9/29/2010

c.1935 Paramount Archtop Guitar with Adjustable Heel


What a peculiar guitar! This one has strange f-holes (unlike the broken holes of Kay, Harmony, or Martin for that matter), an adjustable heel (with full-body-length metal rod from neck block to end block), three-piece neck, rosewood fretboard, pearloid headstock veneer, and get this... wood (rosewood?) binding around the fretboard, top, and back.

In other words -- a strange bird!

Everything's original except for: new Kluson tuners (replacing a replacement set of 60s Japanese tuners), new bridge feet (strangely enough, the bridge topper and adjustment screws were still with it), and also a new strap button at the tailpiece (had none previously).


Aside from the new hardware, I also cleaned the guitar up, gave it a fret dress, repaired and cleated a crack at the top bass f-hole, and gave it a full setup. Plays real fast. The neck is very quick, too -- feels just as slim and easy on the hands as an old Gib.


This guitar's body is all laminate -- three-ply top, back, and sides, with press-arched top and back. It's "tone bar" braced. However -- that laminate is certainly no problem in the tone department. This thing has a big, extremely loud, punchy, and woody tone, that is super sustained.

I still haven't figured out what the woods are exactly, but if I had to guess I'd say the neck was either a birch or maple 3-piece with (rosewood? something?) center. I think the back and sides are birch laminate, but they look suspiciously similar to Lyon & Healy's monkeypod stash from the 20s.


Really cool "tanburst" pearloid headstock veneer. Despite the Paramount name, Lange never made this thing...


Good, fast neck with rosewood fretboard, nickel-silver frets, bound with rosewood binding (including side dots).


Here's part of the adjustable-heel device. This makes setup a breeze. You detune, loosen a bolt at the end block under the tailpiece, adjust these set screws at the heel, then tighten up the bolt at the end block again. Instant neck reset!

It's this weird device that makes me feel like this guitar was some sort of collaboration or sales gimmick from National, though Kay made use of similar technology for a bunch of their instruments in the same era. The wood binding and general style (and especially neck feel) of the guitar, however, don't "feel" Kay to me.


This simple neck adjuster system makes this a perfect road instrument.


Cute detail at the fretboard end.


These "self adjusting" feet were just the ticket in the tone department, and their wide bases held spread string load.


Original (elevated) tailpiece. Added a hunk of maple under the tailpiece base to keep the tailpiece from sagging into the top or pulling unnecessarily hard at the end block's edge.





Cool guitar, yessir. I love the wood binding... gives it a nice understated look.


Twice-replaced tuners. These repro Klusons are a little bit "off-era" but they work great. I've got them lined up following the contour of the headstock, just like the original tuners were mounted.



Tailpiece end. Note the square adjuster bolt for the rod that goes from the end block to the neck block. Adjusting it here tightens or loosens the neck to the neck block. I think that big long rod also





c.1950 Harmony Baritone Ukulele


Yes, another 1950s Harmony baritone uke. Love em. This one, my guess, is a really early one. Wood quality is high, tone is nice, playability (now) is fantastic, and it's simply just a joy to tuck under the arm and play on the couch. This one has had a fret dress, impact-crack repair on the back, saddle shave, cleaning, and setup.

Oh, and new tuner pegs. The originals were a bit worse for wear... though the uke itself is in pretty grand shape aside from the aforementioned small back crack repair. Finish looks good, with a very deep brown... mahogany... color. Looks great with the old tortoise binding and minimalist inlaid rosette.


Bone nut and saddle, original.


Rosewood fretboard with faux-MOP dots. Neck profile is very shallow and quick.


Photos are showing this uke a lot redder than it is... it's a pretty deep brown in reality.



...and the top is for sure quartersawn, more lightly braced than the 1960s models, and has some pretty grain to it.







In case you were wondering, Harmony agreed with my assessment of wood use, too.


Old late 40s/50s label.




If I don't succumb to temptation someone's going to have a lovely new (old) bari. This one's a charmer.

c.1930 Regal Arched Top Reverse Scroll Mandolin


These are rare, nicely-built, and excellent bluegrass or jazz style mandolins, built in the 1930s by Regal and pretty much sold from their catalog or distribtor's catalogs -- like Montgomery Ward, and others. I previously owned this lovely round-hole carved top version (click here) but sold it to foot some bills, and of course later regretted it.

Scale length is 13 3/4" which is a nice "in-between" length.


This f-hole version has a slightly darker, more "liquid" sound that I really like. Aside from my parts-bin tailpiece cover, it's all-original, too. Unfortunately the tortoise pickguard was cracked and crumbled, so I've left it off.


Typical period Regal head stock. Original bone nut. I did a fresh fret dress, hairline crack repairs on the top, a small seam repair to the top, and also slightly recut the bridge topper along with a full setup, cleaning, etc. I also installed a double-sensor K&K pickup.


Action is just about as good as you could ask. It's super fast and the frets are somewhat tall to it feels very very quick. The neck is slightly thicker front to back than the oval-hole model I had before, which is actually much more pleasant to me as I learned on a very big-necked old c.1910 flatback.


Original rosewood bridge.




Unlike the front, the back, sides, and neck finish are all in really nice shape. The front has plenty of pickwear... which is a good thing! Woods are solid spruce top and solid maple everything else, with an "ebonized" maple fretboard.


Tuners are actually really nice engraved models. At some point I'll truly clean them up so they sparkle, but I was too excited to "get behind the wheel" to care too much about aesthetics.



Used an old brass lamp connector part to give the pickup jack a more vintage look. Maybe I'll find an old strap button, too, to finish the look.


Bound top and back and around the two points in cream celluloid.