Reso Trio Part 3 - c.1933 National El Trovador Resonator Guitar

This is part 3 of a trio of resonator guitars I worked on for a customer.

This one is a '33 National El Trovador with a body/neck made by Kay and the cone/hardware made by National. This guitar has had a heck of a lot of crud done to it, but thankfully it retains its original finish unlike the other two previous posts.

First off, the cone is a more modern replacement. Second, the ebony fretboard is unoriginal and isn't even a match for the original scale length! To top that off, there were gobs of glue all over the interior and the original dovetailed neck joint was hacked through, the neck was installed on a dowel like in the metal-bodied National guitars, and the resulting injuries caused by this "installation" of the neck all had to be addressed. Sigh.

So, neck reset, some new frets, a fret dress, lots of replacement pearl dots (it had none on it as the fretboard was never truly installed through to the end), cleaning, and a bunch of setup later, and we have a... somewhat... playable guitar. The neck, like many old Kay necks (but not all, mind you) has a warp to it that wasn't addressed when the new board was put on. This gives it a "manly" action but one that works for fingerpicked delta blues.

It sure is a looker, though! The body is plywood mahogany with a dark sunburst finish which looks purty. The coverplate shows wear but isn't all rusted up and the tailpiece is also in good shape.

Because the new fretboard has a shorter scale length, I had to rout out the biscuit on the cone a little more forward than it really should be, to get proper intonation. The new saddle is a hunk of holly, which I prefer over bone or maple as it tones down (just slightly) some of the harsh treble frequencies sometimes present in resos.

The ebony nut is salvaged from my parts bin, though I had to put a small shim in underneath to raise it to the right height.

Replacement ebony board (not my work, though I did finish fretting it and added all the pearl that was missing).

Of the three posts in this "collection" -- this is by far the loudest guitar. It's quite a bit louder, in fact, than I'm used to from a wood-bodied reso.

Note the little pearl "dot" at the top of the back near the heel -- because of the Frankensteined neck joint, I had to install a stabilizer through the block into the "dowel" that joins the neck.

These tuners came off of the Trojan from the last post, though I do have a few replacement parts from my parts bin on them to make them up to spec.

Heel cap is missing, note that the heel broke at one point -- typical to see on sloppy "repair" jobs from the past. Someone was forcing this thing...

Tons of wear on the mahogany neck.

Missing end pin.


Anonymous said...


If your customer is interested there is a guy named Brandt Williams who maintains an El Trovador registry. Brandt is an expert in them and would like to identify all the El Trovs extant in the world. He has a band named the Real Placebos.

On his website


there is a link to the registry. Your customer can give their initials rather than their full name. Brandt thinks there may be only about 100 El Trovs left out there in playable condition.


Antebellum Instruments said...

Ben: I'll let him know!

I know there weren't very many of them made... it's super depressing that this one has been messed up so much by the previous owner... probably before that "work" was done this guitar would have gone back together nicely and been super fun.