4/30/2009

c.1950s? Regal Wendell Hall Teeviola Tenor Ukulele


Here's a sort of rare bird: this is a Regal-built tenor uke (17" scale) from either the late 1940s or early 1950s. It's a very sturdy uke and features a nicely-grained (with some spidery figure) spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides, with a maple neck. The bridge and fretboard are both ebony, the frets are brass, and the nut and saddle are bone. I've replaced the original plastic bridge pins with vintage rosewood ones (tone enhancer) and I've taken off the original geared Kluson tuners (safely stored away) in favor of same-era standard friction tuners. The original Klusons work great but they've had new cheapy ugly buttons installed that really hurt the aesthetic. This uke plays great and has a ringing voice that is especially suited to a pick.


Curiously enough, there headstock veneer is birdseye maple, but you can't see the figure much at all. Bone nut.


Nice and tasteful cherry/orange sunburst on the spruce top.


Ebony fretboard with freshly dressed brass frets and MOP dots.


Soundhole rosette is reminiscent of much earlier Regal ukes and almost identical to the ones on earlier Wendell Hall models from the 1920s and 1930s.


Nice moustache bridge of ebony with a bone saddle. Vintage rosewood pegs have replaced the original plastic ones, which like the tuners, have been safely stored away.


Sides are solid mahogany, as is the back. Nice grain, no?


Side.


Back.


Now here's the curious bit: aside from the original tuners being off and the marks they've left, we can see (faintly) four extra drilled holes that have been plugged up at the factory. I'm wondering if this was originally intended to be strung with eight strings as the spacing would have been perfect for mandolin tuners. Now, supposing that's correct, my other intuition is that this uke is built more like a tiple (the neck is thick and strong and the body quite strong, too) than a tenor uke, which tend to be built much lighter. The neck is also a bit wider than a typical tenor uke, too... which makes me tend to think that this was originally meant for 8 strings and possibly steel ones. It could definitely handle 4 steel ones at the moment... very sturdy. Not to mention, Wendell Hall had old photo-ops while holding tiples... so who knows...?


Side.


Lower bout join.

4/26/2009

c.1905 Bruno "The Vernon" Banjo Mandolin


Here's a picture from last spring for this spring! I sure do miss the little flowers and the clover, that's for sure... but at least it's getting green again up here "in de moontins." This is a very cool banjo-mandolin that I think ended up being shipped to Cyprus. It's more-or-less original, being a mixup of parts from two of the same model from around the same time. Though it bears no label, it originally had a badge on the headstock, and I've seen this type often sold by the New York distributor Bruno under their "The Vernon" brand.


It's a petite banjo-mando of the old style, having a small banjo-uke sized spunover rim with a raised wooden tonering. The scale length is typical, though: 13" -- regular for the time.


And here it is face-forward.


And the stern...


Original bakelite pegs cleaned up very nicely and functioned well.


Headstock front. New plastic nut. Rosewood veneer, too.


Ebony board with pearl dots, original frets, a bit beat up.


I installed a new thick-skin head which had an almost purple cast to it which looked really cool. Tailpiece is a typical mandolin-style type. The bridge is a 3/4" 5-string Grover banjo bridge which I've recut.


Side.


The hardware turned out nice and gleaming on this little guy.


Simple neck brace.


Pot detail.


Pot detail: see that purple hue to the skin? The thicker new skin helped tone down some of the really brutal harshness typical of banjo-mandolins. The extra-light strings helped, too. This one had a really, really nice "clop-clop" or "horsey" sound to it but still had plenty of volume to bite through guitars or whatnot. Really enjoyed the tone.


Tailpiece-up.


Back of the pot again.

4/23/2009

c.1935 P'Mico Collegiate Ukulele



Update 2012: I'm now pretty sure this was made by Kay around c.1935-1940.

Here's the uke from the below post all spruced up. This is a P'Mico brand ("Progressive Musical Instrument Company") uke. Most of these were built in the '40s by Regal, but my bet on this one is that it's an early to mid 1930s uke as it bears the "Collegiate" brand name seen on other instruments (and a number of songbooks and whatnot) from the same time. It also bears a nice old green-font label that looks a little more vintage. The good news? I thought this was a birch uke when I bought it. When I took it out of the box, to my surprise, this is a wide-body soprano with all-mahogany construction, a mahogany fretboard, and fancy 3-ply binding. Original bakelite tuners also point to an earlier date.


Headstock, showing nicely grained mahogany.


Collegiate decal. New washers.


Three pearl dots on the mahogany board with newly-dressed/polished frets and some Worth brown strings.


Nice sculpted extension. Check out the binding! Fun.


Nice sturdy bridge with profiled back.


Soundhole and binding detail. Pretty good grain. This uke is a bit wider than any in my own collection and feels almost like a "dreadnought" among sopranos from this time.


Top.


Fun label in a medium green font.


Side view.


Back.


Back has some previous old repairs and previous separation which I've mended to make secure.


Bakelite tuners. I've added some thick plastic washer/bases left over from modern tuners. These help the bakelite pegs turn nice and smoothly and cushion them from wear. They're also unobtrusive.


Other side.


Some nice grain in the neck and an interesting squared-cut heel. I like.


The sides are all one piece which looks very classy.

4/22/2009

Sushi & Sopranino Tuning on Soprano Uke

First of all, Bonnie and I are devout lovers of vegetarian sushi. She's posted some photos of our first endeavor into making our own at her blog. I have to share simply because I loved it. We put on the Bob Brozman & Takashi Hirayasu album "Nankuru Naisa" and simply went at it like hungry sushi-loving wolves.

Next, and more importantly for you uke folks, here's a hint: if you're one of those uke fellows (like myself) that has an extra soprano uke around, there's something fun you can do! I purchased a set of Aquila nylgut charango strings a while back to have those odd thin gauges of nylgut you can't quite find anywhere else, and because they're extra-long (40" or so?) they're useful for using for strange guitar tunings and whatnot.

Anyhow, I had my lovely flamed-koa Regal uke sitting around collecting dust and I swapped out its old Worths for some of these charango strings (charango is tuned GCEAE bass side to treble). I used a single string each from the C, E, A, and E courses to apply to my uke for D, G, B, and E sopranino tuning. Let me tell you, not only does this sound awesome, but I have enough string for two sets, I didn't have to go out and find an eensy-teensy sopranino uke, and for the $6 the charango strings cost you get all sorts of bizarre high-strung combinations.

Ok! I'll post a video soon of the sound. Enjoy!

Incoming Projects


Mostly you folks get to see "done" photos. Here are some "before" ones. This is an Italian "Il Globo" mandolin, that due to hardware and case style, I'm placing at about c.1900-1910. It's finely crafted out of some nice spruce, a mahogany neck, and a great rosewood bowl. I like the compensated bridge, too!


All appears fine save the split pickguard...


...but the mandolin's top is split down the center, and under the pickguard are a series of little cracks that all need to be cleated. The rosette is dropping, too, and it will need reinforcing. In addition, the binding is separating from the top and the gaps will need to be filled.


Frets need general dressing.


And the headstock-to-neck joint seems (annoyingly) a bit loose. Will have to see.


Here's a tiple I'm restoring for a customer. Looks alright save the bridge is missing, except...


...here play-wear has done some work to the top: there are a couple of hairlines that need gluing here. In addition the neck needs to be set.


The fretboard has been filed or something at the 1st and 2nd, too, and it's missing a nut. Bizarre.


Here's a c.1930s or 1940s P'mico ukulele. I thought it was birch when I bought it but under all this grime is some close-grained koa (or really red mahogany... though my bet is koa, the grain looks it).


Headstock.


Rosewood board and position dots.


Back crack. In addition, the back is pulling off in a couple of places.


Here's an attempt at a repair previously...


And here, too.