8/24/2012

c.1925 Stromberg-Voisinet (Kay) Mahogany "Parlor" Guitar


This is also a customer's instrument -- a mid-1920s "Hawaiian" theme guitar with an all-mahogany (solid) body sporting island-y decals. The golden-red of the mahogany is offset with the creamy-yellow pearloid fretboard and pickguard, which looks blues-tastically cool. These were made by Kay (then called Stromberg-Voisinet) and I've worked on many variations of this same, basic, decal-freindly, all-mahogany 12-fret "0-size" model.

While it's good to go now, this guitar was a bit more problematic than it seemed at first. The neck needed a reset and the bridge was split so it needed a new one. The most tedious bit, however, is that this encountered some heat damage at some point so the celluloid veneer on the fretboard had curled up a bit and with it the frets had popped up and out of their slots. The board itself also picked up that slight usual concavity that pearloid-bedecked boards tend to develop.

Every single fret needed to be removed, its slot cleaned, and then re-installed using wicked-in super glue. In addition some of the celluloid needed gluing back down. Because the frets were also pretty worn, too, it meant that I was worried about getting the final fret level/dressing right. Fortunately, in the end everything worked out and I was able to get a decent 3/32" action at the 12th fret, which is plenty comfortable with the extra-light 48w-10 DR Sunbeams this is fitted with.


Note the missing binding on the lower bout. I had nothing to replace this with, unfortunately.


Cool "Gumby" headstock. I had to replace one of the adjusting-screws for one of the tuner shafts, but otherwise the tuners were in good shape. Note the original bone nut and also the nicely-bound headstock and fretboard edges.
 

Wild pearloid board with contrasting pearloid dots.


I use old-stock German-made rosewood bridges. The extra-wide "wings" plus a mellow "belly" on the rear mean this shape looks good with old "parlor" guitars and also acts as extra bracing for the lightly-built ladder-braced tops.



The mahogany used on these old Kay builds is nice stuff.



So, what about tone?

These tend towards the mid-rangey with a mellow, warm tonality. They're super fingerpickers, especially in the old-timey or bluesy modes. The mahogany top means the highs and lows are scooped, yielding a tighter and more controlled bass and a sweeter high end. It's also a hardwood, so it resists top bellying better than spruce, so many of these all-hog 12-fretters wind up in better shape down the road than their spruce-topped counterparts.


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