Clippings: Storefronts (1919-1922)

Now that we've seen some cool storefronts from the late teens and early 20s, just wanted to let you all know more fun stuff is coming up. I'm hoping I can finish off an 1870s-ish steel-strung Tilton guitar to show off tomorrow and also a customer's fancy Orpheum 5-string. The Tilton is a bit special because it came in free to me and also pretty beat up, but it's a looker still, and I'm customizing it up a little for Bonnie while doing the repairwork, since she's been after me for a smaller guitar to learn on.

So, stay tuned, and thanks folks also for continuing to support the blog & the store!


Ephemera: Boy with Banjo (c.1930)

Judging by the board, I'd guess that's an older Stromberg-Voisinet (Kay) tenor. It also looks like he's got it strung for DGBE or GCEA judging by the chord shape. Stylin'!

FWD: Vote for the Shop!


We're trying to win a grant for our store, "The Wildwood Flower" and we could really use your help. We need 250 votes for our grant proposal to be considered. It could really make an amazing difference for our store. We could add in a concert hall and gallery space that could also be used for community workshops, as well as fix an ancient heating system and many of the other problems that go hand and hand with an old building.

Go to the link above and click on the blue button that says "login and support". You can login using Facebook. Type in "The Wildwood Flower" under business name or "Rochester, VT" under state and town and then hit "support" to vote. You can support more than one business so if you see this and enter your own business, please support ours too!


c.1970 Harmony Monterey Archtop Mandolin

Here's a mando in great shape -- no cracks, very clean (the finish is practically spotless for its age), and only needing a fret level/dress and setup to make it play its best. It's a little later period than my usual purchases but I so rarely see the spruce-top version of the Monterey mando that I figured I'd give it a spin. I'm happy I did! Mostly one sees the cheapy painted-binding, painted-grain, super-student all-birch Monterey models, but this one is a much nicer variant and more along the lines of this early Harmony archtop mando.

This one dates to 1970 per the F-70 mark inside.

This has darn good volume and cut for what's essentially a student to mid-range instrument and leaves me with that "Stradolin" feeling -- that it's got a fair amount of bang for the buck vs. other instruments from the same time that one might be considering. It's no A-5 but it certainly does the trick!

So -- ?? -- solid spruce top, laminate somewhat curly maple back and sides, maple neck, rosewood fretboard and adjustable rosewood bridge, 100% original, and super clean -- what more to ask? Right, 12th fret neck join and standard 13 7/8" scale, so it plays like it should, too, with an easy reach up the board.

The orange-burst (iced-tea-burst?) looks nice on this fella. The owner before me must have added the black foam pads to the bottom of the pickguard to help stabilize it.

Synthetic nut, good-quality tuners, and of course the cool Harmony logo.

Rosewood board with brass frets. By leveling the frets I removed a less-than 1/64" relief that was in the neck overall (mostly in the fretboard extension). It's now "dead straight" as it were.

Adjustable rosewood bridge is still kicking!

Waverly "Cloud" tailpiece looks good.

Bound in creamy-white on the top, fretboard, and back. The extra trim gives it a nice look.

Here you can see the curly maple used for the back. I'm fairly certain this has laminate back and sides.

These are high-ratio tuners, probably 18:1 -- they tune smoothly and it's much easier to get the strings in tune with one another with the finer ratio vs. typical cheaper types.

Tailpiece has some tarnish and spotting but still looks good.

c.1930 Harmony Hawaiian-decal "Parlor" Guitar

This one's unmarked, but this slightly-smaller than "0" size guitar, with its 12th fret join, was certainly made by Harmony in Chicago around 1925-1930. It's got a spruce top, slightly curled birch back and sides (with fun grain), and a poplar v-neck. The 24 1/4" scale is very typical for Harmony and seems short for our time but was pretty usual back when this was made.

I posted this guitar last year when it had a bolted-on metal bridge (a period type) but just recently it was traded back to me in part for another instrument. I decided to dispatch with the bolted-on bridge, installed a new rosewood one, and gave it a good setup afterwards. I also installed a through-heel neck bolt at the same time to sturdy-up the neck joint.

Previous repairs included some hairline crack repair to the top and the back, a neck reset, fret level and dress, cleaning, and setup.

The quality of the spruce on the top is great -- has that nice sort of silking stuff going on to the cross of the grain. The guitar itself is also feather-light and and coupled with the thin, lightly ladder-braced top, gives this wonderful sustain, volume, and tone. It's a perfect instrument for fingerpicking or light to medium-strength backing strumming. Of all the old Harmony "parlors" in similar models to this one (same design, different appointments) that I've worked on (and that's a lot of them), this is probably my first pick for sound. It's lush and full and competes well with bigger, more modern instruments.

I added the bone nut last year to replace a damaged original.

Fret markers are inlaid celluloid dots. The frets themselves are original brass and are standard-issue for the time --thin, smallish, and low-ish.

Here's my replacement rosewood bridge. I cut it down from a stash of old-stock bridges I have in my parts bin. I decided to install individually-adjustable tiny screws as this guitar's "saddle." Because this guitar was originally a Hawaiian model (with a raised nut and high action for lap/slide playing) and one can tell that by the (originally) absent strap button, I thought it would be cool to be able to adjust the action up "on the fly" to make it into a slide player if desired. It also makes micro-adjustments to action much easier from year to year.

Currently the action is "spot on" at 3/32" at the 12th fret. This guitar really needs extra-light or lighter strings to keep its top safe. Anything heavier and the lightly-braced top will start to belly more over time.

The checker binding is wonderful and all there, as is the two-ply purfling attached to it. See the light pickwear near the soundhole?

The top is a lovely medium-golden color with its aged-in finish. Also check out how beautifully the "Hawaiian scene" decals are preserved, too!

Do you see how the light is catching some "wrinkles" on the back? The back has these swellings on its upper and lower parts -- the wood is warped -- but curiously enough there's no deformation at the edges and only a small hairline crack (repaired) at the upper bout rear. This must have happened due to loss of moisture and some heat over time, but the guitar itself doesn't show any real signs of heat damage, so I have a feeling the wood wasn't particularly dried-out correctly when it was made.

Fortunately, it's all intact and the bracing is intact and glued-in too, except for where the bulging wood has warped away from under the braces here and there.

Tuners are original bakelite-buttoned 3-on-a-plate types and they work great.

See the strap button? It's on top of a shaped mount that conforms to the heel nicely and then the bolt travels through to the interior of the neck-block where it's tightened up with a wingnut. I installed this to reinforce the neck set since the dovetail inside was not the most artistic work done by Harmony. As expected, this works great.

The birch on the back has some cool "depth" to it in the way of light curly figure throughout. Combined with the "natural cherry" colored finish, it looks awfully pretty on this guitar.

A looker!

The sides are all crack free. Also check out the nice semi-gloss finish -- still shining though it of course shows a bit of wear overall. The side wood has nice graining to it -- at a glance it almost looks like cherry, but it's birch.

To match the one at the neck, I installed a strap button at the endblock area as well. This guitar was intended to be a Hawaiian "lap" model to begin with, so it never had a strap button from the factory.

Decal closeup. Pretty cool!

When I reset the neck I had to remove the fretboard extension and sand down the bottom to make it more of a wedge shape to fit correctly, but the 12th fret was stubborn and chipped the board before I even barely pulled it up. I've since back-filled it with the board's own sanding dust and leveled it off, but it's obvious on close inspection that it's been filled in.

Also note the hairline cracks in the fretboard itself. These are pretty usual on dried-up old dyed-wood fretboards like this one, but I drop-filled them with glue previously to help stabilize them.

c.1930 Chicago-made Bacon-style Banjo Mandolin

This banjo-mandolin plays and sounds excellent. It's got the longer 13 7/8" scale as well as a good-sized original Bacon-style tonering (a sleeve that fits over the top of the rim and then "donuts" down into the rim, hanging over the edge) which imparts volume, clarity, and warmth all together.

I'm pretty sure this type of banjo-mandolin (this one is unlabeled) was made by Regal for Lyon & Healy, since so many of this type with the "divot" headstock tend to be seen with L&H-family labels. Other variants of the same basic instrument (with tonering or hardware alterations) are also seen with Concertone and Slingerland/May Bell labels, too.

This instrument came to me as part of a final installment of a trade deal. It had been worked on previously by a competent amateur, but someone who wasn't quite familiar with specific banjo setup. My work included a fret level/dress, light cleaning, and of course a full setup.

One thing especially nice about this banjo-mando is that the hardware is almost all original. It has a replacement "end bolt" (tailpiece hanger) and nut, but aside from that it's all period. The bridge may have been borrowed from someone's parts-bin, but it's a mandolin bridge dating to the 1920s-30s so it fits right in.

By the way, cute pearl star in the headstock. And for those who've been fooled by the net rumors -- no, that does not mean it's a Vega.

Fretboard and headstock veneer appear to be dyed pearwood. Pearl dots.

Original skin head is in great shape.

Nice mandolin-style bridge -- exactly similar to what I would install to replace a banjo-style bridge. Waverly cloud tailpiece amazingly retains its original cover.

Good-quality Waverly tuners with ivoroid buttons. They work great after a lube.

Let's talk wood: the rim is laminated maple with maple veneer on the exterior of the pot. The Neck is a two-piece maple one with center-strip of some other sort of hardwood. This makes it really strong. The neck itself is pretty darn straight, too. It had relief under 1/64" to begin with and that relief was entirely removed in the fret leveling process.

Really good heavy-duty neck brace. Here you can see the bottom edge of that Bacon-style tonering popping out from the top lip of the rim. I love the way tonerings like this sound. They add so much clarity and punch without removing warmth and sweetness.

That hardware is in stunningly-good shape. It has a tiny bit of tarnish and spotting here and there but nothing I would notice without having dismantled it.

So, yes -- a good little instrument with good volume and that "horse clop" perfect banjo-mando sound. Excellent sustain as well.

I find instruments that sound like this work really great doing crosspicking parts in the back of the mix on a recording.