c.1977 Takamine F307S (00-18 Clone) Guitar

Ah, old Takamines! This one dates from 1977 (September 16th, to be exact!) and is a sweet little 14-fret honey of a guitar. The model number is F-307S, the S being "solid top" -- which in this case is spruce. The back and sides look like laminate mahogany with a good one-piece mahogany neck. Bridge and fretboard are (solid) rosewood.

This guitar is 100% original, and aside from the laminate mahogany back and sides, this guitar is pretty much identical in build, voice, feel, and style to a '60s Martin 00-18. This particular instrument was not played much at all and looks as if it could have left the factory a few weeks ago. It's in stunningly good shape, which these are usually not in. Almost like a time machine!

Bone nut and saddle. Takamine even went to the trouble of having fake-out Grover roto-style tuners. Note the Martin-font headstock label.

Side dots and faux-MOP dots in the radiused board. Frets are in great shape. My work on this guitar included a saddle shave and setup.

Original bridge pins, too, though some ebony or rosewood pins would be a nice little upgrade!

Typical "18-style" appointments. This one looks nice and the materials are good quality, which is rarer for Japanese-made import guitars from the '70s. Usually the build is fine but the materials are skimpier. This one is just a great, solid, authentic-feeling instrument.

Sound is balanced and loud with excellent sustain and focused, bright trebles.

Hard to see, but this has the Takamine stamp (which, of course, looks like a Martin stamp).

This guitar's model number is actually F307S-F... and doing research leads me to nothing about that "F" -- perhaps it refers to the duller finish? I've seen this model with glossy finish, but I've never seen one with this style finish, which is much more in keeping with recent (read: brand new Martins) than older instruments.

Tuners work just fine.

If you're a fingerpicker and strummer both, this body shape with the 14th fret join is really fantastic as an in-between instrument for live applications. It's small enough and sweetly balanced enough to feel right for fingerpicking but big enough to lend itself to driving strumming and thumping.

Whatever they were doing -- the fellas in the Takamine factory in September of '77 got it right!

c.1931 Harmony H1670 Patrician Tenor Guitar

This tenor guitar is a stunner! Just shy of a 23" scale length and with a 15 fret neck join, the access and tension is just perfect. I've set it up for GDAE (octave mandolin) tuning though I've been playing it in GDGD tuning all day long and using a capo to switch keys. I finished work on it last night (new fret-style saddle and slight bridge shave, plus setup, etc.) and it got its trial this morning in our weekly Saturday in-store jam. Lots of fun!

This model, H1670, was made by Harmony for just one year (I believe) before it was canceled. Click here for the Harmony database link. In striking contrast to its more ornamented spruce-topped Roy Smeck-ish cousin, which you can see by clicking here, this guitar is in the realm of what I'd call a Martin 1-17T clone (Martin made a model with a very similar body shape and weird neck join around the same time for an equally short production run). Unlike the other (upscale) model, this one boasts x-bracing instead of ladder bracing, and spare, Martin-like style 15/17 appointments... the bare minimum but very elegant and understated. Also unlike its cousin this one is entirely mahogany throughout with an unbound rosewood fretboard and bridge (as opposed to ebony).

The tone is very balanced, sweet, round, and fiery all at the same time... with excellent sustain and extremely good volume for a flat-top tenor. If you've ever played a Martin 0-15 or 0-17 from the 30s through 50s, you'll understand exactly where I'm coming from. These are sublime little pickers.

Rosewood veneer. Bone nut.

Side dots are a nice touch.

I added some ebony pins. Note that this originally had a (broken) bone saddle, but I liked the idea of the fret saddle on this, as I've encountered them in use on other mahogany guitars and liked the zing they impart to the tone.

This guitar is in super shape -- only short hairline crack on the back and aside from some small pickwear and a ding here and there... relatively unplayed.

The 'hog is quite pretty stuff.

Again with the Martin-style references (the thin black backstrip).

The only thing I would change on this would be the tuners -- an upgrade to some pancake geared pegs would look cool!

Harmony label.


Workshop Move

My workshop is moving to a bigger room... so... pictures of the newest crop are sadly delayed once again... but!!! ...expect more photos of "in process" repairs, and, if you're one of those folks who likes to come around the shop and chat... a nice place to do so.


Low-tuned 12 String

Just wanted to let you all know -- more is coming -- but as an aside, I decided to low-tune my old Martin 12-fret 12 stringer today down to a baritone ADGCEA tuning.

I simply used the E-B of a regular 12 set, added heavier strings for the low A (36w and 62w), and used a thin 008 plain to also octave the high A. It's really cool -- every course is octave-strung so the instrument goes from the A string of a bass to the high A (above guitar high E) of a tenor banjo.

My Martin sports the smaller 24.9 scale, so I totally don't suggest this on long scale instruments (the high A would snap) but if you're looking for a nice low accompaniment instrument for singing solo or bulking up a duo or trio's bottom end... this is really nice... though a jumbo-sized body helps.


c.1900 Lyon & Healy Oak/Spruce Tailpiece Guitar

I love these old "first generation" steel-string guitars with the ladder-bracing and tailpiece design. It's a very simple way to deal with the higher tension of steel strings and lends these flat-top guitars a distinctive "fiery" tone -- loud, sustained, and sort of honky like in old ragtime or blues recordings. While this style of build doesn't lend itself to a dreadnought's big bass or an archtop's severe cut and zing, these guitars sort of sound similar to gypsy-jazz Selmer instruments, though with a very American twist -- they make excellent fingerpickers with plenty of volume and plunky, precise bass.

At any rate, this guitar is around a size 1 to 2 (in Martin specs) though it has a narrower waist and upper bout than its Martin-style counterparts of the time. This one, while unlabeled, was clearly built by Lyon & Healy in Chicago, judging by the body shape, materials, bracing pattern, neck shape, and other details similar to branded L&H guitars I've worked on. In terms of L&H "grade" this probably would have been sold as one of their lower-to-midrange "Lakeside" or "American Conservatory" brands.

Replacement nut -- but original tuners.

My work on this guitar was... a lot! It had a cruddy old, broken-down "neck reset" that I had to reverse and reset again, needed a new 12th fret (where someone had yanked it out and chipped up the board to cut the extension off), needed the end block (where the tailpiece is attached to) reglued with a shim to the top as it had come unglued from the top, needed a fret dress, setup, and a new bridge as the original became too low for use post neck-set.

Amazingly, this guitar is crack-free, which is highly unusual for these old guys. That fun half-herringbone purfling and rosette detail would have been bright greens, reds, and browns originally. Note the pickwear to the top which has also dirtied up over time.

Nice details! This guitar was so disgustingly dirty when it came in.

Here's my new ebony bridge -- compensated, too -- and I roughed it up slightly after finishing it to make it look a little more "natural" to the instrument.

Look at the finish wear on the back! It's practically missing all over the upper bout... but also check out that gorgeous quartersawn oak on the back. I love that stuff -- tends to impart a loud, overtone-rich, and quickly-responsive tone to a guitar. I'm always surprised it's not used much in modern instruments. Sounds somewhere between maple and mahogany to me, with a sort of darker tone.

Nice "small" heel cap like on earlier Washburn-branded L&H products.

I like to see wear & tear on a guitar -- means the instrument has been loved.

Original pearl-dot end pin, too.



I'll be updating the inventory page tomorrow... lots of stuff come and gone.

I have some pretty exciting new guitars/tenor guitars coming along as well as some nice mandolins.

Also, some of my personal instruments may pop up on the auction block soon, due to the usual aging car troubles. The pick of the litter for ukers is going to be this one (click here) and possibly this one (also click here).

So, see you all tomorrow!


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).