Operating under his full name "D.W. Stevens," Denny Stevens was a talented Colorado-based luthier who built instruments designed to produce excellent sound when new and as they continue to age become louder and more open for many years to come. Unfortunately, health issues cut Denny's career short, and he passed away at the age of 66. Because of that, only 198 DW Stevens instruments were ever built, and only 33 of those were archtop guitars.
Denny built this D.W. Stevens archtop guitar in 1993, and in place of any model name, the inside is stamped "Prototype." This is the guitar pictured on the home page of DWStevensGuitars.com, and it is an intriguing oval-hole archtop hybrid design with a 25-1/2" scale length. Its lower bout is 16" across, and the total length of the body is 20" long, like a dreadnought. It has the graceful tight waist of a mid-size guitar and an aggressive cutaway for access down the fingerboard. Its Spruce top is carved and shaped in the traditional archtop tradition. But instead of F-holes, Denny opted for an oval soundhole, and underneath, the top is supported with a single X-brace and no tone bars. Whereas we might expect a carved maple back, the book-matched East Indian Rosewood back seems more typical of a traditional flat-top acoustic. The general motif of Ivoroid binding and Herringbone purfling somehow ties all the intriguing elements together beautifully.
Typical of comparable independent-luthier-made guitars, it was built with quality components throughout. Its tailpiece and pickguard are both high-quality parts that are perfectly installed. It has a three-piece Mahogany neck with a bound Ebony fingerboard and a floating Ebony bridge with a bone saddle. Its bone nut measures 1-11/16", and the string spacing is 2-5/64" at the saddle. Combined with a shallower, more modern neck carve (whereas many independent luthiers opt for a beefier V-shaped neck), the narrower taper allows for a guitar that is approachable and easy to play—especially if you want to play articulate jazz voicings up the neck.
This 1993 D.W. Stevens Prototype Oval-hole Archtop produces unique sound that combines elements of both archtop and flattop acoustic guitars. Its tone profile packs punchy mid range—that classic archtop chunk—but it is more resonant like a good acoustic guitar. And throughout, its tone is clear and notes ring out evenly across the register.
This 1993 D.W. Stevens Prototype Oval-hole Archtop is in clean cosmetic condition with no history of repairs or issues. It has an under-saddle pickup installed. It shows some expected playwear, but apart from minor bumps and bruises, it is free of any severe cosmetic issues (see photos). It has been played, so its medium-jumbo frets show some wear. Nevertheless, there is plenty of life left and no dead-notes, buzzes, or issues. Original hardshell case included.