1/17/2013

c.1920 Oscar Schmidt Mahogany Soprano Ukulele


Oscar Schmidt ukes don't pop up as often as those of other big makers (Harmony and Regal, mostly), but they're nicely-built and one of the favorite ukes in my collection is a very basic, no-frills, somewhat heavily-built birch Oscar Schmidt.

I've worked on this same model OS build maybe twice before this particular uke so I'm familiar with the build style. Top, back, and side woods on OS makes tend to be thicker than Harmony or Regal instruments and the bracing and linings (kerfing) are heavier as well. The necks tend to be dovetailed like a guitar rather than doweled to the body and thus barely ever need neck resets because the joint is so strong.

Repairs to this fellow included a seam reglue to the top lower bout, bridge reglue, fret level/dress, bridge saddle reshaping, new (old stock) bone nut, replacement tuners (nice ivoroid-buttoned Grover Champions from my bin), and of course cleaning and setup. It feels and plays just like my own birch uke -- good comfortable (wider) fretboard, round-backed neck, and easy action.

Despite the fact that these tend not to outvoice most Regal and Harmony makes in terms of depth and tone and volume, they have a "3rd aspect" that makes them instantly appealing. It's something about the sweet, simple midrangey tone that does it for me. They also record very well and tuning up to ADF#B (which was standard at the time) makes them really, really shine (they become more projecting and Hawaiian-y light-sounding at the same time).


This one has nice "rope" binding around the soundhole and top edge. The uke itself is made entirely from mahogany with a rosewood fretboard.


The bodies on these guys were slightly larger than their competitors at the same time (c.1915-1920). These are more of a "Martin" size.


Replacement bone nut, non-original (but period) nice Grover Champion pegs.


Though I had to cut down the bridge saddle area slightly, I kept the cut of the bridge almost the same as the original for a similar aesthetic look. Very no-frills but practical.


One nice feature vs. other makes is that OS build most of their ukes with actual fretboards rather than the Hawaiian-style endorsed by Regal, Harmony, Gretsch and others of the same time where the frets were set directly into the neck top. This gives a more finished and less "folsky" appeal.


Interior label. This reads Oscar Schmidt on its bottom edge.



Oops! I forgot to mention that there are sections of binding missing.

There was a small attempted (previously) to rectify this, but I've simply drop-filled the sections with a bit of glue and ebony dust. It gets the job done and protects the edge. Unlike in the photos, it's also not too noticeable (I'll bet you didn't see it in the first pics!).


Here's the patch on the lower bout.



I splurged and used these nice-quality ivoroid-buttoned pegs from my parts bin. I've seen OS ukes with these on them before so I figured I'd use something appropriate.




Good, tight, dovetailed heel joint. The backstrip is inlaid as well.





The whole thing is this nice chocolate brown color.

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