Reader Guitar of the Month: O’Dell Bene Mesa Archtop Deluxe

A retired meteorologist collected beautiful tonewoods for years and recently turned them into a rare dream machine.


Name: Ben Holbrook

Location: North Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Guitar: O’Dell Bene Mesa Archtop Deluxe

I’m a retired U.S. Air Force meteorologist. I’ve bought lots of wood over the decades with the thought of building a few guitars after retirement. However, by the time I retired my back was too messed up to spend time hunched over the various machines to build one myself. To compound things, my dad and mentor, an accomplished builder of guitars, mandolins, violins, banjos, etc., slowly faded away and passed away last year. Luckily, I met a local builder (Keith O’Dell of O’Dell Guitars) who took on the task to build the first of my dream guitars. I specified every detail, and the result is better than I could’ve hoped for.

Starting with the set neck, it’s asymmetrically carved with a 1.65" nut width, 25" scale, and 12" radius with a leopardwood fretboard and matching headstock logo inlay. As a weather guy, the cloud inlays were an obvious choice. The neck is rock solid and has a carbon fiber rod on either side of the double-acting truss rod to guarantee stability. I like big frets, so these are one step below bass fret size, ha-ha! The fret-over-binding allows me a nice full vibrato. Locking Gotoh tuners and a bone nut round out the package.

Though I’ve modded nearly every guitar I’ve ever owned, I can’t think of any upgrades for this one.

The double-bound arched top and back are solid, no laminations, and are CNC carved, as is the entire guitar. The body is quite resonant and really sang under the buffer during polishing. The neck, back, and sides are made from the same 5A curly maple board. The hollowbody has a shedua center block. The top is from 5A blister-quilted sequoia and was even prettier than the lumber was before the bookmatching.

The pickups are handwound McNelly SparkleTrons. The passive tone circuit uses a smaller cap than normal (0.01 µF), so the range of adjustment is more usable, in my opinion. The Bigsby adds just the right amount of warble.

From a whisper to a scream, she sings an alluring song: balanced across the spectrum of tones, with massive sustain, low action, and precise intonation. From Merle Travis through Clapton to EVH (R.I.P.), she’s up to the task. I have a lot of great guitars after 56 years of playing, but this one is special. Through a Carr Rambler, Matchless DC-30, or Bogner Ecstasy, it’s just what’s needed. Though I’ve modded nearly every guitar I’ve ever owned, I can’t think of any upgrades for this one. She’s already there.

My only problem? What can I do with all the other wood I’ve acquired? I can’t possibly think of anything … can you? A Floyd Rose-equipped super-strat maybe?

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