2/28/2013

c.1945 101 Ranch Boys 8x10 Photo Print


This original glossy 8x10 photo print dates anywhere from the late 1930s to around 1950. It came to me in a collection of materials dated throughout that range and that's when the band was active, anyhow.

Awesomely enough, it's also signed by all the members of the group and sports a couple of very cool instruments: the double-neck Oahu lap steel and a Gibson jumbo!

More info on the group can be gleaned here and here.

c.1940 Regal Lap Steel Guitar




I'd be willing to wager that this is more late 1930s than 1940s and onward. This is a Regal-branded (and made) lap steel made from one piece of solid birch. It's got a standard 23" scale and a two-blade pickup that sounds full, warm, rich and wonderful.

My work included rewiring the instrument (replaced the pots, reused the old capacitor, and installed a new jack) as well as installation of a replacement bridge (the original floating bridge was long gone), cleaning, and setup.

It's a cool instrument and definitely has that late-30s Chicago feel to it. I currently have it tuned in open E since I only had a regular set of electric 10s on hand to string it with.


Simple body. Compared to many lap steels, this one is nice and light in the lap despite being thicker than the average Chicago build.


Bone nut, translucent tuners, fun green Regal label. The top is sunburst on the body and headstock. The fingerboard is a plain slab of wood (probably dyed maple) with sprayed-on markers.





The Kluson tuners are original and work just great. I love the buttons.


This model would have had a floating bridge that sat on the body via tension. I've replaced this missing bridge with a rosewood mandolin-style bridge slotted for guitar spacing. I also installed posts and those two nuts sitting under the bridge allow for string height adjustments. I made it this way because some folks like their strings closer to the pickup and some like them higher and a little farther away.





The pickup, tone and volume pots, and jack are all mounted on one piece of cast metal with a "crackle" finish applied to the top. As stated, I had to rewire the whole thing as the old pots had given up the ghost. Note the new jack -- originally this had a little housing for an attached cord's end to come out.

The cord was missing and those things are horrid anyway (they always get pulled out and muck up the wiring) so I ground down the little "hump" for the cord-out spot and installed the jack in the same location. This isn't as pretty but it's 300% more practical.

The bakelite radio knobs are excellently cool, by the way!


It has its original case, too, though it's somewhat beat up. A bit of duct tape around the edges will make it more travel-friendly but it does close and serve to house the instrument for light travel as-is.

2/27/2013

Just a note on shipping...

Hi everyone! We've gotten a lot of snow today, so if you're one of my customers who's been waiting on a tracking number for recent packages, you'll get one tomorrow, since the roads were yucky enough that I didn't want to bring stuff into the PO.

In other news -- hopefully a bit I'll be getting a bunch of ephemera up. I recently got hold of a large selection of Oahu-related materials c.1939-49 and a lot of it is going to be posted (for free viewing) as blog posts but it'll also all be available for sale if you're into that brand. I know I am!

2/24/2013

c.1911 Vega Style 210 Bowlback Mandolin




Update: Per Mr. Jim Garber over on Mandolin Cafe, this has been IDed as a style 210. Thanks, Jim!

This is a nice, upscale (but not over the top) Vega bowlback mandolin, made in Boston in 1911 (per the serial number stamped in the headstock's top). I didn't snap a picture of the label, but it has a typical Vega label in the soundhole. Like all the Vega bowls I've worked on, it has a lovely tone. This one seems slightly louder and richer than usual, though, and "chop" chords actually have a nice crisp percussive sound to their edges as well.

Work on it included a couple seam repairs here and there (there were a few done before "my time"), a fret level/dress, binding reglues, cleaning, and setup. I also backfilled the (previously cleated) dryness crack next to the treble side of the pickguard.


This mando is in overall good shape and sports a solid spruce top, Brazilian rosewood bowl, ebony board and bridge, and a mahogany neck. This model has slightly fancier purfling and some pretty, engraved inlay in the board. It's also got ivoroid binding around the neck as well as the top and soundhole.


Rosewood headstock veneer and bone nut. Note the three Brown University seals/stamps someone added the headstock. Cute!

Everything on the mando is original, as well.


This engraved inlaid pearl is very typical for Vega inlay styles. It's very classy.


All this fancy rope/half-herringbone purfling would have been brighter reds and greens to begin with.


The original bridge serves quite well.




Here's a closeup of those Brown University stamps.




A number of the rosewood ribs have pretty heartwood/sapwood contrasting color to them.



Note that one of the screws that mount the tuners to the coverplates is a replacement.



This has its original case as well, though it's in rough shape and would really need to get reworked before it's useful for anything more than a dust cover.

2/22/2013

c.1935 Regal Fancy Squareneck Dobro Resonator Guitar




This is a rarer model of mid-30s squareneck Dobro, sporting a bound ebony fretboard and a mahogany body (laminate top/back, solid sides). It was branded as a Regal originally (a trace of the green crown logo is still up there on the headstock) but is otherwise pretty much identical in build to a style 37 Dobro. The biggest difference is that this guitar uses the (much classier-looking, to my eyes) "00-size" Regal body shape like on this Diamond Head acoustic rather than the similar but more squared-off typical Dobro body shape.

Internal construction is the same, too, with a sturdy soundwell and half-body dowel running from the neck to the interior of the soundwell. For whatever reason, this guitar has a charmed tone -- sweet and open with tons of sustain and a good warm roundness and good volume.


There was a lot to do on this guitar to get it up-to-snuff. I had to reset the dowel into the neck pocket, remove some screws added to the neck's heel, reglue part of the fretboard, glue and cleat up a lower-bout bass side crack (more on that, later), reglue the main support for the dowel in the body (these are almost always loose!), and of course clean up and slightly reshape the cone where its edges had settled over time. I also did a bunch of cleaning, set it up, and did some other varied work that isn't crossing my mind at the moment.

The instrument itself shows plenty of use-wear, scuffs and scratches, and finish crackle all over. It's not as obvious in the pictures since I'd freshly cleaned it, but it's definitely been used like most of these have been. It looks great, though, with all that fun "warm" patina that one desires on an old instrument.


See the ghost of the old Regal label? The tuners have rust on the plates but I've lubed them up and they work great.

Original bone nut, here. And speaking of original -- this is all-original except for a replacement (parts-bin) cream endpin. I even managed to salvage the original maple saddles by repairing the D-string slot.


Ebony fretboard with flush frets and pearl dots -- classy! String height is even throughout, just as it should be. The neck is one big whopping piece of mahogany and is straight.


Some of the mahogany shows a bit of curl/flame here and there. The hardware shows some tarnish and wear but looks good.



Here's the patent mark on the coverplate. You can see some of the wear/tarnish here.


This simpler-than-normal tailpiece is actually a lot better in practice than the more usual National/Dobro-style ones since it applies pressure on the bridge a little bit lower down than those and also keeps the tailpiece itself off the coverplate (and thus removing any weird rattles and buzzes) by wrapping the strings under rather than over the top of the tailpiece.



Who doesn't like a mellow "faded" sunburst to the top and back?


Those two little darker patches on the heel are where I removed some (now, unnecessary, since the dowel is reset) screws. That's backfill of mahogany powder and glue with some finish over it.




I'll tell you what -- this is a great-sounding, great-playing instrument. I've worked on a number of 30s Dobros (squareneck and roundneck) and I have to say that this has one of the sweetest tones I've heard from one of these so far. It's a bit less just-forward and more nuanced than usual.




Here you can see that side crack. This was wide-open when I got it with the sides not matching up top to bottom. I managed to get it glued-up spot on but it must have slipped a little while it was drying up because the edges aren't perfect. It's a good, stable repair, though, since it's also got cleats all along its length internally.


Here's the cone when I first took it out. Note that this is the "vented" type with 4 holes in the center section. This cleaned up beautifully and any kinks/dents in it have been fixed for stability and the proper "lip" on the outside bent back into it before reassembly.

It's a good-to-go, original cone!

c.1925 Regal-made Bruno Mandolin Part 2


I worked on this mandolin in 2010 (click here to see it) but since those original repairs the original fretboard started to deteriorate with the glue loosening up which in turn meant that the neck joint's glue gave out. When I removed the original fretboard it was practically splintering up which is sometimes a problem with boards that were originally "ebonized" maple or similar hardwoods. The dye itself starts to wreck the wood and make it fragile.

At any rate, I gave this mando a neck reset and installed a brand-new rosewood board with abalone dots installed in a somewhat vintage-style fashion to match the abalone used in the pickguard.


This board is both thicker and stiffer than the original and will definitely resist tension and warping much better over time. This had modern-size mandolin frets installed as well as a zero fret up at the nut which gives it an even tone all over the neck.

 

The original, smaller ebony bridge had to be replaced since it was now too low, so I fitted and installed this parts-bin ebony bridge instead. It has a bone saddle slot.


This is a pretty fancy model and sports Brazilian rosewood back and sides and fancier binding throughout. One sees this same type of mandolin (made by Regal) under the L&H "Washburn" name as well.

2/21/2013

Ephemera: Strummers! (c.1926)


How cool is this photo? I'm seeing a Lyon & Healy Camp Uke, Washburn guitar, Slingerland banjo uke, a fancier Kay (Stromberg-Voisinet)-made banjo uke with resonator, various other Chicago ukes, a Harmony banjo uke, a five-string and a plectrum banjo (both possibly Chicago-made, too?), a Lange/Buckbee-shop banjo uke, a pair of "Richter" style ukes, and of course whatever other ukes are hanging around plus... a musical saw! What a sound this would be...

Hyperbole aside, cool stuff is coming up tomorrow. First off is a customer's fancy Regal-made mandolin that I've been meaning to finish off for forever, a number of "workshop" photos of various customer instruments during repairs, and I'm also hoping to finish off a 30s Regal-branded mahogany-bodied squareneck Dobro resonator guitar as well.