12/31/2009

Updates?

Sorry for the slow updates to the blog... been busy, and now I'm sick (ugggggh). I'll be posting some really cool stuff soon: what appears to be a mid-1800s big-bodied (Spanish influence?) "parlor" guitar with Brazilian rosewood, spruce, and a mahogany neck -- also a nice 1920s flamed-maple necked simple tenor banjo, several nice 1920s/1930s ukes are also on the way, a c.1880s/1890s Bay State gut-string "parlor" guitar, and also a fun Sovereign banjo mandolin and a customer's 1920s Martin Ditson dreadnought uke, all in mahogany.

12/24/2009

Psst...

If the link below for the album isn't working, try: http://jakewildwood.com

Sometimes it just doesn't like the WWWs.

12/23/2009

NEW ALBUM! Post #200


I've just finished uploading a new album (a shortie 35 minute one) to my website and you can download it for free right away and have a listen. There's a streaming option, track-by-track download option, and also a zip off all the mp3 tracks download option. Lots of options!

The idea behind this album is that all the songs are written from the "historical perspective" of humans wrecking Venus in the same manner that we're wrecking Earth right now -- and then after making their mess, rocketing off to... here.

I'd like to note right now that the main instruments used on this were uke, bass, tiple, and Hawaiian lap steel... though you might not think it as they were all plugged in and muddled up in various ways.

Hope you enjoy this slice of sci-fi! You can get to the download page by clicking here.

12/19/2009

c.1925 Stella by Oscar Schmidt Tenor Guitar


Yowza! Here's something I see so very rarely that it must be a sign... to keep it... no! Cannot! Must not! Ok. This is a really fun Stella tenor guitar, c. mid-1920s, and it sounds great, plays perfectly, and is quite punchy and vibrant. It's entirely original, except for a new bone saddle (the old one is stashed in its original, fitted faux-alligator case), and is, well... in stunning shape. I've repaired one hairline crack next to the fretboard extension, and there are places along the back edge where the side has edged away from the back (though they're glued), but otherwise... in closet classic condition.


Cool stamped and painted Stella logo as well as original Grover Champion pegs.


Super celluloid fretboard with original frets!


Top is bound in celluloid and inlaid with multicolored marquetry all along its edge, as well as the soundhole. Check out the cool celluloid "bat wing" pickguard. Original, too!


Rosette.


Original rosewood bridge, small stable hairline crack on it, with original MOP-inlaid bridge pins! Those are always missing! New bone saddle gives it some more zing.


Headstock again.


Side. Now, I'm not sure what wood the top is. It has the look of spruce in the straightness of its grain and the way the finish grain follows it straight up and down, yet it has a sort of look of birch to the top as well. I'm really not sure at all... I'll have to get my mirror out and check underneath... but either way, the wood is entirely solid.


Side.


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Back.


Pegs work nicely.


Celluloid heel cap, too!


Back... the stripe is simply a decal.


Original MOP-inlaid end pin, too.

c.1925 Bruno by Harmony "Maxitone" Tiple


Another tiple at long last! ...and it's gone just as quickly. I took these snapshots just before it went out the door. Lately the instruments that I've been wanting to hold onto myself (well, but I can't anyway, but I'd like to...!) have been ending up in the very capable hands of a Mrs. Kathy & Mr. Mike... and this is one of them. The last culprits were a Stella tenor banjo and Regal tenor guitar from the 1920s. Now they've added this to their mix... count it all up and you've got a popular song band with period instruments! Heck yeah!


This tiple has had a neck reset, bridge reglue, full setup, a bunch of cleaning, and some crack repairs. It came out of it playing deliciously easy and with a full, strong, super-rich and mellow voice. The neck feels great, too, especially for those chords that ukes make cramped.


For those not in the know, tiples (tee-plays) like this are a North American (ie, US) adaptation of a Colombian instrument that is typically a little larger and tuned a fourth lower. Martin, Lyon & Healy, Regal, Harmony, and various others got in to these kinds of tiples (which are essentially beefed-up tenor-size ukuleles with 10 steel strings) during the height of the uke boom in the 1920s. They're absolutely the coolest instruments I've ever had, and I entirely treasure my 1920s Regal that I use live, for songwriting, and for recording purposes on nearly any endeavor.


This particular tiple has a nice smooth voice and part of that is the wood: birch back and sides (and neck?) with a very quality spruce top (lots of nice wavy figure in the grain on it and tight grain). It plays very nicely (now that it's had a neck reset) with action about 1/8" at the 12th fret and, despite having 10 strings, just as easy on the hands as a uke and far easier on the hands than even a really nicely setup mandolin.


This tiple was made by Harmony (headstock and construction style as well as binding materials and other surviving instruments prove this) and then sold to Bruno who marketed it under their Maxitone brand name.


This is the original bridge, which would have had the strings passing through the end of it on ball ends, though at some point in its past it came unglued, was bolted down, and came up again and ripped the soundboard a little bit underneath. I decided that string tension should be only downwards rather than the sideways and upwards pull of a pin-style bridge, so I installed a newish tailpiece and cut the saddle accordingly. I got more volume out of it by having such a high bone saddle, which was possible due to the neck reset's bigger angle. I also patched the holes in the bridge where the bolts used to be after regluing it.


Side... note binding top and bottom. Not bad!


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Cool birch grain on the back.


Two hairlines repaired on the back, too.

c.1915 Columbia Koa Soprano Ukulele


Here's a fortunate find: a crack-free, great-condition (save for some use wear) Columbia uke made entirely from Hawaiian koa wood, with an attractive orange-red color and strongly accentuated colors. It required a bit of setup and a new set of tuners after cleaning up the finish and reseating some frets, but was otherwise unmolested. It sounds lovely, plays easy, and is pretty loud for a little guy, too. In addition it's a very solid-feeling build so this is a perfect tagalong uke for the beach, campfire, wherever you'd like to go. It'd be great with a pickup for live work, too!


Nice looking koa!


Headstock. Original ebony nut.


Brass frets and yellow-colored MOP dots. Columbias are unusual in that most of them had MOP fret markers, which is kinda nice, if you ask me!


Rosette is simply some light circular cutting of the top.


Grungy label.


Here you can see those colors better.


Really nice looking stuff!


Original bridge in good shape, too!


Side.


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Gotta love the color tone of the wood on this... classic rich koa colors.


Back.


Cozy neck, too!


And a good strong heel.


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And like other Columbias, it has the one-piece side/sides which gives it a very spare, but elegant look.

12/18/2009

c.1900 Lyon & Healy 5-String Banjo


Here's what I like to see in an antique banjo! This is a well-used but not very abused old 5-string, intended for gut (here with Nylgut strings), with an 11" spunover pot. For those not in the know, that means the pot is 1-ply of hardwood wrapped in a brass nickel-silver plated shell, with the top and bottom of the pot having the brass curled or rolled-over. This generates an integral "tone ring" at the top of the rim which boosts volume and clarity. As expected, this has a boomy bottom end with sweet trebles... and it's loud for a gut-stringer, too!


This banjo was made by Lyon & Healy c.1900 or so, and this headstock is their typical shape at the time. It originally would have had wood or bone pegs but they were missing, so I added in modern friction pegs which work just dandy with the Nylgut strings. The nut is new, and cut from the remains of one of those high-tech plastics they used in saddles in the 1960s.


Original frets are all there, and the thin ebony board is worn with loads of honest play-wear, right down to the neck wood. MOP dots. Note the interesting wooden "nut" for the 5th string -- this is not original and is probably a pretty old adaptation. When I repaired a crack at this section I had that 5th string "nut" area off the neck and saw the hole under the fretboard that was drilled for (what was typical then) a tiny screw that the string would have passed through.


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Head is original and skin. Sounds good, too!


This bridge is a c.1920s two-foot tenor banjo bridge that I cut the ebony off of. It had warped on the tenor over time, but a recut top leaves it nice and sturdy and lightweight and sans a top wood, meaning it's perfect for gut strings.


All the hardware on the rim is original save one hook & nut. It's a 30-hook rim.


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Back. Definitely an elegant design.


Peghead rear.


Here's the crack I repaired. I infused a bunch of glue into it and then clamped it all up. It's just as sturdy as if it were never there, now. These cracks are typical when someone unskilled "in the art" tries to install a 5th-string friction peg. It's a very shallow crack and mostly in the surface, but it's frustrating to see this. Remember this when you're thinking of knocking a peg into a neck and you're not sure about what you're doing!


Nice, slim, elegant "boat heel." I think these feel wonderful and I wish more modern builders took this approach. It's much more organic and feels great when you're playing up the neck.


Back.


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1920s-era Waverly tenor banjo tailpiece. The original for this banjo was missing so I used this fellow -- it happens to have just the right number of cuts to make it work perfectly with the knotted ends of the strings.


Neck join is reinforced by two screws into the heel. Typical for the time.


And here you can see that spunover rim. Really lovely, simple construction. I always like the sound of banjos built like this.