4/14/2013

Workshop: 9-String Parlor Guitar


This Regal-made, all-birch "parlor" guitar dates to around 1910-15 at the first height of the Hawaiian craze. Judging by the "learner's charts" pasted to the fretboard, the owner of this guitar was playing in low-bass D open G tuning (DGDGBD) which was standard practice for raised-nut (Hawaiian/slide) playing at the time.

This particular instrument is a really sad case and has been awaiting my care for at least 5 months, now. It's a customer's instrument and if it weren't such a rare duck it would hardly be worth the effort to get it back into playing condition since so much bad has happened to it.


Here you can see how the neck joint glue failed and string tension made that fretboard extension and soundhole area a real mess. Look at that dip!


The 6-tuner side of the headstock is split wide-open in two places. I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to stabilize this but I imagine I'll be adding two support bolts as well as doweling and splinting the split pieces back together.


After removing the fretboard extension, the neck slid right off, but it did leave a bit of itself behind in the joint.


Here's the endpin/tailpiece area and note the water damage and the swelled and separating sides coming loose from the endblock... sigh! The endblock itself is actually swollen past the bottom of the side.


So... I opened the seam up and carved it down flat with my chisels and whittling knives and then clamped up the sides to the endblock using these thin violin f-hole clamps. I've found these clamps to be invaluable tools for getting into hard-to-reach areas. If you're inventive enough you can do a whole ton on the inside of the instrument without having to totally remove the back or top.


Here, for example, I've reglued the one loose brace on the back by using wood shims as clamps by wedging them against the top.


The section under the fretboard extension had no bracing when the guitar arrived and is severely warped. Since there's little that the above-soundhole part of this guitar will do to add to the guitar's tone, I'm installing this lightweight but big honking piece of pine as a giant brace/patch to reinforce this area. Most ladder-braced guitars from this time have trouble in this section with the tension of 6 strings, but the extra 3 can really do them in (as evidenced by what happened to this in the first place). That wedge will butt up right against the neck block, providing extra strength directly to counter the neck's push.

I may end up carving it down a bunch after it's in place, but I want it to be fairly stiff while it's clamping to restore the top's shape.


Here it's clamped-up and it's already restored the straightness to the top in that area. Note that all of my clamping blocks have masking tape to keep them from getting stuck to the surface if glue seeps out of any hairline cracks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I sold this guitar to your customer. I would love to see it when it's done. Thanks.