1960s Colombian Tiple/Octave Mandolin Conversion

Soundclip soon!

Just recently another batch of local repairs were handed off to me for fixing and the owner of said repairs and I agreed to do a bit of horse trading to get them done. This Colombian tiple (a genuine, originally-12-string, 4 course, tenor-guitar-scale South American-variety tiple) was one of the ones I was taking in trade and I decided to quickly put it to use by converting it to an octave mandolin (GDAE low to high an . I'd initially strung it up with nylon strings and liked the sound but after sleeping on it I reprofiled the saddle and popped a set of steel on. Boy am I happy I did -- big, loud, saucy, vibrant -- that's how I'm talking about the sound now.

Aside from the mods to the bridge, nut, and tuners the only structural work really needing to get done was to shore up one major unrepaired top crack and fill-in and pretty-up some of the already-cleated cracks that are all over the instrument.


2009 Mainland Honeybee Soprano Uke

Soundclip soon!

This Mainland "Honeybee" soprano came in a trade and it's near-mint save one tiny ding along the top edge lower bout binding (hard to see in any of the pics). It's Asian-import, solid mahogany throughout, plays well, and has a sound reminiscent of a 20s Oscar Schmidt of the same general makeup. Not too shabby, huh?

This one also has an undersaddle pickup and while it's low output (you'll want a preamp or at least a hot board input for this uke to get the most out of it plugged-in) it has a good tone. My paws only had to setup the nut for better action and slightly adjust the compensation at the saddle to get it to play spot-on. The strings look like Martin fluorocarbons and give a sweet, mellow, midrangey strumming sound but I'll bet an Aquila set would pump a bit more volume and snap out of this guy.


Ephemera: Ukin by the Ocean (1920s)

If only it were warm enough to be taking snapshots and playing as a uke duo by the salty brine!

Yes, sorry folks, just more old pictures today. I didn't get out of the workshop early enough to take pictures myself before the sun went down. Aside from customer gear getting neck resets and bridge reglues I also finished up a quick mod of a Colombian tiple into a nylon-strung octave mandolin -- yeah, it's cool.


Ephemera: All that Facial Hair (1910s)

While these guys look like they could be 1890s fellas I'm fairly certain this is more from around 1905-1910 judging by the tail on the guitar in the lower right. What a cool group, though, huh? I wonder if all that facial hair is the real deal. If it is they'd be styled perfectly for some of the citygoer facial hair fashions of our time.

In other news: I have been hammered by the flu for the past few days. I will try to get back to everyone's needs but please bear with me. Flu and polar vortex (it's been 20-25 degrees F the past four days) -- a winning combination.


Ephemera: Red Foley Show (1957)

Surprisingly, Red poses with a 50s Kay for this shot advertising the Red Foley Show in '57. I'll bet he didn't know the neck pockets on all those Kays are just garbage when it arrived in his arms. Thankfully... they can be fixed!


1960s Kay X-braced Dreadnought Guitar

This guitar has been hanging out in the shop for a while awaiting repair and then consignment. I've now finished resetting the neck (double-bolt conversion), leveling and dressing the frets, and modding the original bridge to let it play well and in tune. The problem with old Kays is that they had the fundamentals right: big body, solid top, chunky x-bracing to make it sturdy... but until they're worked on the neck pockets are terrible and the saddle is almost always located at least 1/8" off-target.

With everything done, though, this guitar is big, ballsy, and has that sort of grungy sound that a bunch of blues performers have made use of on this particular model. I wouldn't say it's suited to old-timey stuff... it's more like a big thumping guitar.

2005 Epiphone AJ-500RC Masterbilt 12-fret Dreadnought Guitar

Wow is all I can say to this fella -- and especially for the money these are going for used. This came in for a bridge reglue and setup via a customer and ended up getting that as well as a bit of spot work on the frets (a few were uneven). It's like-new and, from what I've gleaned via the serial number, it was made in China in the "Grand Reward" factory in 2005. This model is sort of a clone of late 30s Epiphone 12-fret dreads (super rare guitars) and sports solid cedar over solid Indian rosewood. It was discontinued pretty early on but there seem to be a lot of fans of the model out in net-land.

It handles like a Martin 12-fret dread but with perhaps a bit more of a Gibsony 30s profile to the back of the substantial neck. Tonally, and I'm guessing because it's got a cedar top, it responds like an older guitar but with a bit more clarity in the mid-range than I'm used to from old 12-fret dreads. As far as dreads go, though, this is "right on" for my style of playing. You get a lot of clear, full, big, articulate sound which makes it really useful for someone who flatpicks with a lot of crosspicking and bass runs but also sounds great for fingerpicking, as expected.

1997 Seagull S6 SW Dreadnought Cutaway Guitar

Back when I first started playing guitar I lusted after many a Seagull in the music shops. I thought, for the money, they were "just the thing." Unfortunately, I always stray to vintage gear and now that I've been playing long enough I sort of "know what I want" and as such have abandoned guitars like this which do exactly what they're supposed to do: supply lots of thick bottom end with scooped mids and highs. It's the perfect sound for a heavy-handed backing player. The S6 is a popular model and I remember seeing them all over college dormrooms mixed in with a healthy dose of falling-apart Epiphone and Alvarez dreads.

Anyhow, this one shows tons of love bites and has been played faithfully since it was first purchased. I did a bit of work on it for a customer including a fret level/dress, tightening-up of the bolt-on neck, and a bit of bridge mod to get it to play "spot on." I find that a lot of Seagulls tend to get "compression" fatigue over time. This may be due to peoples' predilection towards heavier (bluegrass gauge) sets of 12s on dreadnoughts or just the nature of guitars in the cost-range of "roughing about" but for whatever reason the neck wants to pull into the body over time.

The Guitar Dater gives us way too much info: "The guitar was manufactured Wednesday, February 19, 1997. It was guitar number 549 made that week."


2014 Antebellum "Buckaroo Plank" Electric Guitar

What happens when projects get canceled? Parts sprout up and need uses! Above soundclip is played through a little 1W Blackstar tube amp with emulated-speaker direct out.

I'd just installed a new bandsaw blade and wanted to test it out on something when I eyed this old cracky pine slab. I quickly traced the outline of a customer's Martin 5-18 on it and went to the saw. One full cut later and... voila. Now what? I had these parts mentioned about and so I went for it. Why not?


1967 Harmony H1260 Sovereign Jumbo Flattop Guitar

Another Sovereign? Yep. This is a customer's guitar and came in for a neck reset, fret level/dress, bridge work, and setup. Just like all the other "big Sovs" I've handled it was in very poor playing shape when it got here... mile high action. And... just like all the other "big Sovs" that've come out, it plays much like a period Martin (similar neck profile and scale length) now that it's been fixed up.

These are good guitars and for your money into one of these you get a fantastic return: they're big, full-sounding creatures that can easily hold the rhythm line for band use and have a "different" sound compared to x-bracing. They sound a bit more "open" overall.


1950 Martin 0-18 Flattop Guitar

Ever since owning a nice '54 0-15 for a while I've personally been hooked on the small-body Martin 14-fret sound. This one has it in spades. It's that warm but focused, slightly driven, but clear sound that you get when going at these with a good-sized flatpick that does it for me. Other folks will love the super fingerpicking qualities and fret access over a 12-fret... but I just love the sound of dug-in and crosspicked flatpicking on these guys. It's easy to hold the rhythm line with the clean midrange you get on this body size.

This one came via a customer/consignor and required a simple fret level/dress and a little bridge work to get it going. It's mostly crack-free (a couple of bend-area small hairlines on the sides) and is in well-played but good shape. The setup is spot on (3/32" bass and 1/16" treble fret top to string bottom at the 12th fret) with a regular set of 12s on it.

1940s Vega FT-85 00-size Flattop Guitar

Let me start by saying that I adored the FT-85 I owned for a bit previously so I was well-prepared to expect a nice guitar when I started going through this to get it ready to play. The last one had a warm but focused bottom-end and a sweetness to the treble that one doesn't expect from a ladder-braced guitar. It made a super fingerpicker along the lines of those underbuilt late-20s, early-30s Martin 0 or 00-size 12-fret guitars. I'm fairly certain that this FT-85 dates to the late 40s while the other one was a 50s model.

So what's new with this one? An entirely different bracing pattern! The last one had a nicely-installed but fairly standard ladder pattern: one above the soundhole and three below it with a bridge plate/strapping brace. This one has one above and... one below! The rest of the bracing is that thin, flat "strapping brace" material (like you see on the backs of some guitars) installed in a big triangular shape below the bridge and then with additional rectangular, thinner, "strapping braces" installed above and below the outsized "bridge plate triangle brace."

Upon finding this I immediately thought: this is braced as light as most classicals! So, my setup limit is for a set of 46w-10 (extra light) strings on this guy. And does it deliver?