I've been having some very cool stuff through the shop. How does one follow up after a 1918 Gibson harp guitar and a 1930 Martin style 15 mando? ...with a vintage National, of course!
This one is very early production and has serial #212. This seems to date it to 1928, which makes sense, as it has the "original style" single cone with the unembossed (no ridges) profile. It's got the lovely German silver body in really good shape. I cleaned it up but did not polish it up -- I'll leave the mirror finish option to the eventual owner of this instrument. That said, it's quite clean and a sure beaut to look at.
This one has the cool "screen" coverplate that went out of fashion the same year this was built. I love the way these look -- almost aircraft-style. Note the missing section of holes -- an attempt to keep the pickwear from gouging the screen out.
Dark-stained headstock veneer, bone nut, nice National logo, and also check out the "strap hole" drilled through the headstock. This is really the only bit "wrong" with the instrument... and, to be fair, was the fashion for the times.
Bound ebony fretboard with pearl dots. My work on this instrument was mostly setup -- shim up the nut & file the slots, fret level/dress, and cleaning.
This is a replacement tailpiece, but looks like old National production to me. The original, which has a cracked bit, is in the case.
With a 15" scale (normal mando scale = 13 to 13 7/8") and resonator cone, this instrument has huge volume and power, but amazingly has a beautiful sound -- somewhere between a bluegrass instrument's chop and cut and a flattop mandolin's sweet sustain and warm bottom end.
Normally, I wouldn't suggest tuning to standard pitch with standard light (34w-10) or medium mandolin strings (I suggest tuning to E for either of those), but I have some GHS A240 "ultra lights" (32w-9) on here and they seem to be just about the right tension for standard tuning on this scale.
Original biscuit with bone saddle.
No dents or dings to be found. A few tiny scratches and discoloration in spots, but really very good condition.
See the 3-ply veneer for the headstock face? Cool! ...also, this is a nice 2-piece with center strip hard maple neck which means it can be fast and comfortable but also sturdy.
I lubed the tuners and they hold and work great.
Serial 212. The coverplate is also scratched with "#212" on its interior side.
...and an original hard case! Wow!
Here are some "during resto" shots to show the interior bits...
Pat Pend coverplate. Amazingly, all the hardware is stock.
Here's the nice unembossed original cone!
By the way, compared to weight of later Nationals and especially Triolian-style mandos, this one is super lightweight and comfortable. It feels about the same as a standard carved mandolin.
The "vents" in the cone seating area are tooooo cooooool!
Rather than maple, the dowel is mahogany.
I tried to look up about James J Igoe and got a number of confusing obituary and census reports.
These are the decrepit original "gaskets" that fit in the cone seating area and around the lip where the coverplate sits, to reduce noise. They also reduce ring and sustain, so I removed them since they were crumbling anyhow. If the resonator had buzzed during final setup, I may have masked the edges of the cone seat, but there was no need. The metal-on-metal contact (to my way of thinking) is much preferred to a buffer of some other material damping tone.