Tom Ribbecke: A Modern Master Luthier
Since the early 1970’s, Tom Ribbecke has gained worldwide attention for building flawless archtop guitars that sit perfectly at the intersection of instrument and art. Ribbecke’s woodworking is second to none. Building fine instruments in the tradition of the famed luthiers at D’Aquisto and D’Angelico, Ribbecke now enjoys a place in the pantheon of modern archtop builders including Linda Manzer and John Monteleone. Using the finest techniques and the rarest woods, each Ribbecke guitar is worthy of respect and awe.
The Monterey 17 is acoustic archtop tone in its purest distillation. Built using the same techniques perfected by 20th century masters John D’Angelico and his apprentice Jimmy D’Aquisto, the Ribbecke Monterey 17 carries on the tradition of 1930’s archtops. Before the advent of electric guitar pickups and amps, acoustic archtops were designed for maximum volume, giving guitarists playing them a chance to be heard among the blaring horns and thumping drums of the Big Band era.
In 2003, shortly after this guitar was completed, Ribbecke ceased production of the Monterey 17 and began designing and building his most well-known model, the Halfling. This 2002 archtop is one of the last Monterey 17’s ever built, in what can now be called Ribbecke’s pre-Halfling era. These days, Tom Ribbecke is semi-retired, with custom archtops from his shop becoming rarer (and more expensive) by the moment. These days, a custom-built Ribbecke archtop costs $30k-$50k and takes months or even years to complete, making this rare Monterey 17 a tremendous value at a fraction of the price.
The Finest Woods, Materials, and Craftsmanship
This 2002 Monterey 17 Archtop features beautiful and ultra-rare Big Leaf Quilted Maple back and sides, flamed Maple double-binding, Fiddleback flamed Maple neck, and a premium hand-carved Sitka Spruce top. The one-piece quilted Big Leaf Maple back is luminescent, with a gorgeous depth of color that seems almost alive when you hold it in your hand. Finding a single piece of flamed Maple big enough to use for the back of a guitar this size is rare indeed, and in its raw state, the wood used to build this guitar is worth a small fortune.
This Monterey 17 is built from some of the finest woods in the world. The premium Sitka Spruce top has nearly perfect graining, allowing for maximum transmission of vibration, giving the guitar a huge sound that can be heard in the back row of any concert or dance hall. The back and sides are west coast Big Leaf Maple, with nearly holographic, three-dimensional quilting. The depth and color of these body woods are only comparable to the tone they produce. The combination of Sitka Spruce and Big Leaf Maple gives the Monterey a balanced, even tone – full of depth and sparkle, with a smooth midrange that refuses to go unheard.
Ribbecke is a master of his craft, evidenced in the smaller details of this Monterey 17. Note the compensated Rosewood bridge and carved-hinge Rosewood tailpiece. These dark woods stand in stark contrast to the brighter woods used for the top, back, and sides of the guitar. Finishing touches like the burled Myrtle pickguard and hand-inlaid Tulip on the headstock are perfect complements to the craftsmanship and quality of this instrument. The Monterey 17 is extremely playable, featuring a 17″ body an extremely comfortable medium C-shaped neck.
Ribbecke’s unrivaled woodworking skill is on full display here, with perfect joins and hand-laid binding at every turn. The flamed Fiddleback Maple neck joins perfectly to the body, complete with multi-layer and multi-wood binding at the joints. As mentioned above, this rare piece of Fiddleback Maple was obtained directly from Master Builder Jimmy D’Aquisto’s woodshop. The neck’s flame shimmers and shines, seemingly coming alive as the light passes over it. The neck is topped with an Ebony fingerboard, double bound with flamed Maple.
This custom Monterey 17 was the first guitar ever built by Ribbecke to feature matching double sound holes on the upper and lower bout. This guitar also holds a special place in the history of master archtop builders, as the flamed Fiddleback Maple used for the neck came directly from the shop of the legendary guitar builder Jimmy D’Aquisto. Despite the countless hours devoted to creating the Monterey 17, the guitar itself is not gaudy or ostentatious in any way. All the details of this guitar are expertly refined and elegantly understated, allowing the wood and build quality of the instrument to speak for itself.
This Ribbecke Monterey 17 was built in 2002 for a collector who ordered the instrument as a showpiece for his collection. The original owner doesn’t play guitar, so this Monterey 17 is totally unplayed, in original mint condition… more like a “new old stock” instrument rather than used. This guitar was properly stored in its case, unplayed, nearly untouched, for 15 years until it arrived here in our shop. It even still has the original strings on it, put on by Tom Ribbecke himself!
- Model: Monterey 17
- Back and Sides: premium uber-quilted Big Leaf Maple
- Top: premium hand carved Sitka Spruce
- Body Size: 17”
- Neck: Fiddleback Maple
- Neck Profile: medium C, 1 3/4” at nut
- Fingerboard: Ebony, with flamed Maple binding
- Binding: double bound with white-black-white-black and flamed Maple
- Bridge: Rosewood compensated
- Pickguard: Burled Myrtle
- Finish: Apricot violin lacquer
- Tuners: gold Schaller with ebony buttons
- Tailpiece: Ribbecke premium rosewood
- Nut: bone
- Scale: 25 1/4”
- Weight: 5 lbs 13.4 oz
- Case: hard case
Museum/Collector Grade Condition; No notable damage or flaws. This is a handmade instrument made from all natural woods. Some variance in the grain and character of the woods is expected. Please view the pictures carefully and consider them part of the description. Additional photos available upon request.
Due to the high value of this guitar, the shipping cost will be increased to cover proper packing materials and insurance. International customers please contact us before ordering to discuss overseas shipping options and security.