3/14/2012

c.1880 German-made Apollo Parlor/Hawaiian Guitar Conversion


Update 8/3/12: I've since removed the soundhole-mounted magnetic pickup and installed a K&K acoustic-style pickup in its place. This gives the guitar a nicer look and a good acoustic tone for plugged-in Hawaiian/lap playing.



 Now back to the original post...



When you've got lemons, make lemonade.

This started out as a gorgeous gut-strung "parlor" guitar from the late 1800s (probably 1880-90 or so), made in Germany with the brand "Apollo" in the soundhole. By the time it had gotten to me, it had lost all its frets, bore a number of hairline cracks (and a couple of tiny odd holes) in the top, lost its hardware, bridge, and worst of all -- gained a somewhat substantial back-bow to its neck.

Due to the fact that the bracing seemed sturdy enough for light steel strings, I decided to convert this to a lap (Hawaiian style) guitar with raised strings. I did all the necessary repairwork, backfilled the fret slots to make them "flush frets," installed a new bone nut, replacement (rosewood Kay, c.1940s) bridge from my parts bin, and installed a Fender Noiseless Telecaster neck pickup (also hanging around my parts bin) in the soundhole.


The result is a Hawaiian guitar around the size of a bigger lapsteel, a nice and decently loud acoustic tone, and a warm and rich electric lapsteel tone. It also looks darn cool!


Here's that replacement rosewood bridge. Pearl dots in the wings, bone saddle, plastic pins.


The pickup in the soundhole is easily removable and height adjustable. Check out the pretty multicolored rosette.


Nice binding and purfling, too!


The headstock had smaller-than-usual post spacing and so the only replacement tuners that would fit right were these single-unit Klusons I had on hand. At least they match the pickup!


The strings are electric 10s -- in this case, GHS "burnished" nickel strings. These are great for open D or open E but not so hot for regular lap tunings like C7 (you need different gauges for those).




The one-piece, flamed maple back is intensely pretty, as are the flamed maple sides.



"Ice cream cone" heel.







The strap button is a replacement. I installed the jack right at a point where there was a tiny hole (like the two on the top) anyway.

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