Trash or Treasure: Langejans Solidbody
A rare electric model from a maverick Canadian builder.
I purchased this Langejans instrument from a hole-in-the-wall guitar shop in Alberta, Canada. I’ve learned that Langejans made quite a few high-quality acoustic guitars, but a “Strat-type” seems unusual coming from his shop. Can you shed any light on this beauty?
London, Ontario, Canada
Thanks for the question—and pictures of this cool and unique guitar. It’s appropriate to highlight American luthier Del Langejans, since he recently retired, and he deserves recognition for the many guitars he created. You are correct: Langejans is well known for his acoustics, but he also built a few electrics in the 1980s, including yours.
A bit of history: Delwyn “Del” Langejans grew up in Holland, Michigan. His father was a woodworker/homebuilder, and Langejans learned to craft wood at a young age. Langejans served in the U.S. Navy, and during his enlistment often entertained other sailors with his guitar and accordion talents. After his discharge, Langejans returned to Holland and worked at Meyer Music, where he learned more about guitar repair and electronics. In 1970 he started Del’s Guitar Gallery, and a year later began building his own guitars with “Del” on the headstock. His store was later renamed Del’s Music Center.
Since then, Langejans has produced more than 1,200 instruments, including acoustics, banjos, harp guitars, and a few electrics. The long list of guitarists who appreciate his instruments includes Peter Frampton, Earl Klugh, Thom Bresh, Jerry Reed, and Muriel Anderson, who plays a Langejans harp guitar. Langejans also produced a unique instrument for Bresh called the Dualette, which is basically a guitar with two fronts. One side is set up for steel-string playing, but when you flip the guitar over, it’s designed for nylon-string picking. Ah, the ingenuity!
Most of Langejans’ instruments are acoustic, the most popular of which are his dreadnought and grand concert models. These guitars are praised for their strong bass and canto-clear highs as well as their fine workmanship.
In the 1980s Langejans built a small number of solidbody guitars (about 80, by his estimate). Your guitar appears to combine a Brian May body and a Strat-style headstock. The instrument features a flat-sawn maple neck with an Indian rosewood fretboard, Grover Rotomatic tuners, and a brass nut. (These were popular among some ’80s builders, who found brass brighter than the usual bone.) The frets are .105 wide—almost as wide as those commonly found on electric basses—and these seem to enhance the guitar’s robust sound. The neck is bolted to the body in a snug-fitting pocket that supports the neck on both sides.
The guitar houses three EMG single-coil pickups. The electronics include a master volume, two tone controls, and a 5-way Strat-style pickup selector. There’s a Tune-o-matic-style bridge with a stop tailpiece. The body is made from a single beautiful piece of mahogany, with a dead-flat top and a contoured back. It measures 14.25" at the lower bout and is bound in white plastic and a simple wood inlay strip.
In 2012 Langejans announced his retirement, and he no longer accepts orders for new guitars. Today he devotes much of his time to instrument repairs, and his wife fields occasional questions about older Langejans models. Few independent luthiers manage to build 1,200 or more guitars in their lifetimes, so Del has created a unique legacy.When Langejans retired, his base price for guitars was $3,495. Today their value is $3,000 and up, depending on the model and materials. However, I don’t see many of his electric instruments for sale. I estimate the value of your guitar to be somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000, but I could be low due to the unknown desirability of his electric guitars. Regardless, I consider a guitar that plays this well and looks this nice to be a treasure.