c.1915 Washburn Style 1218 Model 1915 Guitar

Here's a video:

This is a dandy of a little guitar. It's 0-size, but shorter on the lower bout than a Martin 0, neatly fitting it into a sort of 1-size "parlor" feel. Tone, volume, playability, coziness... this has it. Serial dates it to 1915 which was the year this model (Wahsburn's new-for-1915 Model 1915) hit the shelves of music stores. In addition it's a model 1218 which specifies "1" style, "2" size, and "18" list price to dealers (I think!).

This was sort of the most bare-bones Washburn you could get at the time, but that still specifies nice stuff -- good, sturdy ladder bracing, solid spruce top, solid Brazilian rosewood back and sides, ebony fretboard and bridge, and neat -- Martin-esqe -- trim (bound on top with multi-layer celluloid binding and a 3-ring rosette -- also a 3-line backstrip).

This guitar has a '60s-style transparent pickguard which was irritatingly glued to the top. It also has a replacement pyramid bridge with intonated saddle. Maddeningly -- it was glued in the wrong place (too far forward) so I had to reglue it for proper intonation. There were also other repairs -- old-style neck reset and some hastily-glued crack repairs to the sides (both sides have hairline splits almost the entire length of the guitar -- where they're glued flush it's my work, but where they're glued a little off with some funky fabric backing -- that's the earlier work.

Now, technically this guitar should be strung with gut/nylon -- but for most of its life it seems to have been strung with steel to little ill effect (judging by the way the frets needed dressing). I've set it up for very light gauge round-core strings which sound lovely on it. This has a perfect "12 fret" tonality -- open, sweet, rich, and sustained, with good volume.

Fortunately that clear pickguard is more difficult to see than one might think!

The back has some really nice, straight-grain, very plain rosewood.

Sides, of course, have a riot of grain!

MOP dots in ebony board. The neck has a medium v-shape (thicker than Martins, but not as heavy as a Regal or Harmony of the time) and a very lightly radiused fretboard. This feels really great while playing melody. The extra space at the nut vs. later guitars is quite nice as well.

Rosewood headstock veneer. Ebony nut, which I believe to be original. The catalog states these should have mahogany necks and bone nuts... but considering that the neck looks like a hunk of lightly curly Spanish cedar (as many necks at the time were) and the nut looks pretty typical... you never know.

Original tuners work great.

Here you can see the "bare" bit where the bridge was moved slightly more rear from. I've sealed it with some finish but it still shows.

It's a nice, understated sort of instrument.

...oh right, and it has its musty old hardshell case, too!


chris evans said...

Any chance you'd consider selling this little gem? Chris E.

byron said...

...hello....I was trying to find some info on a guitar I just picked up...I came across this picture of the 1915 washburn...it looks similiar to my "1921 May Bell stamped by Slingerland"...I know nothing about it...can you tell me anything ....can send pics upon requrest...thanks for your time...

Andy G said...

Do you think this is the original bridge? i thought they were the flattened pyramid kind?

Jake Wildwood said...

It may not be... but it's at least an older bridge. Washburn specs would often change depending on whatever they had on hand at the time, though.