5/31/2009

Waldzither Restoration


Here are some progression shots of a German waldzither that I'm working on for a customer. After a bit of cleaning I've filled these two top cracks with new spruce. The new wood is much whiter than the original wood but after a bit of color, varnish, and a few years of time it'll be much closer to the same color.


This hairline crack along the fretboard was also filled with new spruce, too.


As you can see, the original finish (after cleaning) still has some decent gloss, but is marred by a ton of scratches, scuffs, and grime.


As is the back!


Here I've been polishing up the frets.


The black lacquered neck is also riddled with use wear.


Here are those filled cracks after a touch of amber color and some new varnish. As you can see, they're much closer in color than before, but like most fill repairs, they won't match perfectly without a good sanding and refinishing of the area.


They're much less visible in this photo with less glare (due to the storm clouds moving in).


Here you can see my touchup on the sides: I've minimized what could be minimized, removed all the scuffs, and applied color to match in the worst of the nicks and scratches. After that I've top-coated (very thinly) to seal it all and bring back some shine to this finish.


Here's the other side, which was worse off -- but still much improved from the photos above.


Here you can see it better: only big gouges that've chipped at the old finish really stand out at all and then really only at certain angles.


The fretboard has improved dramatically: the rosewood is now cleaned up and conditioned and has a deep, attractive color.


Soundhole: the ebony was starting to dry-crack in various places around this inlay. I've filled the cracks for stability and applied a thin layer of varnish to seal, which also brings out the color better, too.


I've managed to rub a bunch of glue down into areas where the binding and purfling was showing any gaps and have removed any movement. Now, after a nice cleaning and a thin coat of varnish, the colors really pop out.


The crack along the neck is looking better, too.


I've also started to touch up (a bit) areas where the black lacquer had been rubbed away and was showing wood. After a couple coats of varnish the touchup will blend better with the original.


As you can see, I haven't redone every little bit, but left it looking as original as possible (but still desirable).


Here's the back, looking a little muted because of the cloud cover, but really overall much much better.


Here's the back at a different angle so you can see some of the remaining wear marks.

5/27/2009

c.1960 Carmencita Baritone Ukulele


I don't work on near as many baritone ukes as I do normal ukes so it's always fun when I'm pleasantly surprised by one. This one in particular is probably an early to mid 1960s model and while it probably wasn't a super-expensive uke in its day, it does have features that are desirable: it has an all-solid spruce top, all-solid somewhat flamed maple back, sides, and neck, a bound rosewood fretboard, bound top and back, checker purfling and soundhole rosette, and rosewood bridge. The construction is very tough so I used the A, D, G, and E strings from a D'Addario classical set to string it up. The tone: super sustained, very much like a good-quality classical guitar. Rich.


Some folks say Carmencita was a Hofner subsidiary. I know it is now, but back then I'm guessing not. This uke's checker binding and style looks a lot like some Japanese ukes I've seen from the same time period, so my guess is that this was a Japanese creation as opposed to West German. Either way: it's a great player and sounds especially good for melody playing.


Headstock with curious dark-streaked stain on the neck wood.


Rosewood bound fretboard with side position dots.


Very cool checkerboard rosette with nice spruce top.


The bridge is a typical classical-style one save for the (apparently factory installed) bolt. I've reprofiled the saddle during setup.


Funky label.


Side.


Detail.


Back.


Back detail showing some of the light flame in the wood. If this is Japanese, could this be Japanese maple? That would explain some of the different (but similar) qualities of the wood vs. typical American hard maple.


Join.


Side detail.


End join. Overall, an unsung, nice-quality player's uke. It's LOUD too!

Tiple Video

I finally got around to recutting the saddle area on the Wizard tiple's bridge and installing a new micarta (Martin bone simulant) saddle. This got intonation a bit better and the action down just a hair (where it needed to go). The volume didn't go up much (probably as a result of lowering the action) but the clarity and balance string-to-string is much better. This thing sounds very smooth now, especially with the GHS 85/15 "vintage bronze" set on it. Anyhow... you can hear it yourself in this video I just made up earlier:


5/24/2009

c.1890 Unmarked "Red" Violin


Well, I went a-marketing today and luckily found this lovely fiddle. My dating is simply a guess from the wooden case, but if the case doesn't match the violin, I would guess that this was c.1900-1920 and European in origin, probably German. Like I said, absolutely no markings, but the wood is quite nice: flamed sycamore for the back, sides, and neck and a good spruce top. The varnish is a deep, pretty luminescent cherry color that "sunbursts" out at the four corners of the body and center of the back. As you can see, it comes (remarkably) with a bow that actually has all its hair left. Think of that!


I finished this thing off entirely today: glued up some open seams in the morning, cleaned it and spruced up the finish (200% improvement... it was pretty grim) after they dried, and set it up this afternoon. I'm using 2 steel strings for the A & E and a wound gut for the G and plain gut for the D. This is the arrangement that was left at the loose tailpiece when I got it, but I've used my stash of vintage gut fiddle strings to bring it back in full here.


Detail.


I'm including what's left of the original pegs with this violin when it sells but I've replaced the pegs with some Grover mechanical friction tuners (of my own configuration) for ease of use. This simply removes the need for fine tuners, and if one desires to replace the plastic buttons with ebony, ends up looking rather fancy in the end.


Bridge is the original that came with it and has an ebony insert for the E.


Tailpiece.


Side.


Side detail.


Back.


Beautiful 2 piece flamed sycamore back.


Other side.


Other side detail.


Overview.


The purfling looks the part on this one.


End pin.

c.1920 Bruno "Maxitone" Mahogany Ukulele


Quick post: this is a nice c.1920 mahogany uke with rope binding and inlay top, back, soundhole rosette, and fretboard/headstock. Great player, nice sound, but woefully misused in its day. It's definitely a bit worn in but restored pretty nicely. Ok, off for pizza!