7/31/2012

c.1935 Unmarked Round-hole Archtop Guitar




Update: This does appear now to actually be an Oscar Schmidt product.

While at first glance this appears to be a rather plain tailpiece-loaded flattop "parlor" guitar, it's not! This one is actually a round-soundhole archtop patterned after the early-mid 1930s Gibson round-hole archtops. It's a 13 1/2" body (0-size) instrument with a "12 fret" length (meaning taller upper bout) but coupled with a 14-fret neck and long 25 1/2" scale. For its age and build level (this is roughly "student" grade) it's in phenomenal condition. I just had to give it a fret level/dress, cleaning and setup at the nut.


All hardware is 100% original which is nice, and the only "cracks" are a not-through, tight pickguard-screw hairline on the upper bout and a very tiny not-through crack on the back near the heel.

Woods: dyed mystery-hardwood for the fretboard, poplar neck, solid birch body, rosewood bridge. The saddle is bone but the nut appears to be celluloid or similar. Binding is painted on with the exception of the soundhole "rosette" which is celluloid binding.


Nice slotted headstock and round-hole archtop vibe gives this very much a "Django" look. It sounds great for that sort of music, too -- loud, driving, percussive when dug-into, and balanced throughout with a longer scale that suits "custom light" (52w-11) or lighter strings quite well. This actually had old LaBella gypsy-jazz strings on it when I got it... so someone else had the same idea, too!


The grain on the top is pretty cool. While it's obviously birch, the sunburst and interesting graining makes it look almost like walnut or similar here and there.


Good, well-fitted rosewood/bone bridge. The bracing under the top is 3x ladder braces on the lower bout and one above the soundhole.


Celluloid pickguard.


Plain-Jane pearl dots, original brass frets.



Despite the clumsy painted-on "binding" this has a really cool look to it.


Great heel join.






Original strap button, too.

7/30/2012

c.1935 Regal Tenor Guitar




This bare-bones version of the classic Regal tenor dates a little later than most of them at probably around 1935. It's all-solid birch with a poplar neck and dyed fretboard. It has a sort of cool medium "red-brown-burst" that looks nice over the plain grain of the birch and unlike other "student" version of Regal guitars from the time, this one actually has real celluloid binding which keeps the trim smart and neat.

This is #2 of 5 tenor guitars I picked up from Aaron Keim recently, and needed the basics -- seam separation reglue jobs, fret level/dress, cleaning, new (banjo) bridge, and setup. Curiously, the neck is straight but it seems like the fretboard itself was not installed with a quite flat face which meant even though the frets were seated well they were a little peculiar up near the extension. The dressing and leveling took care of that, but it was a quirkly little thing to see.


This has a 21" scale and with these regular 32w, 24w, 14, 10 strings on it, really belts it out with authority. The neck also feels nice and fast and the 12-fret join means this has a lot of body so the bridge is centered right in the sweet spot for tone.


Original friction pegs and wood nut.


Clay or celluloid dots in the board. Original brass frets.


Though non-original, this had a 1930s-era tenor banjo bridge on it that looked good, but was a bit tall. I replaced it with this nice 1920s-repro Grover 2-foot tenor bridge.


Good "Bell Brand" tailpiece takes ball and loop-end strings.



This tenor guit is remarkably clean.




Typical inexpensive period friction pegs.




A strap button can always be installed through the lower screw-mount on the tailpiece hanger.

7/29/2012

c.1928 National Style 1 Resonator Mandolin




I've been having some very cool stuff through the shop. How does one follow up after a 1918 Gibson harp guitar and a 1930 Martin style 15 mando? ...with a vintage National, of course!

This one is very early production and has serial #212. This seems to date it to 1928, which makes sense, as it has the "original style" single cone with the unembossed (no ridges) profile. It's got the lovely German silver body in really good shape. I cleaned it up but did not polish it up -- I'll leave the mirror finish option to the eventual owner of this instrument. That said, it's quite clean and a sure beaut to look at.


This one has the cool "screen" coverplate that went out of fashion the same year this was built. I love the way these look -- almost aircraft-style. Note the missing section of holes -- an attempt to keep the pickwear from gouging the screen out.


Dark-stained headstock veneer, bone nut, nice National logo, and also check out the "strap hole" drilled through the headstock. This is really the only bit "wrong" with the instrument... and, to be fair, was the fashion for the times.



Bound ebony fretboard with pearl dots. My work on this instrument was mostly setup -- shim up the nut & file the slots, fret level/dress, and cleaning.

 

This is a replacement tailpiece, but looks like old National production to me. The original, which has a cracked bit, is in the case.



With a 15" scale (normal mando scale = 13 to 13 7/8") and resonator cone, this instrument has huge volume and power, but amazingly has a beautiful sound -- somewhere between a bluegrass instrument's chop and cut and a flattop mandolin's sweet sustain and warm bottom end.

Normally, I wouldn't suggest tuning to standard pitch with standard light (34w-10) or medium mandolin strings (I suggest tuning to E for either of those), but I have some GHS A240 "ultra lights" (32w-9) on here and they seem to be just about the right tension for standard tuning on this scale.


Original biscuit with bone saddle.



No dents or dings to be found. A few tiny scratches and discoloration in spots, but really very good condition.


See the 3-ply veneer for the headstock face? Cool! ...also, this is a nice 2-piece with center strip hard maple neck which means it can be fast and comfortable but also sturdy.


 Nice heel!



 I lubed the tuners and they hold and work great.






Serial 212. The coverplate is also scratched with "#212" on its interior side.


Original tailpiece...


...and an original hard case! Wow!


Here are some "during resto" shots to show the interior bits...




Pat Pend coverplate. Amazingly, all the hardware is stock.



Here's the nice unembossed original cone!

By the way, compared to weight of later Nationals and especially Triolian-style mandos, this one is super lightweight and comfortable. It feels about the same as a standard carved mandolin.


The "vents" in the cone seating area are tooooo cooooool!


Rather than maple, the dowel is mahogany.


I tried to look up about James J Igoe and got a number of confusing obituary and census reports.


These are the decrepit original "gaskets" that fit in the cone seating area and around the lip where the coverplate sits, to reduce noise. They also reduce ring and sustain, so I removed them since they were crumbling anyhow. If the resonator had buzzed during final setup, I may have masked the edges of the cone seat, but there was no need. The metal-on-metal contact (to my way of thinking) is much preferred to a buffer of some other material damping tone.