7/29/2009

c.1930 Harmony Johnny Marvin "Tenor" Ukulele


This is a customer's Johnny Marvin "tenor" (it's really a concert size) ukulele, and what a nice one! I reset its neck, reglued its bridge, and set it up, and couldn't help but take a few photos before I pack it to go back to its destination.


Body. A nice subdued sunburst.


Side, showing how good the finish is compared to most of these old Johnny Marvins.


Back.


Binding top, back, and soundhole, and solid mahogany throughout. The tone on this guy is very sweet, open, and charmingly "professional." Lots of sustain and volume with good snap, especially with these new Aquilas on it.


Headstock: don't mind the bit of sawdust on it. :)


Good quality vintage Grovers.


(Now) a nice tight neck join.


...and a brand new hardwood dowel to replace the original one (which was cracked).


New bridge reglue is a lot healthier now. When this came in, one gentle pass without heat of my separation knife took it right off. I'm not quite sure what glue it had been reglued with before but it was like taking jelly off a PB&J. The bone at the nut and bridge really helps tone, by the way.

And that's that!

7/24/2009

c.1930 Gretsch "Jack Pumpkinhead" Banjo Ukulele


Halloween comes early this year! Here's my wheelbarrow-full of banjo-uke fever! I wish I had taken "before" photos of this banjolele, because when I found this poor old Gretsch-made (unmarked, but typical style for a Clarophone or Gretsch of the time) uke, it was totally filthy in the "beyond hope" kind of way. Nevertheless, it's made a full recovery, and now sports a Halloween-themed paint job and new skin head.


This is a maple banjo-uke throughout and has a nice wide-profile neck that's very reassuring and comfortable to play.


My painted-orange headstock with "antiqued" finish. Looks the part...


This uke's head was torn and water-damaged and moldy... hence a new "vintage" head. I've been storing this one since last Halloween, when Bonnie printed some of her card images on a couple of spare heads of mine. It just happened to be the perfect size to fit this banjo-uke! The skin is cut down from a torn old 5-string head, but is nice and thick and durable, just what you need for good tone on a banjolele: thicker heads bring out a sweeter, plucky tone.


Maple on-the-neck "board" with MOP dots. Nickel-silver, polished-up frets.


Note the missing hook & shoe: there are two missing pairs in this set (8 here, 10 originally), and due to the large bolt size for these I figured I wouldn't find something nice to match. What to do? Obviously, I used a couple of nicely-fitting round-hole bolts, and made myself some decent strap buttons! (They work nicely, too, especially if you use a mandolin strap and play it f-style bluegrass fashion!)


Image.


Side.


Other side.


Hardware cleaned up way better than I thought it would. It was soooo grungy.


Detail...


Back.


New Grover pegs work just dandy.


Interesting bit here: the "tailpiece" string stopper is also part of the tension hoop. I actually really like this. It simplifies things quite a bit and removes a bulky tailpiece.


Here you can see the orange of the headstock and the maple pop out.


Headstock again. New nylgut strings, which are all I'm going to use from now on for banjo-ukes. The drier, pluckier, sweeter tone is far superior to any other type strings on a skin head. Tones down the "ringiness" inherent in small rims.

7/23/2009

c.1920s Bohm Waldzither Restoration (Completed)


Finally! This is Mr. Mark's German Bohm waldzither finished and ready to play, make people smile, whatnot. Work included some crack repair, finish touchup/resto, parts polish, some replacement inlay, new black lacquer for the neck, and a new rosewood bridge with bone saddle. It's also got a fresh new K&K pickup installed (passive, high-output). Sounds awesome! Listen in on this video:




Strutting its stuff...


Pretty watch-key tuners all cleaned up.


As are the frets and fretboard. The replacement inlay is my 10-petal flower on the 3rd fret.


Soundhole label.


Here's my new compensated rosewood bridge with a big whopping bone saddle. It's "adjustable" via insertion of spacers underneath the ends of the bone saddle. I have two bone spacers in it now setup for a little under 1/8" string height at the 12th fret. It would be interesting to test different materials out under the saddle to see how they effect tone on this bridge design. I made an earlier, smaller bridge, which gave this thing plenty of kick, but was a little too "bright." This design retains the kick but gives the instrument a prettier tone, sweeter and more complex.


Detail.


Here's one of the three spliced cracks.


The blue is the pickup wires taped together so they don't rattle.


Side.


The finish on the sides and back was pretty beat up with a bunch of scratches. I've color-matched and minimized most of them and then applied two topcoats (very, very thin) of rubbed-in varnish to bring back luster on the top, back, sides.


Scroll was previously marked-up all over with wood-colored scratches. It and the neck are now a more uniform, vintagey-looking black lacquer.


Back.


Back again.


Nice ornamentation.


Scroll back.


Neck back.


Other side.


Pickup jack and tailpiece. I had to move this tailpiece slightly left as it was not originally installed on-center with the rest of the instrument.


Upsy-daisy!

7/22/2009

c.1920 George B. Stone 14" Snare Drum


Drums are one thing I really don't work on ever too often, but I found this fellow in a disassembled and grungy state and thought it needed to get back to business. This is a 14" snare made by the Boston manufacturers George B. Stone & Sons, and it was probably made around 1920-1925 or so. Patent date on the stretcher for the snares is 1909.


Badge on the beater side tension hoop. This drum is a single-ply maple shell with maple tension hoops and (not pictured) it also has its original flesh hoops if someone in the future desires skin heads on it. I've put a new pair of Evans heads on it and the sound is lush and big, especially tasty with brushes.


This drum was often sold as part of a set from their catalogs "back in the day."


I've spruced up the hardware (corrosion removal, polishing, etc.) and cleaned up the rim, and despite years of sitting around probably in the corner of a barn, the finish was in pretty good shape.


Here's the interior label seen through the snare side.


Nice looking maple on this drum.


I would love to make a banjo out if this huge pot... but I won't!

Due to a lack of original snares (they were sort of a wound cord back then as opposed to the wires we know now) I've attached just three strands of dead old classical guitar wound strings (similar to the wound cord, but not really "true") to hear how it sounds.

If anybody is interested in this, feel free to contact me. It's just hanging out in the studio at the moment.