9/27/2012

c.1924 Weymann Style 150 Tenor Banjo




What a beaut this old Weymann is! Serial dates it to 1924, it has oodles of flamed and curly maple throughout its build, and it's also the more unusual and fun greenish-grey-brown finish type that lets it stand out from the pack so easily. Add to that yellowy-cream binding and pretty touches of pearl inlay and you've got a classy rig.

For reference: Weymann banjos were made in Philadelphia and while they're not as well known today as Gibsons, Langes (Paramount/Orpheum), Bacons, and Vegas... they're really exceptionally well-built instruments and if one browses professional band photos from the time you'll notice a repeating pattern of Weymann use on display.

This particular model 150 has a "medium scale" of 22" which makes sense for its time, that being the transition period from mostly short-scale 20-21" 17-fret tenor models to the longer-scale 23" 19-fret models. I actually like the 22" scale a lot because it feels like the best of both worlds: you can use lighter gauges to tune to the same pitch and you also get them slightly slinkier than on a 23" scale instrument.


This banjo is almost entirely original, save 1 hook & nut, the newer bridge, and a replacement set of tuners at the headstock. It even has its nice "press on" resonator which often seems to get separated from the parent banjo over time.


Pretty pearl inlay in the headstock. Original bone nut.


Bound ebony board and pearl dots.

Someone must have been stringing this banjo pretty heavily because there was a bit of relief (hair over 1/64") in the neck when this came in. Weymanns are typically heavily-built so the gauges must have been something awful to do anything like that.

I managed to reduce it to essentially dead straight by leveling the frets along a straight line and thus removing material at the first position frets and way high up the neck. They've still got life left, but the big benefit is that it plays perfectly up the neck with good, low, 1/16" action at the 12th fret.

Other work included cleaning and general setup.


This adjustable Weymann-patent tailpiece is delicious and well-made. The engraved coverplate removes to install strings and the typical screw-down adjuster lets you control downpressure behind the bridge. As well as changing tone, this can also let you slightly adjust action height on the fly in a pinch (more downpressure = lower action, brighter tone -- less = higher action, warmer tone).


See all that beautiful flamed maple? The faded dark walnut stain looks really cool on it, too.





Pretty stuff!


Here's that new set of geared, planetary banjo pegs that were installed probably fairly recently. They've got pearl buttons on them and work very well, with smooth 4:1 tuning.



The resonator back (which is laminate for strength) shows some big scuff marks. I would normally remove these but didn't want to dig into the finish too much to do so since they weren't coming up easily.


Nice, curly-maple 2-piece (with center strip) neck.


Back of the headstock with fun Weymann decal.


Here's the back of the rim with the slip-on/off resonator removed. I love the multi-ply purfling inset into the rim's bottom edge. The big long bar that goes from the heel to the dowel is a neck-angle reinforcement mechanism that, in addition to the normal ebony-shim neck brace seen under it, helps keep the neck rigid to the pot and tight at the bottom of the heel. This type is a Weymann patent assembly.


Serial numbers and ebony neck-brace shims & brace itself.


Good, heavy-duty Weymann hardware (nickel-plated brass). See the "sleeve" that comes out under the lip of the skin head? This skirt goes to the top of the rim and then is curled over a hoop-style tonering, effectively making a "Vega Little Wonder" style tonering on this rim. Tonally, mated to this Weymann rim, this makes a loud, crisp, bright banjo with a lot of projection vs. a warmer, sweeter, but still precise tonality one finds on the lower-level wood-top Weymann rims.



Gotta love the flamed maple everywhere and those nice buttery-yellow accents.


Here's that resonator, removed. Those felted "feet" inside hold onto the rim of the banjo with friction, so it's really easy to remove the resonator to play a bit more quietly or with a mellower tone.



Almost forgot to mention the great hard case (original) and...


...the tutor's practice advice!

c.1934 Gibson L-50 Roundhole Archtop Guitar


Update #2, 2013: I've been loving this guitar and used it to record all of "Has Been Framed," but needs must be met, so it's up for sale. It's a fantastic, rare instrument and if you're at all into L-00 bluesy guitars that can also suit early jazz and old-time/country, look no further! It also comes with a hard arched case for safe storage and transport. Also, since these photos were taken it's had a K&K "Twin Spot" pickup installed for gigging use and a strap button added to the heel on the treble side (using an old celluloid endpin to look "period"). New pics of said mods & of course a soundclip will be available soon. OH, and also -- a replacement period-correct tortoise pickguard is available for this guitar as well.

Update: I've since researched the labels found in the soundhole and pieced together this guitar's history. Pretty cool! Click here to read up.

I've been looking all over for this particular model of Gibson archtop. It's the same size and shape as the Kalamazoo KG-21 I'd been playing hard for the last year-plus, but has a flat back, carved top, round soundhole (love the looks of that), and maple secondary woods rather than mahogany. Of course, it's also a "first line" Gibson product, so the fit, finish, and truss-rodded neck are nice upgrades, too.

Tonally, it's far more similar to the brighter (and wider-bodied) f-hole Kalamazoo KG-22s and 31s I'm much more familiar with, save that the treble has a bit more zing and sustain and open chords are a little less compressed-sounding. It's not a hugely warm guitar but it's just what the Dr. ordered for darker picking styles, blues, and "jazz comp" sound.

If you'd like a good back-history on the bizarre and strange alterations this model underwent from the early 30s into the late 30s, click here to check out this page and scroll down to L-50. It's very curious!


Work included cleating and filling several long top cracks, slight modification to the bridge's saddle section, a fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup

Don't you just love that glossy, thin, red to "black plum" finish?


Pearl Gibson script in the headstock. Truss cover, and original bone nut.


Rosewood board with pearl dots. These frets were really, really worn out, but still managed to level & dress to practical use.


Ebony bridge. It's hard to see in the pictures, but the biggest crack runs right from the soundhole edge straight to the tailpiece under the low E string. They're all cleated-up and stable, though.


Who doesn't love round soundholes on an archtop?



The maple back and sides are stained a uniform dark brown.


Original tuner plates are seriously un-fancy but get the job done.


Good neck set, cream-bound top and bottom edges.




The ebony pin is a replacement from my parts bin.

Update: the ebony pin is replaced now with an "endpin jack" for the K&K pickup. No modification of the tailpiece was necessary, though.


...and one of the coolest features is the radio station labels pasted on the inside of the guitar. Looks like this was owned by someone who was spending a lot of time playing local radio hours in the Kentucky and Virginia area!


Here's a shot from during the repairs to the top I snapped yesterday morning.

9/25/2012

c.1939 Gibson-made Kalamazoo KG-22 Archtop Guitar




The FON (factory order number) on the back of the headstock places this Kalamazoo at 1939. It's a KG-22 model, which is otherwise identical to the KG-31 model except that the sides are solid maple and the back is laminated maple whereas the 31 has solid mahogany "secondary" woods throughout.

Work on this guitar included a fret level/dress, one light hairline crack repair at the bass-side f-hole, cleaning, setup, and fitting and installation of a new bridge (since the original was missing).

Like all the Kalamazoos I work on, I really love the tone and feel of this guitar. Compared to my own, later-model (1940-ish) KG-21, the neck on this is securely in the "1930s" Gibson fashion, with a Regal-esque hard v profile with wider 1 3/4" nut that is strangely very comfortable to play (at least for me). This guitar feels (it's the same dimensions) and sounds close to the "actual Gibson" brand L-48s and L-50 models, which have carved tops, save that the pressed-top arching on this is a little flatter and the bracing is a bit different which (to my ears) brings more of an open or flattop tone to the lower register of the instrument. The 24 3/4" scale also feels nice and quick (action is spot on -- 3/32" at the 12th on the bass and 1/16" on the treble).


Like the best Kalamazoos, this one shows play-wear and use-wear, but not abuse, which is what I tend to look for in an old guitar. The tone is opened up and satisfying. Speaking of tone -- this has that Kalamazoo creamy/punchy fundamental but compared to the mahogany models is a little drier and airier with more sparkle. It's also got plenty of zing and snap for cutting lead work.


This one has the fun "pointed" Kalamazoo headstock shape. Note the original bone nut. It was shimmed up really high before work, which was curious. Maybe someone was using this for Hawaiian stringing for a time?


Pearl dots in a radiused, rosewood board.


I fit this replacement, rosewood (but stained dark like ebony), bridge to the top in the same fashion that the original Gibson bridge would have had -- with the whole base resting on the top surface rather than just the "feet."

Just FYI, I order a lot of my replacement parts that I don't make myself from eBay Canada seller "Bezdez" since many of the parts he/she/they sell are practical, good deals, and vintage-styled.


This is a pretty typical Kalamazoo-style tailpiece, and of course, in typical fashion -- is rusted up.


Only the top and back edges are bound in creamy-yellow celluloid.



Here you can see the "dark walnut"-stained maple back that's so typical from 40s and 50s Gibson products.


One tuner plate has been replaced, but at least all the black buttons are the same, and at least it's from the same timeframe. The Kluson set (to the left) is the original type on this instrument. The "EK-3363" dates this to 1939. Letter E was for 1939, K was for Kalamazoo, and the 3363 was the batch number.

I also lubed the tuners.


Neck set is perfect with a good, straight neck.



There's some fun birdseye and slight curly figure in the maple on the sides.


The endpin was missing so I replaced it with this ebony one.