8/12/2011

c.1920 Oscar Schmidt "Parlor" Guitar


This guitar was made by Oscar Schmidt out of Jersey City, NJ around 1920-25. It's all-solid birch throughout with a misc. hardwood fretboard (really can't tell because of the ebonization) and replacement bridge made of ebony.

These Oscar Schmidts (under names like Stella and Sovereign) are super popular with country-blues and old-timey blues players as they're often the make the original old blues artists used back in the '20s and '30s coming out of ragtime and whatnot. OS built a ton of their instruments for distributors, however, which is why this one bears the name "American Conservatory of Music" -- a mail-order (I think) tutoring service from the time.

Despite the name, everything about the build is pure OS -- squared kerfing inside, general body shape, decalomania rosette, the fun "faux binding" where they've sanded the edges to look like binding and finished it in natural... I could go on and on.


What's nice about this guitar is that it's entirely crack free... well... except for some dried-out hairlines in the fretboard which don't amount to anything.

My work on it included: neck reset, fret dress, new ebony pyramid bridge, replacement MOP dot, new bone saddle, cut-down of the original nut, and a brand new set of "vintaged" '20s-style repro tuners from StewMac. The originals were shot... and yes... I did try to save them, but they were just too far gone.


This guitar was played as a Hawaiian model originally as it had a raised nut and the tuners reversed for easy tuning while playing it in one's lap. The original bridge was also set high for lap play as well, and I would have used it again except that it had cracks all over it and was unfit for regluing (and, consequently, it had been reglued in the wrong position a couple times before I got this guitar).



Frets are all nice and level now and the action is perfect. Strings are new DR Sunbeams, 50w-11, which is as heavy as I really suggest on these old ladder braced guitars.


Nice little looker, huh? I like the tobacco sunburst... very fitting!


This rosette is a decal and is totally cool -- it's got a reflective metallic quality to it.


See how far off someone reglued the original bridge at one point? Downright wonky. I could touch it up... but why? Character is what guitars like this are all about.



Backstrip is a decal as well.

Oh, and another repair I forgot about -- the back & top to side seams were coming up all over this guitar and I had to reglue a bunch of that as well...

...and on top of that, I also forgot about regluing some braces as well. The works on this fella!







These "vintaged" repro StewMac tuners are awesome. They look the part but work better than the originals and have dull-finished buttons to match the old (worn) bakelite look.




New endpin, too.

Can't say enough about how great these guitars sound for open-tuned, bluesy or country-bluesy fingerpicking. They're just tops -- warm and big and loud. The 25" scale length helps, too, especially compared to other guitars at the time which typically have a 24" length (ie, more sustain, bigger volume).

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