3/30/2010

Lots of emails!


For those of you sorely sad you missed out on that Mele flamed koa uke (and I know there were a lot of you from the stacks of emails in my inbox) -- I just wanted to let you know that this uke -- a 1920s Regal -- from my personal collection, is soon going up on the 'bay. It's super loud -- I used it in a musical, entirely acoustically, and it paced a resonator Vega tenor banjo when strummed with a felt pick. It also sounds great, and is entirely made from flamed Hawaiian koa. And it has that sweet multicolored inlaid marquetry Regal-style decorative touch, too.


Yessir, it's a beaut.




...and why am I parting with it? Too many instruments! It's not like I want to part with it!!!

3/24/2010

c.1920 Mele Flamed Mahogany Soprano Ukulele



Update 2013: I've updated this entry with new info and pics.

This is a nice old Mele-branded uke made by Harmony in the teens/early 20s. It's made entirely out of figured/flamey mahogany and sure looks grand. I worked on this a while back, had it back in the shop, traded it out, and it's traded back in. We musician folk love to trade stuff around, I guess!

That said, it sounds sweet, warm, and excellent for that old-timey 20s recordings sound. It fingerpicks and strums well and feels good in the paws, too. I can't remember what all I've done to this but in recent memory I leveled/dressed the frets and cleated up a small hairline crack to the treble side of the bridge. I know I did more when I first worked on it but can't recall it all, now.


Beautiful flamed 'hog all over, eh?


Typical teens/20s Harmony "rounded shield" headstock top.


Right... the inlay! There's this zipper wood inlay down the neck's top, there's rope binding on the top and back edges, and a rope rosette at the soundhole. It's snazzy!




It's really, really hard to see in the photos but the back has a bunch of figure, too.



The original black bakelite pegs are still going strong. Just tighten the set screw if they slip...



c.1920 Victoria Mandolin


Here's a nice little Victoria, possibly made by Oscar Schmidt? (though it lacks the typical square kerfing you'd expect under the top of an OS)... flatback mandolin. Top is spruce, with "tortoise" inlaid pickguard, back and sides of birch. Bone nut, original ebony/bone bridge, and after cleaning and oiling some just-dandy functional brass-plate tuners with bakelite buttons. It's bound along the top and soundhole with an inlaid backstrip. MOP dots inlaid on an ebony fretboard.


Work done included brace reglues, cleaning, multiple hairline crack repairs to the back, setup, etc. It's a real easy player with a nice direct, but rich tone. It actually sounds a lot like the Washburn bowlback I posted a few entries earlier... which is to say: precise, sweet, with no harshness in the treble or sloppiness in the bass. I like.



The neck is dead straight with frets that have a little playwear but nothing major, lending to a cleanly-playing 1/16" to under 1/8" action... cozy.






Brass-plate tuners w/bakelite knobs. Working great after a bit of cleaning and oiling.




Here you can see those filled/repaired cracks catching some edgewise light.


Tailpiece sans cover, but plenty functional.

Now to embarass my customers...

A little birdy mentioned that there were some videos of a certain Stella tenor being played up on YouTube. I think it certainly landed in capable hands!



And here's a Mr Chesler on his lovely little Camp Uke...



Way to go fellas!

3/22/2010

Upcoming

Some new posts are below, if you've been patiently waiting for me to take photos...! I also have some more instruments coming up in the next few days/weeks. Here's the list so far:

c.1920 Oscar Schmidt "Victoria" flatback mandolin, c.1930 Regal tiple spruce & mahogany, c. 1955 Kay tenor guitar spruce & mahogany, c.1920 Mele ukulele w/flamed koa, c.1920 fancy inline-rim style banjo uke with lots of inlaid marquetry, c.1900 fancy American Conservatory (by L&H) bowlback mandolin w/rosewood bowl, c.1920 SoCal MusicCo koa soprano uke, c.1935 "Radio Tone" by Regal flat-top (but archtop style round hole) guitar spruce & mahogany.

Also, I'll have a customer's higher-end Regal tenor guitar all gussied up and ready to go, and another customer's early 80s Daion double-neck acoustic guitar.

3/21/2010

c.1915 Lange-built Tenor Banjo


These are great, simple, and super-sounding tenors. Like other Lange-built catalog-sold banjos of the period (a lot were sold by Sears under the Supertone name and Lyon & Healy sold some through their catalogs, too), this one has a double-spun rim, which means the "German silver" cladding curls over on both sides of the thin-wall maple rim and forms a nice cover on the bottom and an integral "tone ring" on the top. This gives a distinct, sweet, pretty loud, and rich tone. It's not at all harsh or brash like some later thick maple rims with hoop-style tonerings.

I've taken it all apart, cleaned it all up, polished up the hardware (removing tarnish), put it all back together, and set it up. Plays real easy. It's all-original except for a new cherry nut, new Grover bridge, and strings. The original head is showing wear here and there but still going strong.


Headstock has a big white inlaid celluloid star. The fretboard and headstock veneer look like ebony but are more than likely some sort of dyed fruitwood.


Nickel-silver frets, MOP dots, with one replaced (but period parts-bin) dot at the 12th fret.


Great looking old-timer.



This pot (and all its hardware) was blackened with tarnish and filth before. It's always nice to see a pot like this looking proud again. I forgot to mention that two of the hooks and nuts are replaced, too, but with some parts-bin period replacements.


Here you can see the nice old friction tuners with the grained ivoroid buttons. Of all the friction tuner designs these are my favorite as they rarely, rarely give up the ghost.







It even has its original ebony neck brace shims. Here I've added a parts-bin dowel/rim guard plate so those shims don't rub up against the rim interior.




And to top it all off an original Elite no-knot style tailpiece. Gotta love its simplicity.

c.1940s Custom Kraft Archtop Guitar


Another post-war curiosity from our good friends at Kay. While the "binding" is painted on, this guitar has nice solid mahogany back and sides, a maple neck, ebony fretboard, and spruce top. Both top and back are arched. I've repaired cracks, reglued the neck, popped on some new Kluson-style tuners (the originals were botched), rigged up a bridge with a bone topper and parts-bin rosewood foot, new nut, and away we go.

And how's she play? Wow! Big sound, nice and strident, good volume, good action so it's easy on the hands... 26" scale gives it a good responsive tone. The neck profile feels like an old Martin... and the headstock shape echoes that. Interesting guitar, for sure. The ebony board is radiused a bit, too.


Missing its pickguard, obviously.



MOP dots.


Here's my bone and rosewood bridge. Plenty of sizzle and pop.



Like I said before... nice mahogany back and sides.



While the neck reset is nice and strong (and correct) the heel cap was offset a little which left a tiny gap right at the bottom. Sometimes I wonder about these old Kays... great materials, good build, great voice and feel, but like the painted "binding" -- sloppy here and there in the finished product.



Not bad grain on that solid mahogany slab, huh? It has some repaired hairlines but is downright good to go... and all one piece, too. Two braces are missing inside but it shows no inclination to change its shape. The important brace -- right in the middle of the belly -- is still there.


New Kluson repros. I love these things.



And despite a lot of playwear, the scuffs and scratches really didn't effect that original finish much.




...someone tried to play "doctor" on the tailpiece at one point. It's now dead center where it ought to be. Original ebony end pin.