9/30/2011

c.1925 Lyon & Healy 0-Size Rope-Bound Guitar





There are no markings on this guitar but it is without a doubt made by Lyon & Healy in Chicago around c.1920-1925 or so. It's almost identical in build quality and style to their American Conservatory (just below high-grade Washburn) line, though I do recall a reference in the good old Washburn book to a Washburn-branded Hawaiian built like this. Either way, the label is long gone, but the glue spot where the round label was affixed is still there in the soundhole.

So, the lowdown? This is an all-solid mahogany guitar, through and through, with fancy (but yet low key) rope binding on the top, back, and soundhole, which gives it that classy down-to-earth Hawaiian look. It's rough a 0-size guitar and features light, but firm bracing (only two braces on the lower bout!) that keeps this guitar going just fine with the extra-light round core strings I have on it (48w-10).

This was definitely intended as a Hawaiian from the outset as it has no strap button on the end block area but looks like it was played as a Spanish instrument after a while (considering the fret divots in the first 5 frets).

As a Spanish guitar the tone is warm, woody, with good volume, and very sweet as both a flatpicker or a fingerpicker. I'll bet it would give a nice soothing slide tone, too, but I currently have the action setup for buttery Spanish play, so the saddle (or nut) would have to go up for that.


My work on this guitar included: neck reset, neck block reglue (it had split from apparently a neck banging incident), related side crack reglue, fret dress, slight saddle/bridge shave, new ebony nut, tuner lube, new unslotted ebony bridge pins, as well as the usual cleaning and setup. Oh, and I cleated a couple of already-repaired (so it seemed) hairline cracks to the top.


From the upscaled quality, I think this might be the L&H Washburn-labeled Hawaiian. I'll have to check my books to corroborate that, though. Either way, it's a first-class little "parlor" size partner. The neck is a big old V shape but like the old Washburns and other Lyon & Healy products, it's quite comfortable to play vs. many of the other brands at the time. Something about the way it fits the hand. Not bulbous...?


Rosewood fretboard and bridge add some class. MOP dots in board. Nickel-silver frets.


Isn't that rope binding just so darn elegant? And the hog is to die for!


I love them Chicago-style bridges. Nice!



Pretty stuff!



While the finish is mostly original, there were some scuff/scratch marks on the back that look like they got a little clear-coating at some point. Does not detract at all as the stuff wasn't spread everywhere! Looks like someone just rubbed in some French polish.


Gorgeous slotted headstock, original tuners, though I replaced 4 of the tuner screws on the plates for better grip. Bakelite buttons.


Here's that 2" hairline on the side from the neck block having been split. All stable now and you don't see it at all when it's in your lap (or, for that matter, when anyone walked by it or tried it out in the store...)...



Pretty hog on this fella.


Tuners work perfectly.




Ah, voila! No end pin = probably setup for raised Hawaiian playing to begin with.

c.1950 Kay Jumbo Flattop Guitar





Big, direct, loud, and fun. That's what these old Kay jumbos are.

Unlike the very top of the line jumbos by Kay from the 40s and 50s, this mid-level jumbo is ladder braced, giving it a very lively, open, and sort of direct and bluesy tone with tons of chop for big country strumming if desired.

It boasts a solid spruce top, one-piece mahogany neck, solid mahogany sides, and a laminate mahogany back. The bridge and fretboard are rosewood, the guitar is bound on the top, back, soundhole, and fretboard, and I've also installed a new bone saddle and ebony nut.


This guitar has seen some playing and use, but I think mostly as a Hawaiian-style lap guitar as there was a slightly raised nut installed (post-factory) and the frets were particularly mint, though tarnished. There are also the tell-tale scrawled number-learning-system marks written on fretboard between frets.

It's converted nicely back to a Spanish guitar -- I've done a neck reset, bridge shave/new saddle, light fret dress (just to be sure), and setup. It plays with an authoritative, punchy tone. The neck has about 1/32" relief to it through the whole length so the action is still good after setup -- 1/8" from the board at the 12th.

I use pretty lightweight strings on these -- 11s to 50w and round-cores -- because Kay used abnormally long scale lengths on these jumbos. This one is about 25 7/8" and I've seen some 26" and a hair beyond as well. This puts a lot of extra tension on the guitar vs. a regular Martin or Gibson scale length which, in turn, means that to keep the lightweight, ladder-braced build safe, I only suggest 11s or lighter strings when folks restring these.


This bridge was reglued (competently) at one point. It also had factory-installed bolts in the wings, which I removed and re-capped with the original decorative dots. Because it had been reglued nicely it doesn't really need the bolts, which can rattle if they loosen up.


Cool archtop-esque pickguard. I put some new wider screws for better hold in this and also used double-sided thin film adhesive to keep the pickguard down flat so it doesn't rattle.


Plastic dots, bound board. Frets are thin, tall (hair over 1/32"), and brass.


Original Kluson tuners (I had to replace one shaft with a spare of the same type I had), nice simple headstock. Note the new ebony nut.




I got most of the numbers off but these ones were a bit dug into the board.



Fun warm cherry-ish/brown sunburst. This guitar is crack free save for a 3" or so glued-up, tight hairline at the end pin.



There you can see the sunburst a little better on the sides. Neck joint is good to go, now.






New ebony end pin.

Inventory Finally Updated

I finally updated my inventory list. Sorry about that, folks, been very busy!

Also, of note, for those into old Oscar Schmidt instruments (like me), I have a very rare, very obscure OS-made chitarra battente coming. YES!

c.1959 Multivox Premier Bantam Electric Guitar





Very. Cool. I'm quite sweet on this guitar, being an archtop fan and also a fan of smaller-bodied instruments.

Multivox products were made by the Peter Sorkin Music Company out of New York City. This "Bantam" line was from the '50s-'60s. All this from scouring the web. Also from scouring the web, I've referenced the serial -- in the 1400s range -- to about 1959. I don't know how accurate this is but judging by the materials and catalog references I'd say it's definitely in the '55 to '60 area.

At any rate, this is a smallish hollowbody guitar (think of the footprint of a slightly oversized Fender Tele but make it about 2-3" deep with an arched top) with a flat back and pressed-arched top, all in pretty laminate somewhat flamed maple. The neck is '50s-feeling and slim side to side, with a 25" scale, which makes it a very slick player, in the realm of a Gretsch-meets-Gibson sort of meld.


The guitar is 100% original, except that the original pickup (a DeArmond-ish sort) has been removed (needs to be rewound) and a (newer?) DeArmond Dynasonic-like pickup has been installed in its place. Either way, the guitar is in fantastic shape for its years, and sounds wonderful.


Cool plastic silver-sparkle topped knobs.


Deco-style stepped tailpiece looks great!


Rosewood bridge.


Toggle switch is "up" for no treble bleed and "down" for mellow, muted chord work.


Note the humbucker ring below the DeArmond -- this has been routed for a humbucker in the past. It's almost tempting to pop a Gretschy TV Jones in there...!


Big old honking MOP dots. Note the marbled effect of the binding on the back/sides -- it's decaying but had been stabilized by the previous owner.


Way cool torch headstock.


Do you see how nice the finish is?




I like the detail of the plate.



...and the flat back makes this ultra comfortable to hold.






Yup, an original beige quality chip-ish case with fancy plush interior. It almost feels like a leather case. Very sturdy but lightweight.