6/28/2013

c.1932 National Triolian Ukulele



I've been very excited about this one! Judging by the serial stamped in the top of the headstock (309) this dates to probably 1932. Except for the tuners, it also appears all-original. I'm not sure of the paint job but I've had National reso mandos through with obscure colors that don't match catalog descriptions at all. This is sort of an "aged bronze" look finish and it's over a steel "large size" National body.

Update: I'm now on the fence about the finish, but it's probably refinished. It would be a pretty intensive job, though, as it has a curious "two tone" finish with a base coat and then an overcoat that gives a sort of bronze-depth look to it when turned under light. Also, the original finish would've had to have been entirely stripped beforehand as there's no evidence of any other finish under this save the primer. Curious!

This uke has a 15" concert scale which puts good tension on the (extremely lightweight original) cone and, well -- as you'd expect -- this thing sounds awesome. Big, loud, breathy, and crisp with the Aquila Nylguts on it right now. It actually came to me with a set of uke-style steel strings (approx gauges 09-20w-13-09), apparently on since the '40s, that had a good sound in themselves, but not very uke-y.

The neck on this guy is more mandolin-y than uke-shaped (as in, a fairly narrow nut) which is dramatically different from most modern-build resonator ukes. This gives it a pretty slick and fast feel which makes those closed-position chords a snap to play up and down the neck.


Except for the color, the finish style on this reminds me of the wood-grain Nationals. The coverplate had apparently not been off since it was first put together, judging by the way I peeled up tiny bits of finish from around the (clean) brass screws.

The only areas where finish is lightly chipped-out are along the treble side of the fretboard extension, a slight amount at the heel, and a speck or two of chip I myself added around the coverplate brass screws (they're slippery!).


Bone nut and circa-20s tuner pegs. These are ivoroid-buttoned ones from my parts bin. This uke came to me with 1940s guitar-style Klusons installed which I removed (and have set aside on the case). They just did not look right!



I like that the wrist-rest was left plain. Also note the very cute tailpiece!


Ivoroid-bound, pearl-dotted, dyed-maple? fretboard. Frets are all good to go, too, and have been leveled and dressed. Action is super slick at 1/16" at the 12th fret. I only had to slightly adjust the nut and bridge.






This is a good-looking, great-sounding uke and I'm sore tempted to keep it. Decisions, decisions...



The heel angle was perfect and the join solid. I didn't even have to touch it (though I did clean out the "toneball" dustballs inside while servicing this guy.




As usual, this has a strap-button endpin.


I tried to get some glare off of the top so you could see the texture of the finish.


Oh, what?! An original semi-rigid case, too? Zoiks!




Here's that biscuit and featherweight cone.



And here's under the coverplate.

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