7/09/2013

c.1960 Vega Baritone Ukulele



There's no doubt that this is a Vega-branded baritone ukulele, more than likely from the early to mid 1960s, and that it's built from good solid materials: rosewood fretboard and bridge and mahogany body and neck. My doubt is that it was actually built in the Vega factory in Boston. I've handled several Vega baris from the 1950s that I'm sure were Boston-made and the construction is quite different: bracing is fan-type, lightweight, and sculpted similar to the Favilla manner, and the body shape is more rounded and "Vega-y." Here are links to one 50s Vega and another 50s Vega that I have on the blog for comparison. In contrast, this bari has ladder bracing and more rough-cut, non-scalloped tall braces with rougher interior work.

The other strike against the "Boston origin" of this instrument is that I've seen this same model uke with various other "house brands" on eBay and the like. I could be totally wrong, but my suspicion is that Vega bought these from another US maker to sell in their catalogs.

That said, it's a nice old uke with fit and finish better than your typical Harmony baritone uke from the same period but not on par with the 1950s Vegas, same-period Favillas, and same-period Martins. This particular one is also very clean (save scuffs and small dings here and there) and crack-free. It's also all-original and after I gave it a light cleaning, fret level/dress, and setup, it plays beautifully with a low 1/16" action at the 12th fret.

It's also got a nice new hard case with faux-alligator covering!



The nut and saddle on this are that 60s yellow plastic stuff. These 50s Vega decals were used right through the 60s and I'm used to seeing them on all sorts of non-Boston Vega products like Harmony-bodied electric archtops from the same time.


Good rosewood board with brass frets and pearl dots. The neck is thin and comfy.


The saddle had to come down some for good action. I like to string these with "ball end knot" style fashion rather than classical style because you get better down-pressure against the saddle with the knotted ends. The bridge (aside from the saddle material) is similar to older Vegas but that's not saying much, since Harmony and Favilla bridges were much the same, too.


The simple, green/yellow ring rosette is a nice touch. I love to see green hints against mahogany!








The heel joint is quite good.



As you can see, though the finish has some weather checking, it's pretty glossy and looks nice.


The "Vineyard" Asian-made hard faux-alligator case is a nice touch!

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