bits of wood, there were numerous separations between front, back and sides and the headstock faceplate was lifting off. The neck joint was loose and the action at the 12th fret was approximately 1.5 inches!

The brief was a full restoration, but without attempting to remove all the evidence of its years.

Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar
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The starting point was to remove the neck, stone and polish the frets and give the fingerboard a less unloved feel. The headstock veneer was also glued down - this had to be done carefully to avoid disturbing the inlays and took three separate attempts!

The finish was then removed from neck and body and the most noticeable of the dings and scrapes sanded out. As the objective was a dark sunburst particular attention was reserved for the centre of the top and back. As always, it's important to avoid going too far - especially with the spruce top, where there had been considerable oxidation over the years. Various seam separations were fixed and missing binding was replaced. Small sections were replaced by melting binding in acetone and filling in the gaps. This leaves less of a hard line between old and new than just gluing in new bits.

The neck was then reset at the correct angle and the guitar prepared for refinishing with nitrocellulose. As always, patience and time is the secret to a good job. Celly coats are much thinner than modern twin-pack finishes, so it takes a while to build the finish. After a good deal of hanging time and flatting back with progressively finer wet and dry paper (finishing with 1500-grit), the finish can be buffed up. I use a set of 10" x 3" swansdown buffing mops with different grades of cutting compound.
 
Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar
Finally, the guitar could be reassembled. That long rod can be a real pain to re-install but thankfully it engaged first time! The pickguard had long since disappeared, so a new one was commissioned from Fox Guitars in Lowell, Massachusetts. As well as being extremely knowledgeable about the history of Gibson and Epiphone, Paul Fox specializes in producing a wide range of archtop and other pickguards to special order. We commissioned a slightly modified L7 guard with single white binding to match the Radiotone's body and neck binding. Looks amazing! The owner also wanted a discreet acoustic pickup system, so I fitted a K&K twin-transducer system, with a jack socket mounted on the lower bout - the usual endpin strapjack wasn't an option.

All in all a very satisfying job to work on and a very happy customer!
 
Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar
Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar Radiotone 7812 Archtop Guitar
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