Zenith Standard 21 “Bijou” Archtop acoustic guitar

Zenith Bijou Standard 21 Archtop acoustic guitar

This 50s archtop acoustic is a Zenith Standard 21 “Bijou”. Zenith guitars were made by Framus in Germany and re-badged Zenith by the importers, who were the major instrument distributors Boosey and Hawkes. This one has Ivor Mairant’s signature in ballpoint pen on the label inside, but I don’t know if it is the signature of the man himself.

Zenith Bijou Standard 21 Archtop acoustic guitar
Zenith Bijou Standard 21 Archtop

This Zenith guitar was brought to me by the owner’s guitar teacher for me to repair a split in the top. For a 50+ year-old guitar it is in amazing condition and looks like it’s spent most of its life in the loft. When I received it however it had old, mismatched strings which looked nearly as old as the guitar and it was rather grubby.

I repaired the split and touched in the lacquer, levelled, dressed and polished the frets, oiled the fretboard, lowered the bridge a touch, lubricated the tuners and gave the whole guitar a good clean before restringing with a long-overdue set of Martin phosphor bronze strings and adjusting the intonation.

The owner will hardly recognise it!

By the way…

Paul McCartney’s first guitar was a Zenith type 17, very much like this.

8 Comments on “Zenith Standard 21 “Bijou” Archtop acoustic guitar”

  1. Thanks for the write up, i notice the 21 fret zenith I have has no truss rod but the relief looks good, these must have been well made as part from some minor binding shrinkage it’s in great condition, without s truss rod how do you tackle the fret level please. This looks like a mid 50 to mid 60 guitar,
    Thanks Ian

  2. You may find that the Zenith Standard bijou is in fact an Otwin Harmony rebranded. Otwin (Otmar Windish) was in east Germany, nothing to do with Framus although also originally from Luby/Shonbach in today’s Check republic. The Mairant’s seal of approval is only a gimmick and doesn’t mean that the guitars were built to his speck. There is a world of difference between the laminated guitar sold as the Zenith 17 and the otwin harmony. The small size of the F hole presumably prevented you from inspecting the parallel tone bars that are usually totally parallel.They are also on the earlier models carved into the top.

    Otwin became part of the Mussima group of company that produced some astounding instruments such as the Mussima record 17 and also a lot of very crappy instruments.

    I am sorry to say that my own Otwin Harmony from 1952 is wort for wear than the one you worked on. But it is still a very sweet instrument with a very good neck Best regards

  3. Paul McCartney’s guitar was quite different to this one. His was a Framus and this is an Otwin, both sourced from Germany and rebranded by Zenith for the British market. American guitars were unavailable in 50’s Britain due to the UK embargo on american luxury goods which ended in 1960 and was heralded in that year by The Shadows “Apache” which was played on the first strat to be imported!

  4. I have one. It was bought for me in 1960 and I had many years playing out of it until I fell on the ice while carrying it in a soft bag. It is in a sorry state now but I would love to restore it but I don’t know where I could buy the parts required. Machine heads and scratch plate are missing. The sound board needs replacing and it would need a complete respect.
    Anyone have any suggestions?
    John Libbi

  5. I bought the exact same guitar the the other day for 60 dollars aust. I cleaned it up and restrung it and its one of the best sounding guitars I have played,, gotta work out a pick up system now c cant wait to do a gig with it

    • I have one and put a Kent Armstrong Johnny Smith pickup with adjustable polepieces at the bottom of the fingerboard and it sounds really good. The b string was very dominant so the adjustable polepieces really help balance the sound. Lovely guitars with a great tone and feel!

  6. I have one of these! Do you know if they are worth anything? The signatures are real by the way… Ivor signed every one!

  7. It was left in the loft for about 40 years you are right!
    Pity the case is slightly damaged!
    Simon (via Sean)

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