6/15/2014

c.1930 Gibson Style 3 "Poinsettia" Soprano Ukulele




Well, folks... this is it! For vintage-obsessed folks, the Gibson "Poinsettia" ukes are just about the rarest, craziest and most collectible ukes on the planet. They're also mind-blowingly expensive to acquire unless you happen to luck out and find a non-dealer sale. This particular uke? Definitively not mine! -- but -- I was extremely honored to have it sent in for repair and setup work (it's now making its way back to its owner).

What's not to like, really? The build is extremely lightweight, the decorative touches are top-notch (hand-painted poinsettias everywhere and gobs of celluloid appointments), and the sound is like a "regular Gibson soprano" but on steroids: it's full, rich, creamy, sweet and snappy, and decidedly un-Martin-like. It's got class.

These ukes were only available from the mid-20s through the early 30s (I'm not sure which exact year this was from) as a custom order and so they're a "needle in the haystack" sort of find these days. It was a real pleasure to get to hold one and enjoy it for a few moments of collector-envy bliss.



Work on this guy included a fret level/dress as well as reseating a couple frets, light setup at the nut and saddle, a couple of cleats for the longest of the already-glued hairline cracks (the shorter ones run quickly into the bridge plate or mid-brace on the top meaning they're otherwise stable), and a reglue job for the mid-brace (main, below-soundhole brace) which had split in two places near each of its thing "wings."

When working on something like this which is inherently very fragile but also quite valuable caution is the word of the day and I exercised it in abundance... especially in dealing with the frets so as not to disturb the poinsettias!


Everything on the uke is original... including that bone nut. And how about all this fancy painting? I love the "Gibson" script in its vague multicolored version, here. All this cream stuff is celluloid and where it's been painted-on there's a layer or two of varnish protecting the paint.

Speaking of finish, though: it seems like most of the finish is the original stuff but there are patches of "overspray" extant and mostly around the old top/back crack repairs.


I mean... isn't that rather wonderful?

To boot... the cream fretboard is bound with cream binding which means the otherwise-exposed fret ends do not show.


The fretboard extension had actually formed a slight "ski jump" problem over the body so that was compensated-for by leveling the frets to one another on the board. This meant that the "ski-jumped" extension frets were leveled lower than their compatriots and then dressed up.

Overall the frets were in sort of ho-hum shape: there was plenty of height but they were all a bit helter-skelter which I sort o expect on anything with a celluloid fretboard... the stuff wreaks havoc on frets as it changes shape over time. Still... they were in far better shape than, say, a Kay or Harmony product using the stuff which I tend to associate with total refrets right off the bat. Having a Gibson product does make a difference...


Did I mention that I love the green/yellow Gibson rosettes?


The owner is a lefty and while I was working on this I strung it up with a light set of spare Martin fluorocarbon strings. It came strung with some nicer fluoro as well as a pack to restring it but I'm going to let the owner put the fresh set on when it arrives back.



Let's face it: it's cool! Poinsettias are such an unlikely choice for a custom-order style instrument... but why not? They sure suit the mahogany.


These spring-loaded friction pegs sure do a good job. No wonder Waverly decided to start making sets once again all these years later...









Yup... original hard case, too. Sheesh!

4 comments:

Tim Dempsey said...

fantastic, thanks for sharing jake!

Duluthdan said...

That has got to be one of the coolest little instruments I've ever seen! Thanks for sharing the story!

- DuluthDan

JAMES VERROCCHI said...

I know what I want for Christmas !

Larry said...

That is a stunner!