3/04/2011

c.1850 German? American? "Parlor" Guitar


Yum. I love pre-war guitars. Especially pre-Civil War guitars. This instrument could date anywhere from c.1820s through the c.1860s or so, but this style sort of progressed into a more Martin-ish, more-Chicago-ish style post-Civil War. It's clearly a German-influenced instrument, maybe even German made or of German-American manufacture, as the body shape is less German hourglass and more sympathetic to American lines (narrower upper bout and less "tucked" waist).


Every sort of repair that could need to be done... was... done. I reglued seams, hairline cracks, lightly shaved the bridge and touched up its "ebonized" finish to keep it original-looking, reset the neck and much of the top/soundhole area that had been damaged from the neck pulling loose and upward, reglued the headstock/neck join, installed 11 new (because they were missing) frets, cleaned it up (as much as possible!), and set it all up.

Also... new friction tuners (I had ordered violin pegs but realized the holes were for really thick pegs, so cobbled together this current set from stock uke friction pegs which worked out pretty well. Also... new bridge pins (ebony) and end pin (ebony). Also, new nut... rosewood. The rest is original.


Old-style "Spanish" headstock would have had violin-style pegs in it, originally.


New rosewood nut, slotted to accept regular nylon strings, too (these are Aquila nylguts and like real gut, are thinner-gauged than typical nylon strings).


This guitar has so much wear & tear it's ridiculous... but in the end it's in surprisingly good condition. It probably lived in a barn for quite a while as the finish is mostly bubbled or missing. I cleaned off layers and layers of grey, dusty, yicky grime to get it even this clean.


This rosette was probably quite colorful at one point in time, but is now a faded warm/mellow mix of browns.


Original bridge, original saddle, and "ebonized" because the actualy wood is maple, not ebony.


Gotta love all that inlaid purfling.



Sides are solid maple.


Typical period-style "ice cream cone" heel... note the crack at the top of the lower part of the heel. This is where the neck popped off and lifted forward... it's not surprising that it happened there because these necks are typically built in three pieces -- headstock, heel, and the bulk of the neck, which was glued to both. The neck, also typical for the time, is "ebonized" black, too.





Strings look way high in this picture, but they're actually below 3/16" and above 1/8" at the 12th fret, which is pretty average for a classical-style guitar setup. I usually setup gut/nylon stringers like my steels, with 1/8" action at the 12th, but the neck is lightly warped in the middle which means it needs the action just a hair higher to compensate. Considering the age of the guitar, and the high probability that someone strung it up with steels at some point, the neck is in super shape!




The back gives a glimpse of some of the former glory...





GORGEOUS one-piece flamed maple (solid) back. How about them apples?


So purty!



Guitar is reasonably loud, nice and snappy and direct, with great string-to-string balance and a tight bass. It's a small-bodied instrument, 11" across the lower bout. It has that sort of compressed maple sound that gives it some punch for melody playing.

Good sustain, too... and all in a package slightly bigger than a baritone ukulele. Can't argue too much with that!

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