3/17/2013

c.1925 Oscar Schmidt Tenor Guitar


While unbranded, this tenor guitar was clearly made by Oscar Schmidt in the mid-1920s. For reference, check this one and this one out. Considering the upgraded specs (solid mahogany back and sides, solid spruce top) this would have been comparable to Schmidt's "Sovereign" brand instruments at the time.

I worked on this one for a customer and it needed the whole nine yards: it had a previous (botched) neck reset that needed to be done again, there were several open side cracks (and many old repairs to side cracks), the top needed hairline cracks glued and cleated, the bridge needed to be reglued, new bridge pins needed to be found, it needed a fret levle and dressing, and of course the associated setup and whatnot. It's come out of all this a very nice-playing, nice-sounding instrument with that peculiar woody, sustained OS tone I associate with these guys. It has a bit more volume and clarity compared to the birch models, though.


This is roughly a Martin size 5 body and directly comparable to an early Regal tenor guitar size. The scale is 20 7/8" and with the 12-fret body join that means this handles like a slightly oversized baritone ukulele. I've strung it with 34w, 20w, 14, 10 strings for standard (CGDA) tuning. This size body really promotes that voicing quite well.


The only new parts on this guitar are a new bone nut, older replaced bone saddle, new ebony endpin, and a replacement (but period) set of pearl-dot wooden bridge pins from my parts bin.


The fretboard is some sort of dyed hardwood but the dots are real pearl. The frets are low and narrow nickel-silver, as typical for the time.


Check out the plethora of pickwear and scratches with dirt rubbed down into them from years of poor storage and years before that of playwear. This obviously lived a hard life, but cleaned up as it is sure smacks of authenticity.


Original rosewood bridge.



There's white celluloid binding on the top and back edges which pops out nicely from the mahogany.


Per the usual for Oscar Schmidt instruments, this bears some Champion friction pegs. These don't turn the smoothest (they really need new leather washers), but they do work just fine. The neck is mahogany.



Nice mahogany back, too, with a few hairline cracks here and there. The strip on the back is actually inlaid, which is nice.



The fellow who'd done the neck reset before I got to this tenor had done a sloppy job and didn't properly shim up the joint. Though I could rely on the glue to hold the neck in place after resetting it, I like to make the joint mechanically stable as a first priority so that even if there were no glue it could hold string tension. My hope is that this means that as the instrument ages further there's no real nee to work on the neck again, since most of these joints fail due to gaps existing internally.




The new ebony endpin looks just right!

I have to say, by the way, that it's rare enough to find Oscar Schmidt tenor guitars, but even rarer to find nicer-grade ones like this guy. So, even though this one is somewhat beat up, it was still definitely worthwhile to get it worked on and back in rotation. The fact that this tenor has survived so much abuse and can still keep ticking is a testament to the generally strong construction OS instruments tend to have.

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