8/31/2010

Coming Attractions

Cool stuff coming up soon -- c.1950s Martin 5-15T tenor guitar, c.1940s Harmony Monterey archtop guitar, c.1930s Oahu OOO-size all-mahogany guitar (fancy!), c.1930s Regal good quality spruce/maple archtop guitar, c.1970s Ibanez/Alvarez J-200 copy guitar, c.1940s/50s Kay jumbo flattop setup as baritone guitar, c.1900s unmarked (L&H?) spruce/quartersawn oak "parlor" guitar, c.1950s Harmony baritone uke, and various customers' instruments.

Excited? I am!

c.1934 Supertone by Harmony 14-fret OO Guitar


Fun guitar -- with the 14"+ lower bout, 14-fret neck, and proportions of a Martin OO-size model from the same era. It's got a spruce top, birch back, sides, and neck, sunburst finish, and is bound in cream celluloid on the top and soundhole. Fun stencil position markers, decent Kluson-esque tuners with original buttons... and a quirky typically-Harmony pickguard. Oh, right... these were made by Harmony for Sears who branded them "Supertone" and sold them out of their catalog.

This is a customer's instrument and I did a fret dress, cleaning, and installation of a quite short replacement bridge (the original was cracked and too high). The guitar's neck was set nicely and the board and extension were straight, but because of (probably) medium strings and a lightly braced top, the top had domed making the original bridge and saddle far too high. Unfortunately I couldn't get it perfect without a neck set to compensate for the top change, but I did get it to play nicely in the 1/8" to 3/16" zone at the 12th/14th fret area...


What I love about this guitar is its loud, bright, woody, and direct tone... plus the Harmony necks from this period feel great! While the workmanship and fit & finish is not as details as competitors Regal or Kay, the necks are much more modern feeling and faster...


Original bone nut.


Original brass frets. Dyed hardwood fretboard.


This is a 1/8" thick ebonized cherry bridge I made in the style of the old fret-saddled Harmonies from the 1920s and 30s, to look the part.


Label. Not sure on this model... it's very much like the Gene Autry "Round Up" guitar from c.1936 and on (the better version), but minus the natural-finished top and stencil.



The finish is in great shape and is a simple satin look.


Tuners oiled up and ready.


Good heel join.


8/27/2010

c.1941 Regal "Buck Jones" Cowboy Guitar


Waaaaay cool! I've always wanted to work on one of these and I luckily found one to do so. I have to say I'm very pleased with the tone, feel, and quality of build. This is a simple, O-size, 12 fret "parlor" model -- Regal-made and in their typical O-size body shape -- sold by Montgomery Ward and with a fantastic stencil-over-sunburst-finish of Buck Jones the cowboy movie star and his horse Silver. Did I mention the cacti?

This is just about the only nice old "cowboy guitar" made save for the Harmony-built early-version Gene Autry guitars from the 1930s. By nice I mean it has a solid spruce top, solid maple back, sides, and neck, with dyed maple fretboard... and real celluloid binding. This very model succumbed to World War II and after 1942 it was essentially a birch, painted-binding model. This early version is loads better with sound, tone, and volume to match.

...which reminds me, this guitar was introduced in the fall of 1940 and by 1942 this version was no longer build.


My work included regluing a back hairline crack, fret dress, setup including nut work, and modification of the original bridge to include a new bone saddle as opposed to to original fret saddle. I also (sadly) had to replace the original Kluson 3-on-a-strip tuners, with some new Grover openbacked tuners but luckily was able to reuse the metal covers for them... so it keeps the original look, except for the fact that the tuner buttons are now silvery as opposed to cream bakelite.



What's nice is that despite the fretboard being "ebonized" it's still a nice hard maple, so it puts up with a lot of wear and tear.


Really gorgeous scene on this guitar... and add to that a sunburst finish everywhere on it and you've got one styling machine.




Some definite use wear near and under the strings, but luckily the best part of the image is spared.


The clouds on this image are totally attractive.


I forgot to mention that the tailpiece was missing. I scavenged this tenor guitar tailpiece (c.1930s) from my parts bin and drilled out the holes a little bit so I could squeeze two to a slot for the A&D and G&B strings. I used this tailpiece because I didn't want to cover up the cool scene and also wanted something that looked the part.




Just one longish hairline that's been repaired, otherwise okee-dokey.



Super cool tuner covers give it a fantastic retro look.


Good tight heel.


Original end pin.





A nice one, for sure! Sound is loud, punchy, very sustained, and with a lot of rich overtones. When driven it gets punchier and when fingerpicked it's sweet and mellow with that "old timey" tone -- not too dry and boxy and bluesy without a lot of character, but with that clarity and definition and a lot more "rich" in the mix.

The bracing is very simple -- transverse braced which means one slanting brace below the soundhole favoring bass response, one giant brace below the bridge, and one above the soundhole below the fretboard extension.

8/20/2010

c.1930 Martin O-17 Guitar


I've been slowly but steadily getting this guitar back into shape for a customer of mine. Serial number places this guitar at 1930 and it's a great example of Martin's "entry" level instruments... lightyears ahead of the competition's models in the same vein, and yet plain, unornamented, and seriously cool.


Body is the familiar 0-size in the 12-fret-join variety, with body and neck made entirely from solid mahogany of a decent grade. Fretboard on this guitar is a replacement and is rosewood. The bridge is a new replacement and is ebony. While the original nut was probably ebony, the one that's on it is quite old and bone. Per the customer's request I took out and filled in some poorly-inlaid MOP dots and in their place installed regulation Martin-style pattern pearl dots.


The only decorative touches to this instrument are the inlaid, very simple rosette, and a rosewood headstock veneer.


Also per the customer's request, I "spruced up" the top and in general, the finish. When I received the guitar, it had electrical-tape "pickguards" on either side of the soundhole and the whole instrument had some sort of bizarre lacquer that was moisture-sensitive and getting gummy around the edges and neck. In addition it had a reverse-belly Gibson-style bridge installed which looked really bad.

I very lightly sanded and then polished up through a few layers of yucky old finish, and then sprayed a couple coats of lacquer on the top, back, sides, and headstock, followed with polishing, of course. The result is a much nicer looking instrument with approximately the correct thickness of finish on it. It's not perfect because the cruddy old job still shows here and there, but it is a zillion times better and the grain pops out in the sunlight now.



Original brass-plate, bakelite-buttoned tuners.


Nice, simply rosette.


I reused the old synthetic saddle, but after installation of the new ebony pyramid bridge and some ebony bridge pins, this guitar is much louder, sweeter-toned, responsive, and in general... better.


This guitar features typical Martin x-bracing, but the braces are super lightweight and nicely made -- a far cry from the 1970s-style bracing the company used later on.






Oh, per the customer's request, I also sanded down the back of the neck to a very, very thinly finished point, and then polished it up a lot. This gives you protection for the wood but the feel of a "speed neck" -- not to mention, you'll never need to worry about your hand getting "stuck" on a hot summer day.



The guitar is fitted with a K&K Pure Western pickup which sounds awesome. This had a poor old DiMarzio soundhole pickup in it when I received it. For amplified tone -- this is a huge improvement.