2/23/2010

Next up?

Coming up for your viewing pleasure is a c.1900s/1910s balalaika that was US-made and fancy as any quality Vega bowlback mandolin or Weymann of the time, a c.1920s Regal tiple with curly mahogany back and sides, a c.1890s Lyon & Healy bowlback mandolin, and uh... various other things.

2/21/2010

c.1925 Harmony Mahogany Parlor Guitar


Nice! This guitar is entirely original save the nut and bridge, is crack-free save for a 1" on the top lower bass bout edge, plays great, sounds great, and looks great. It's a perfect blues or old-timey guitar with a direct, open, and loud, up-front tone. Plenty of natural "reverb" too. Notes leap out. Did I mention the finish, aside from a few scuffs, is more or less flawless and original?

This is more than definitely a Harmony build from the 1920s -- headstock shape, body form, bracing, inlaid marquetry, etc. all conform to other guitars I've worked on. This one has some spectacularly pretty solid mahogany throughout, however -- top and back are both one-piece and the back has curly figuring, the sides have nice swaths of pretty "depth" to the grain, and the neck is a cozy, medium-v shape that suits a fingerpicker's hand quite nicely.

It's also super lightweight.


Repairs included resetting the neck, setup, and new nut and bridge, as well as the usual cleaning, fret polishing, etc. Someone tried to steam the neck off at one point with a hole drilled through the 12th fret but apparently never followed through. There are also a couple amateur seam reglues on the back/side joint, but nothing to cause alarm. All is well.


Original brass-plate & bakelite-buttoned tuners. New bone nut.


Some type of nondescript hardwood fretboard, with MOP dots and brass frets.


You can see where the 12th fret had been pulled out rather crudely - chipping. The cracks in the board have had a bit of glue wicked down into them.


Nice looking hog on the top, huh? The finish is a ruddy brown color that's super attractive.




New rosewood bridge is a repurposed mandolin bridge. The resonator-guitar style tailpiece is original as the mounting holes and wear marks match up perfectly. I sort of wonder if this guitar was intended for lap playing from the get-go as the tailpiece angle was previously much higher as if this guitar were intended for a high floating bridge.


Nice multicolored marquetry inlay.




Cool three-ply heel cap looks nice.






Really just some fantastic looking mahogany on this guitar!



...lovely wood!


And the end-pin area has an end-strip, too!

2/20/2010

c.1925 Oscar Schmidt "Sovereign" Banjo Mandolin


What a treat! This is a nice 10" pot banjo mandolin, mid-1920s vintage, built by Oscar Schmidt out of New Jersey. It's branded "Sovereign" which was their upscale house brand, and for good reason: nice hardware, MOP-inlaid and bound ebony fretboard, good three-piece neck, and great tone. It's got a 14" scale (most are 13"), too, which gives this thing excellent, super-slick action. It's probably one of the easiest-playing mandolin necks from the period that I've had the chance to sit down with. Did I mention it sounds great, too?

Aside from regluing the dowel, I've cleaned it up, installed a new Renaissance head (I love these...), set it up, and popped in a new nut and a rosewood flattop-style mandolin bridge. The big bridge as opposed to a banjo style bridge is for several reasons: the tension is high with mando strings, so it's good to spread the tension out over more space. This also dampens down really harsh treble sounds and gives me a firm (less prone to move up and down..) base to get the action perfect with the head at proper tension. The sacrifice with this is a little less volume, but with this thing easily matching pace and exceeding the bluegrass mandolins I've had through my stable, I'd not be worried about that so much.


Headstock... star MOP inlay.


Nice MOP in the ebony board. Note a chip hole at the 11th fret. OS often kept their fretboards in place while they glued up with a pin at the 2nd or 3rd fret and another at the 10th, 11th, or 12th fret depending on the instrument. This chip probably started as that tiny pin hole and grew with wear and tear. No effect on playability.


Rim.


Rosewood bridge... note the harmonic dampeners on the tailpiece end of the strings. Also, the tailpiece cover is missing.


Side.


Rim detail.


Back.


Tuners. A couple are a little rough but are in pretty good shape considering.


Rim/neck join.



Sovereign brand stamp.



Overall: a nice player, with a good, clop-clop horse-hoofy sound. That's just the way a banjo-mando should sound: sweet and not harsh on top, with a poppy bottom. These things are great if you have an open mind about playing mandolin: they sound super with crosspicking chords behind a guitar and can easily lend that driving rhythm that a 5-string with fingerpicks gives.

c.1930 Reed Walnut Soprano Ukulele


I've worked on one other Reed uke built exactly like this save that it was built entirely from mahogany. This one, however, is entirely built from walnut... which looks nice, sounds nice, and, uh... is nice! I'm not too sure of the maker of these instruments, but they were marketed by Reed out of Chicago, and my guess (based on near identical body style, bracing, headstock shape, etc.) is that this was possibly made by Regal for them.

This uke had some work done to it previously with a number of securely-repaired, if not perfectly executed, cracks, followed by a neck reset that left the angle just a hair too "forward." There's also an overspray to the top of the instrument, but it's so thin that the tone is not effected. I've reglued a couple of hairlines, reseated a number of frets, cleaned it all up, and set it up. Part of the work involved reshaping the bridge as its saddle was too high and the intonation was off.


Top and back are bound in black celluloid, the fretboard is ebony with MOP dots an curiously ends at the body join, like an upscaled stylized Hawaiian-ish build. Tuners are the typical bakelite kind you see on most ukes from the time. It's super lightweight and very responsive.


The neck is a three-piece type, walnut/ebony/walnut, or if not ebony some sort of dyed hardwood.


Nickel-silver frets with MOP dots. A very nice, wide, comfy board.


Bridge with new profiling to the front. There's a bit of glare on it from the sun.


Simple rosette.


Side.



Back. The color of the uke is a nice chocolate brown.


Bakelite pegs with some paint splatter on them... unfortunate but adds some character.


Here you can see that skunk-stripe neck construction a little better. This makes for a good, strong neck.




Not to mention: nice little inlaid end-strip.


...and an original brown case!