Ephemera: Warm weather... (c.1910)

"Aloha! Greetings from sunny Hawaii..." -- yes, I wish, with it 20 degrees out here and hauling my double bass in and out of the car this evening and it's only the start of winter!

We had a beautifully small gig this evening down at The Wild Fern just south of the shop (our weekly show) and I'll tell you -- playing a couple hours of music in a trance -- it's a great balm for the tired season.

c.1968 Guild F-20 0-size Guitar

This Hoboken, New Jersey-made Guild dates to 1968 from its serial number and is essentially a Guild version of the small-body Martin 0-18 models. It's roughly 0-size with a 14-fret neck and has a Gibson-flavored 24 5/8" scale as compared to some of these that had the longer 25+" scale later on in the model's history. The combination of a small body and 14-fret neck with x-bracing makes for a tone reminiscent of Nick Drake's "Black-Eyed Dog" song's instrumentation when used in conjunction with open tunings... sort of spidery but rich and sustained and focused.

Work included a fret level/dress, saddle re-shaping and bridge pin-hole adjustments, regluing of all the back binding, and some cleaning and setup. This guitar had been amateurishly repaired all over in the past: there are slipped seams on the front and back and various small hairline repairs & cleats to the front, but overall the work was "workmanly" and the instrument itself is in good playing condition. Meaning -- it plays beautifully.

I like the look of the small old Guild pickguards on this instrument. It's a bit smaller than a typical Martin 0-18 would have and the "compensated" size fits nicely with the guitar.

Good, simple rosewood bridge with a bone saddle. The pins are new plastic ones from my parts bin.

Spruce top, mahogany back and sides.

When I got the guitar, the headstock appeared to have had its veneer sanded out to 200 grit. I polished it up and then rubbed in a few coats of Gel varnish to pop the rosewood out and seal it up. Looks great, now.

And as an aside -- why is it that so few makers use metal truss rod covers like on this Guild? They're so much more practical than those darn plastic ones that chip and break all the time.

Rosewood board, radiused, with pearl dots. The neck shape and feel of this is very much similar to a 1960s 0-18 merged with a Gibson B-25 or somesuch. It feels a little narrower side-to-side but has a comfortable depth front-to-back.

This chunk of binding actually slightly overhangs the top edge and stubbornly refused to go back into place. There are a few areas of similar binding issues -- most notably on the back edge. It's simply not worth it in time to remove it all and re-rout the edge to reinstall it, though.

Another "slipped seam" area. Totally not a structural issue, but it is a cosmetic one. Still -- when people are watching you and you're playing it -- who would notice?

This has that typical Guild "red-stained" mahogany coloration to the hog back and sides.

The original tuners work just fine but I did replace the stripped-out old mounting screws.

This is the most dramatic "slipped seam" area on the lower bout rear. Fortunately, this ugly is kept on the rear and isn't as noticeable except when you're taking a macro shot, like this one...!


Ephemera: Saw & Fauxbro Duo (c.1939)

From an eBay auction. Dated to December 16, 1939. That fella holding the Kay-made faux-Dobro looks pretty jolly considering his friend is hammering out some tunes on saw not 4 feet in front of him! Those things get pretty loud!

c.2006 Gibson Custom-Built J-150 Jumbo Guitar

This J-150 is owned by a friend of mine and he custom-ordered it from Gibson to suit his specs. The base model is a J-150, though it has a custom burgundy-burst finish with flamed maple back and sides (though it's hard to see that in the pics). It was shipped without the large pickguard and because of that it actually looks more vintage to my eyes than even the 50s jumbos.

No matter what, it's a big-sounding, thunderous guitar with a full bass that's also responsive and not spongy or thuddy at all. My work on it at the moment was just a quick fret level/dress and setup.

The dark-red/purple finish is a very cool look for a typically very yellow-white guitar.

Plenty of pearl inlay...! The neck is a 2-piece flamed maple neck with a center strip of mahogany.

The owner does this on every one of his guitars.

Because one of the cream plastic pins was missing, I installed these ebony pins as upgrades instead.

I'm not a fan of these in-side electronic pre-amp Fishman gizmos, but they do work and are pretty practical if you're playing in a loud environment and need fine-tuning of your sound.

It's a shame that it's so hard to capture the flamed maple all over this instrument because it's quite nice.

Gold-plated Klusons.

Strap-button output jack.

Good neck set.

Custom Shop label.

There's that orange oval!

Workshop: Been doing?

In case you've been wondering where I've been...? Thanksgiving was wonderful for all of us up here along with its (many) guests and small local adventures. Yesterday was supposed to be a lovely day full of newly-finished instruments to pop up on the blog but I finally got all my gear in the mail to fix our main computer so that's what I did instead.

I have to admit, if you have an older iMac (ours is a late 2007), then you may want to do the upgrade (that was forced on us by a dead disk) we did of adding a solid-state hard drive coupled with more memory expanded to 4 GB. At the same time I finally updated our OS X to the current Mountain Lion from its purgatory of Leopard.

Yes, I'm much happier with the comp. Photoshop opens as soon as I finish clicking the icon. I've never had that experience before!


c.1912 Vega Bowlback Mandolin

These Boston-made Vegas remain my favorite bowlback mandolins as far as American makes go. They have a sweet, precise, but very full tone that makes them useful for genres outside of mandolin orchestra and classical pieces. This one sounds particularly nice for Celtic or old-time fiddle tunes.

The serial stamped in the headstock top dates this instrument to 1912 and it's a fairly typical example of an earlier (pre-1920s) Vega bowlback in appointments and styling. I love the simple but elegant trim on this particular mando.

Work included some seam repairs to the bowl (though there had been 2 repairs previously) as well as some slight regluing of the fretboard extension over the body, a fret level/dress, cleaning, and full setup. It plays spot-on with a good straight neck and fast playability.

Nice Brazilian rosewood veneer on the headstock. Original bone nut.

Ebony fretboard with pearl dots. The original bar frets are (as typical) fairly low since that's how they were to begin with, but play beautifully.

Ebony bridge. I use 32w, 20w, 13, 9 gauge strings on old bowlbacks. This is the standard GHS "A240" set.

You've gotta love the herringbone top purfling with white binding as well as that super-pretty multicolored rosette.

The tailpiece cover was missing so I muted the extra string length at the tailpiece with a pad of leather. This cuts down on unwanted overtones and cleans the sound of the instrument up a great deal. Most mandolins like having some tailpiece-area muting!

She's a looker!

Oops, and forgot to mention that the scale is the usual 13 1/8" length.

Vega workmanship is right on par with Martins and Gibsons.

This has a nice Brazilian rosewood bowl.

Original Waverly tuners are lubed and ready to go.

The mahogany neck has a good, clean heel join.

All the hardware on this mando is original as well, which is nice to have.

Interior label.

The original, embossed leather case isn't in carry-ready shape but it works great for storage.