c.1900 German/Czech? Carved 1/2 Double Bass

This poor, beat-up old flatback double bass (1/2 size) has been hanging around the workshop for too long. It's finally passed muster after a week or so of being strung up and it's now ready to return to its longtime owner. It's had innumerable repairs (some terrible, some borderline, some just fine) in the past and the objective here was to shore it up and get it playing again. The body needed tons of seam and crack repairs which took place slowly over time (I only have so many clamps!) and now it seems ship-shape enough.

The neck, on the other hand, had the usual bad split right at the top of the joint with the usual bad repairs applied to it. At this point most shops would tear that neck right off and graft a new one on (a good idea) but economy was the driver here and so... I did what I could. It should be good for at least a decent number of years but I can't guarantee it for the very long haul. As soon as I pulled that part of the project apart I knew I had to get it all back together but I sure didn't want to: the neck pocket, heel area, and damaged neck portion itself was a rat's nest of ugly old repairs. It's only slightly worse than my own Epiphone's badgered joint (which has held steady for years now) but I'm still a little apprehensive due to the nature of all the old repairs.


c.2014 Mr. Parker's Coodercaster

(Audio soon!)

Tele... goldfoil pups... crazy aesthetics... desire? I put this bit of custom weirdness together for Mr. Parker up in Burlington and it's super fun. He got the body (pre-painted in questionable rattlecan red, cream, and blue) from an acquaintance and delivered it here with a few parts, a busted Allparts Jazzmaster neck, and a set of goldfoils he picked up from me a year ago (salvaged from a really dead early 70s Harmony semi-hollow guitar). We scratched the Jazzmaster neck in favor of a new Warmoth CBS-style Strat deal, agreed on various parts, and proceeded. The goofy silver stars were his idea: he handed me a hilarious cardboard star stencil and a can of silver. What better way to do it?

Interview by Jim D'Ville

Mr. Jim interviewed me recently and just put it up a few days ago on his site. He's a fun guy and has been traversing the country meeting up with all sorts of players, builders and the like and asking them a few questions. He's sort of the ultimate archivist in this way... and he's a heck of a uke player/teacher as well. Thanks, sir, for the opportunity!

Click here to check out his site and for more of his video series click here. He put up an interview with comrade-in-ukes Kevin Crossett (Montpelier, VT) last week which was also excellent.


c.1919 Vega Size 2 Mahogany Parlor Guitar

Gosh, how rare is this? I would say that this Boston-made guitar is Vega's take on a Martin 2-17 except that this guitar predates the debut of that model by 3 years judging by the serial number. Pretty neat, huh? It's featherweight, very lightly ladder-braced, and sounds fantastic. It's also extra-rare: I barely ever see Vega guitars come through. I have no idea if it was built for gut/nylon because the original bridge is long gone and it was strung with medium (medium!) steel flatwound strings tuned up to pitch for at least the last half century. I've glued a bridge suited to steel and strung it up with extra-lights (10s) though someone more risk-taking might string it with 11s and be just fine.

This came in totally off-kilter with a terrible giant bridge installed, a bad neck angle, and some questionable side crack repairs (with, amazingly, external cleats). The top was (is) also bellied. It was mostly good, though, to my eyes: the neck was straight, the bracing was all intact, and I knew it'd go back together just fine. So that's what I did... neck set, fretboard extension shim, new bridge, some minor crack repair as well as removal of the uglier/sillier bits of the old repairs, new pins all around and saddle, some replacement (same period, same type as the damaged originals, but from my parts bin) tuners, cleaning, and a good setup.

c.1920 Kumalae Koa Soprano Uke

This cute little peanut-shaped koa soprano is a Hawaiian-made Kumalae probably from the late teens or early 20s. It's a fun little thing with not a large voice but a pleasant, sweet sound that reminds me a lot of my own very beat-up 20s Oscar Schmidt uke. There's something about the underdogs, isn't there? ...and the Hawaiian-style neck has that very vintage, old-timey feel.

It's had some old crack repairs (and cleating) done to the top in the past and the top was apparently lightly sanded and top-coated in the past as well. I've in turn polished it a little and then top-coated it myself with a couple very thin layers of finish to get is a little bit more "glowy" under light. My other work included a fret level/dress and some fret reseating, bridge cut and new fret saddle (from my vintage frets stash), new bone nut, tuner ferrules, and setup. It plays well (hair over 1/16" at the 12th fret action) and is ready to go for the next 100 provided it's taken care of.

c.1983 Ovation American Elite 1537 Ac/El Guitar

This guy was in for a fret level/dress and setup and I figured I'd share as it reminded me how this particular model just isn't made anymore: Ovation's American factory is simply gone. As for the guitar? It's good, practical, has that belly-slipping-off deep bowl design to the back... and the funky soundhole style I've never warmed up to. Perhaps if they were f-holes instead I might be more sold on them!

Ovations have always been an odd breed and their bracing is similarly weird: this thing has "fan bracing" minus the crosswise brace that would ordinarily go below the soundhole. I'm assuming this is all made possible by the extra top stiffness granted by the soundhole placement (duh). The result is a guitar that sounds naturally a lot more like a ladder-braced instrument (curiously enough) but with extra warmth. It's a good sound for folky strumming but a bit bland for fingerpicking.

c.2010 Fender American Standard Telecaster

This was just in for setup but I wanted to share because of the color scheme: b/w/b pickguard with a maple neck over SG "transparent cherry" on the body... not bad! The guitar tain't bad, too, but I'll tell you what: after having the pleasure of setting up and working on a number of older Teles (60s, 70s) I really must admit I'm a fan of the older finish styles. New features like the corner-less bridge plate and individually-adjustable saddles are nice to have for playing's sake... but I just don't like a dipped neck.

As expected... after a tiny bit of intonation and height adjustment at the bridge and a little slotting at the nut... this was ready to go in 10 minutes.


Net Back Up

Net's back up at the shop again! Thank goodness...

Sneak Peek: Reso Tele

There's still no internet at the home/shop locale which is driving me nuts. Sorry about the slow reply times and overall inefficient contact. Give me a ring if you need to get in touch fast!

I've been working up a storm and I hope I can get some good blogging in tomorrow (lots of good customer gear pics/clips and stuff coming up) but I only have about an hour to bust at the wifi-loaded park in town right now so I figured I'd share a project I've been working on in the middle of the night bit by bit: it's a Tele... but with an 8.25" Beard biscuit cone snuck in under the hood. It's rear-loaded and the body is carved out inside to make maximum air room for better tone and volume.


Net Outage

Dear everyone -- our net has been down for 3 days. I've been trying to keep up with emails and whatnot at the cafe in town but it's slow going so my replies will likely take a bit longer to get to you. Please be patient with me while our net provider (Fairpoint!) sticks a few more chopsticks into our sides to see us squirm...


c.1990 Froggy Bottom F-14 Flattop Guitar

Solid spruce over solid flamed koa... and quality all the way. Who can argue? This is a wonderful rig. For the player wanting pure, clean resonance and projection for flatpicking or fingerpicking, this will suit. The neck is also super-slick and fast and the build is superb throughout. The bracing is reminiscent of 30s-style Martin weight and cut and as you'd expect it has a similar palette to boot. Anyone who knows of Froggy Bottom's boutique reputation knows that something new built like this by the shop would run in the $6500-7000 range. Eek!

This is up for grabs as consignment for a customer and I've given it a quick fret level/dress (light) and setup. It plays spot-on with 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble at the 12th fret. The neck cut is similar to a modern Taylor in depth/bulk but has a sort of 30s-Martin rear profile so if you wanted to jack the action up for bluegrass lead playing you'd still have a very fast feel. The body is almost identical to a 000-size instrument and more info can be found at the FB site.

c.1960 Harmony H8448 Meteor-style Hollowbody Electric Guitar

Sheesh... this guitar is so clean and gorgeous it hurts. It came in pretty good shape though the frets needed leveling/dressing, it needed a bit of cleaning, the saddle needed some intonation, and it needed a good setup overall. It now plays beautifully and feels like a garage-rock/rockabilly king in the hands. These old Harmony electrics tend to rock a short scale and this has a 24 1/4" length which means I've strung it with 50w-11 plain-G strings (as opposed to 10s) to get a good-feeling tension at standard pitch.

The model is stamped inside as an H8448 (with a 1960 date-stamp) but it's identical to late-50s, early-60s Harmony H-70 Meteor models. There's no branding at the headstock though it looks like someone removed said branding (probably stenciled on or stickers) a long time ago as there are marks in the finish if you look closely enough where branding should be.