7/27/2013

c.1915 Larson-made Adams Brothers "Parlor" Guitar


This gorgeous guitar is a customer's instrument that was in for repair. While it bears Adams Brothers branding (like this other guitar I worked on), I'm certain that these were made by the (now famous) Larson Brothers in Chicago. For reference, check this one out.

I've had the opportunity to inspect and do light work on several old Larson guitars (and many more Larson mandolin-family instruments) and this one fits right in with the mix of them. Same headstock volute and medium-big v-shaped neck (that's oddly very comfortable), same attention to detail, materials thicknesses and types, and same cuts. The bracing on this one (transverse ladder-braced) is also identical to the type on this guitar.

Anyhow, work included the following: remove fretboard extension, reshape it, and reglue so it matches the angle of the main board -- fret level/dress -- bridge shave and conversion -- cleaning -- tuner button swap and lube -- and setup. It plays beautifully, now, and is a superb fingerpicker (though I'm not as much a fan of it for flatpicking even though it sounds nice for that, too).


The spruce top is "domed" in Larson-fashion, meaning it's quite curved (but not press-arched or carved). This reinforces the top and allows lighter bracing and gives these guitars a unique, sustained, and rich voice with a lot of clarity. The degree to which it's domed is curious to the Larson products I've played.


Nice rosewood veneer on the headstock. The bone nut is new as the old nut had some awkward spacing at the B/E string.


Lovely, folksy pearl inlay in the ebony board. The frets are low but that's typical as far as I've seen from similar guitars. After lightly leveling them and dressing them they feel a lot better.


I love the cute little diamond inlays and that creamy-white binding! The multi-layered wood purfling is also gorgeous and I'm sure when this guitar was made it was probably popping with brilliant colors.


 A beautiful rosette, too!

Every inch of this guitar speaks to quality build and the fit and finish is gorgeous.
 

The largest part of the work was converting a 60s/70s rosewood classical (tie-block) bridge into this functional ebony-looking type. The glare from the sun gives some of this a strange look but it looks quite uniform in person. The bridge had originally been installed with bolts and those have been removed (they were huge!) and the holes filled with pearl diamonds installed in the same fashion as those on the fretboard. I then removed the tie-block and recut the bridge a lot lower.

I cut a new (better-compensated) saddle slot and made this thin bone saddle for it. Then I added a bridge plate cap and drilled for nice wide string spacing. The bridge is wider by 1" (it's 7" rather than 6") than normal which meant the only route to really getting a new bridge on this would be to custom-cut one and it probably wouldn't look much different from this one, anyhow. There's a little chip-out in the grain near the pin holes but it's not noticeable in person.

When I strung this guy up I left it overnight and, as usual, the ladder-braced top had deflected and the saddle needed to come down pretty low.


The back and sides are mahogany and look excellent. I love the curvy shape to this instrument, too. There are a couple of (stable, drop-filled) hairline cracks near the center seam.


The upper bout thins quite dramatically compared to the lower bout. This adds an archtop-ish clarity to the projection.


Note the mildly-v neck profile and Larson-style "volute."



Elegant backstrip, huh?




So, bugger-all, I ordered a set of fresh StewMac repro tuners for this and they (and any other plate-style tuner I know of) wouldn't fit the post spacing without a redrill. The customer and I decided to re-button these old (60s) tuners with ivoroid ones I had on hand and, well, good enough for government work! They now look more period.


It looks like a tailpiece was installed here at some point...


And there's the label!

3 comments:

Tricot Treat said...

Lovely work, Jake!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jake

I saw you working on this one yesterday when i stopped at your store. Wow, great work you did! I really enjoyed my visit and your explanations. I hope to be able to buy a Regal Tenor Guitar some days from you.

Best, Martin

Anonymous said...

Nice guitar indeed but most certainly not made by the Larson Brothers. The Adams Bros existed as their own entity in Dwight IL as the label suggests. They also made their own very unique style of harp guitar. They were not in business for very long roughly 1897 through 1903.