10/30/2009

c.1965 Truetone Archtop Mandocello Conversion

Pictures will come later, but check out this video of an old Harmony-built archtop that I've converted into a mandocello. Work included a neck reset, new tuner hole cutting, tailpiece mod, and bridge re-cut. 26" scale, feels nice. Enjoy!

c.1925 The Stag Banjo Mandolin


Good things sometimes come in twos... like the two banjo mandolins (this one and the Vega in the last post) in the store right now. Like the Vega, this is a high-quality build, but this one (marked "The Stag") was most likely made by Slingerland (I think?) in Chicago. It features a skunk-striped maple neck with a big thick maple pot and serious round metal tonering. It has a great, poppy, shimmery tone and plays excellently. Stock narrow spacing of the string pairs and a 14" scale give the illusion that you're playing only 4 strings, which makes this a very fast player.


Nice MOP inlay in ebony on the fretboard and headstock overlay.


Cute diamons. Bound ebony board.


Rim is a little larger than the Vega and the original skin head has long since disappeared. This is an older frosted-back Remo that sounds just dandy... though my personal preference would be an Elite amber or Renaissance head.


More of those grommets to dampen harsh overtones...


Side 3/4.


Nice original W.M. Co. tuners with ivoroid buttons.


Note the attractive details: 3-ply heel cap with skunk-striped neck and marquetry inlay on the rim with pretty (walnut?) rim cap.


Side.


Multicolored marquetry detail. Nice.


Very cool shield & "hart" logo on the dowel.


Neck brace.


Pot rear...


...


...


A little larger than the Vega but still comfortable proportions when playing. I really do enjoy the 14" scale which keeps tension nice on my banjo-mando custom sets (028w/022w/012/009). Heavier strings give a banjo-mando a weird, unattractive tone and often put too much tension on the neck area.


Tailpiece. Note funky wire home-repair. Serviceable!

10/29/2009

c.1926 Vega "Little Wonder" Banjo Mandolin


Sometimes big things come in small packages -- like this fiesty, tasteful Vega banjo-mando. Serial places it as a 1926 build. It features the "Little Wonder" tone ring, which is essentially half a spunover rim with thicker round ring mounted over a thicker maple rim. Everything is original to it, save one hook, nut, and shoe and the tuners -- which are replacements c.1930 or so, and are (surprise!) Waverlys. Nice touch!


After the usual overhaul: taking it all apart, thorough cleaning, fret polishing, and rebuild and setup, this thing plays great, looks great, and is quite loud without being harsh or overbearing. It has that nice plunky clop-clop sound that banjo-mandos (when setup right) are known for, with the typical Vega clarity (and quality) that is often lacking in lesser instruments.


It's a plain instrument but nonetheless has a grooved tension hoop, MOP dots on an ebony board, and binding along the board. The pot has tortoise binding on its bottom edge, to boot.


Nice extension gives you plenty of notes. That's the original skin head, too!


Typical mando-player's rubber grommets below the tailpiece are a necessity on banjo-mandos, as the super-sensitive head can give really, really ugly overtones via that extra vibrating length when played hard.


...


This Vega has great "composure" -- it's not bulky or awkward in the lap despite the big rim-to-neck ratio.


...hardware's in great shape.


...


...


Rim back.


Maple neck with "skunk stripe" lamination for strength (and class). Note 1930s-style Waverly tuners.


Cool 3-ply heel cap.


Pertinent model info.


Good quality neck brace.


Serial (matches the pot serial, too).


Side.


...


Definitely a great alternative instrument for your mando herd.

c.1910 Adams Brothers Parlor Guitar


Let me begin with a big "sorry for no updates." Our DSL has been out since heavy rain on Saturday and Fairpoint Communications (now going bankrupt) has the most entirely useless, abusive customer service I can imagine. It took them until Wednesday to get a techie out to us and we're still not online. I'm writing from our local lovely cafe (Seasoned Books & Bakery in Rochester, VT) and pulled some photos over so I can at least give you a glimpse of the huge amount of instruments I've recently put out in the store.

That said, this is an excellent guitar. It's a c.1910-1920 or so, probably Chicago made, "parlor" (really a concert size for the times) guitar intended for gut strings and classical or ensemble music. It is incredibly high quality, though a life of suffering through light steel strings has caused it some belly (which I've rectified to some extent). It's setup perfectly with 1/8" action and sings at the lightest touch.


This guitar had some work done in the past on its lower bout and apparently at some point someone used tiny screws to align the bridge for re-gluing (as the tiny screws don't go through the bridge plate and aren't structural -- I may remove them soon and patch). Since acquiring it I've crafted a new bone saddle for it and dressed its frets, along with thorough cleaning, setup, etc. It has a new set of Aquila nylgut strings that give it that excellent period feel.


Did I mention quality materials? The neck is one hunk of beautiful mahogany, the fretboard and bridge are rosewood and there's some nice MOP on the board, the top is nicely-grained spruce and the back and sides are striking quartersawn oak. Everything is original to the instrument save the new bone saddle.


Nice inlay.


Very cool multicolored rosette marquetry. Note the attention to detail in the appointments. Also, the top is transverse-braced like my own c.1880s oak-bodied gut-stringer, which suggests a built of no later than 1920 (or so) to my thinking. It also suggests Lyon & Healy or other Chicago makers who were using that type of bracing quite a bit.


Elegant bridge. Oops, forgot to mention the pins are new-ish.


Label. If anyone has more information on the Adams Bros, please do tell.


Ah! A glimpse of that super-cool quartersawn oak!


Breath held yet?


Note the nice sculpting of the headstock/neck "join."


Someone reset the neck in the past, too, and a good job they did.


Inlaid center-strip.


Side. Pay attention to this profile: do you see how the upper bout's back is "bent?" That focuses the bass tones to eliminate a muddy sound. Quite advanced for the time, really, and telling of the quality of this instrument. The maker was thinking.


Oodles of beautiful oak.


...aaaaah...


...


...


Good quality plate tuners. Buttons are ivoroid.


...


...