8/31/2012

1940s PMICo 0-17T-Clone Tenor Guitar


Update 2015: I'm not at all sure who made this guitar. It has elements of the Chicago "big three" builds (Kay, Harmony, Regal) but is built a lot thinner and lighter than any of them and has "off" features. It's peculiar, that's for sure.

Update 2016: I now think that this is likely to have been made by Favilla, judging by similarities to a couple of 40s Favilla guitars I've worked on and their off-brand P'MICo ukes which share the same mahogany, thinness, and design style.

This is a very odd tenor guitar and the only one I've seen like it. It bears the PMICo ("Progressive Musical Instrument Company") decal at the headstock, and is essentially a ladder-braced, featherweight version of a Martin 0-17T from around the same time this was built (late 30s, early 40s).

I'm pretty sure this was made by Favilla for PMICo, just like this little soprano uke, for a number of reasons.

At any rate, my work included a bridge shave/new fret saddle, fret level/dress, new geared tuners, lots of cleaning (this had spray-paint white dots here and there and everywhere that needed scrubbing-off), and setup.


This guitar's build is incredibly light. I think this would actually make an incredible "long scale" baritone ukulele, strung with nylon/nylgut, since the top is so thin you can push it in and flex it wherever you want with a push of the finger. Amazingly, there are zero cracks.

That said, I have it strung with very light gauges for typical "Chicago" DGBE tuning -- 30w, 22w, 14, 10 -- and I wouldn't go any heavier. This is featherweight and lightly-braced.

The bonus, though? The sound is huge, lush, warm, sweet, and very big. It sounds like a million bucks!


"Nobility" PMICo label. Check out the fun "shield" headstock. Original ebony nut. I've replaced the (previous) friction tuners with Kluson repro tuners. Originally, however, this had geared banjo pegs (Planetary pegs) like on higher-end banjos and Martin tenor guitars from the same time.


Dyed rosewood fretboard. Dots are celluloid. Frets are in good shape with plenty of height after dressing.


Bound top and soundhole. The pickguard is a cool, celluloid-tortoise, Martin-shaped type.


Pearl dots in original pins. New fret saddle. The original bone saddle didn't survive removal since it was glued in and fragile to begin with.

The action is 3/32" at the 12th bass & treble, which isn't 100% perfect (I like to get 1/16" on tenor guitars), but is still totally quick and fast, especially since it has extra-light strings "stock." There's a tiny, tiny bit of relief in the neck (about 1/64"), which is why it's not 1/16" on the dot on the treble.


The lower bout is 13 3/4" wide, making this guitar a little bigger than a Martin 0-17T or similar.


Nice mahogany back with thin center-strip of dyed-black wood.








New repro Kluson tuners making tuning a breeze.


Heel is good and sturdy.







Pearl-dot endpin, too.

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