Tax Season Sale

From now through April and into early May, most items in my inventory will be ON SALE for TAX SEASON! Can you think of any better use for a refund?

1956 Martin 00-18 Flattop Guitar

Another 50s gem, here! 00-size guitars of any stripe are always among my favorites because they fit right in the middle of clarity and extra low-end vs. a smaller guitar. They're just very practical and do well for both flatpicking and fingerpicking. This old 00-18 has reserve volume and punch to spare and is crack-free save a couple of super-tight 1" hairlines on the back.

Work included a fret level/dress, new bone saddle, replacement endpin, and a little bit of bridge clean-up. This originally had a couple of pearl dots installed to hide two mini-bolts (like Gibson-style ones) in the bridge which I removed. I then filled the holes and lightly sanded and polished the bridge back up. It plays like a champ: 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble action at the 12th fret and it's authoritative and confident in tone.

Workshop: 1943 Banner J-45 Woes

Heck, boy, just put a set of new strings on! She'll be fine! I wanted to take some "before" pics to commemorate our joining of the trans-Gibson railroad later on.

1960s Vega/Harmony 000-Size Flattop Guitar

This guitar was made by both Vega and Harmony. The body is a Harmony 000-size (15" lower bout) solid spruce, solid mahogany ladder-braced type that they used in their Sovereign H1203 lineup while the neck is a Boston-made Vega neck as seen on in-house Vega builds. The bridge also appears to be a Vega type and came with a glued-in bone saddle. In the latter part of the 50s and into the early 60s, Vega began concentrating on their banjos for the most part and used their (apparent stockpile) of guitar necks up by mating them to Harmony and other-make bodies -- and that's how this came about.

Today was "glorified setups" day in the shop and I was doing mostly fret level/dress and setup work. That's what this got, plus a light bridge shave and new bone saddle (the shave was to clean up after removing the superglued-in original saddle). It looks like this guitar had a bridge reglue in the past and it also wears a newer pickguard that replaced what looks like shadows of two classical-style pickguards that were used at some point.

The Vega neck makes this guitar way more desirable to me. They're far more stable over time than the Harmony necks (in my opinion) and feel better, too, with a sort of 50s Gibson meets Martin scale length. They're very comfortable and have a good "secure, safe" feeling. My experience with this guitar vs. your average H1203 is extremely positive whereas I get a more mixed-bag feel when I'm playing the Harmony variety neck (mostly because I don't like the feel of them, personally). The sound is bright, attacky, records-well, ladder-braced punch as you'd expect and it wears 12s quite happily.

Parts: Used Fishman Infinity Matrix

One used Fishman undersaddle pup available to put into your guitar. All there but the battery bag is funky and I'd suggest a battery clip to stick inside the body instead. Works, vol/tone control and active configuration. Sounds decent, great for rock band use, sort of expensive when new. I didn't like it in the guitar it was taken out of but I know these sound just fine in many guits.


Ephemera: Guit-Fiddle-Fooey (1900s)

Early steel-stringer and a fiddle -- don't need much more than that to make a dancin' racket. And, as many of you can attest, those floating-bridge parlors are loud so they can keep up, too.


Ephemera: Dapper Archie & His Artistic Archtop (1930s)

I guess having a flashy new Regal archtop makes you automatically upscale the borders of your photos, huh?


Review: Fender Rumble 40 Bass Amp

Well, the grill cloth tain't stock, that's for sure! I put that on the other day.

I've been using one of my PA units as a bass amp while I've been hunting for something portable and practical (since when we play "live" I usually just put a bass direct-in to the mixer board with a tube pre in front of it). I stumbled on the Rumble 40 while actually checking out lightweight bass heads (I have plenty of vintage 12" cabs on hand), but at the price point I simply couldn't argue with its super weight (18 lbs!!!) and all that control customization available on Rumble v3 units.

1960s Kay K6109 X-Braced Dreadnought Guitar

Two x-braced Kay dreads in two days? Sweet. This one's a little later (mid-60s) than the 50s K6100 I posted yesterday, but it's every bit as much of a killer guit. It's basically the same guitar but has natural-finished laminate mahogany back and sides and still retains its original "wrap-around" rosewood bridge. The rest of the specs are the same: long 25 3/4" scale length, 1 5/8" nut width, big old squared-off dread body, and plenty of carrying power. Oh -- and this guy has a truss rod rather than a plain non-adjustable steel rod.

Work included a fret level/dress, relocating the saddle 1/8" to the rear, new tuners, and a new bone nut and saddle. She plays spot-on (3/32" bass, 1/16" treble at the 12th fret) and has an enormous, raucous sound. It's punchy in that D-18 kind of way but has that Kay growl rather than Martin creaminess.


1950s Kay K6100 X-Braced Dreadnought Guitar

From what I've gleaned -- and the useful stamp inside the body -- this is a K6100 model ("Western Rhythm" model) dreadnought and it sports, as we all like to hear as far as dreads are concerned, x-bracing. It's roughly the same size as a Martin D-18 and aims for that aesthetic (though boxier), but with laminate mahogany back and sides (it's got a solid spruce top, though), longer 25 3/4" scale, and a 1 5/8" nut it has a definitively different feel and a punchy "old country" tone with oodles of volume that leaps out in the mids.

This is a customer's guitar (and possibly will be up for sale) and it came here in decent shape with a replacement Martin-style bridge already installed and a past neck reset probably done as well. The frets needed light leveling/dressing work, the bridge needed string ramps and a saddle shave/intonation adjustment, and it needed a general setup as well. The work's done and it's a quick player, though a tiny amount of backbow in the neck past the 10th fret means the higher strings feel slightly stiffer after the neck join. Still, action is dialed to standard 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble at the 12th fret.


1920s Martin-made Style A Flatback Mandolin

While this is clearly a Martin-made style A mandolin probably from the late teens or early 20s, it's unmarked, has no serial number, and at some point in the distant past it lost its original ebony fretboard and the lower of its back braces. It came to me with various cracks open and uncleated, a couple seams sprung, a lightly-warped neck, headstock with a hairline crack along one side of the tuners (which were weird 60s units cobbled-together from single guitar tuners), and other general needs.

The biggest part of the work after cleating cracks and regluing various bits was pulling the frets, leveling the board, and refretting the instrument -- which I did with some smaller "medium" gauge wire for a modern feel. It has the same board that was on it when I got it: what looks to me like a "catalog style" dyed-maple replacement board one might've ordered from the Harmony or Regal catalog in the 30s. It had original-style t-frets of the type I'm used to seeing on Harmony products, installed, too.

After work it plays fast, well, in-tune, and has a full, open sound. The tone of this really suits old-timey stringband music or, heck, even classical pieces. Because of the refret it feels like playing a brand-new instrument and all the notes leap right out with a good amount of volume and zing.

2010 Martin 00-15M Flattop Guitar

The serial number dates this Martin to 2010... and it looks brand-new. This will be up for sale from the original owner. It only has the very lightest wear to the first-position frets and that's it. After a quick setup/adjustment, it was ready to roll out of the packing box. What do I think? Punchy, loud, easy and enjoyable to play, and all that sort of practical stuff you'd expect from a modern, fully-solid American-made Martin.

It's got that typical mahogany tone: mids-focused with a creamy top-end and tight bass. This makes it great for robust strumming or folky flatpicking and fingerpicking as clarity is always maintained and when you drive it hard a "compressed" tone is engaged rather than a "distressed" or "overdriven" tone. I like.