8/09/2013

c.1935 Oscar Schmidt-made Nobility Archtop Guitar



Update 2014: Since I originally posted this guitar was purchased by a friend and then traded in about 3 or 4 months ago when he was really into getting a good mandolin. After that I popped a GFS Alnico lipstick pickup in the soundhole with a jack on the side and set it up to play with regular electric mediums (49w-11 with unwound G and bridge compensated for it) and have used it at a few shows. It has a great old-timey sound and the lipstick pickup gives it a fun vintage vibe that's crisp an clear when plugged in. It'll do single-coil sounding jazzy stuff and (like lipsticks do) will sound fairly "vintage plugged-in" acoustic when plugged into a clean channel as well. It's been stable in service despite its funny top and stays in tune better than most of my other guitars, amazingly. Must be the old Waverly tuners up at the peghead. So that's the story! I've also updated the soundclip above. Now back to the 2013 post...



This 0-size, 14" lower bout archtop guitar was made by Oscar Schmidt for P'MICo out of New York. It's branded with their "Nobility" mark. Except for cosmetic changes (much nicer binding, sunburst, nicer bridge, generally fancier) this guitar is the same as this guitar. Unlike that one, however, I received the guitar in this post with its top entirely collapsed (nearly 1" of change).

Rather than be ambitious and do tons of work to reshape the top of what is essentially an all-birch, mid-grade, press-arched guitar, I decided to rebrace the instrument as a flattop/archtop hybrid instead, following the Regal-style ladder bracing pattern like on this Radio Tone.

So, work involved: a neck reset, fret level/dress, top rebracing and reinforcement, much cleaning, and setup. Someone had tried to reattach the neck with a screw on the inside. I'm not below reinforcing with a bolt-through modification if the neck pocket is poorly made, but the neck pocket on this one was easy enough to get functional and firm, so I just reset the neck and removed the poorly-installed screw instead.

The result is a really fun guitar with a 1 7/8" nut and flat-profile board that has a warm, toasty, and fiery sort of tone. It's great for old-timey fingerpicking and flatpicked lead work as it has a tone somewhere between an old f-hole archtop and a mid-grade flattop. I used a set of those John Pearse silk & bronze sets (not silk & steel, these are quite different in tonality and response) to give it a slightly less cutting (and breathier) sound. Gauged out at 49w to 11, they seem to be just about perfect on this guitar as it has a longer (25 1/2") scale.


I love the red/tobacco sunburst. 

In many ways I see this as an Oscar Schmidt low-brow rip of a 30s L-50, like this guy.


The headstock shape is pretty cute and there's that typical yellowed-out OS nut material.


Faux-pearl dots in an "ebonized" maple board. The profile on this is a hard v, but softer than most Chicago brands -- this feels similar to a 30s v-neck Gibson, rather.


I love the triple-ring rosette and fun pickguard.



Rosewood adjustable bridge and plain-Jane tailpiece.



The back is lightly arched and the depth of the sides is pretty shallow. It sits really nicely in the lap, too, with that fun full-length 12-fret 00 shape.





The tuners lubed up nicely and work great.


I added a cool old metal button for strap hangin' purposes.



Original wood endpin.


This shows some of the sinkage to begin with, but you have to be aware that this was also initially arched fairly steeply. I simply moistened this area and braced it as a flattop tailpiece style guitar instead, which yielded a much less brittle-sounding guitar compared to a similar OS I worked on that retained its arch.

It's easy to see why the top failed, though, because the bracing was ridiculously light for the load being carried. Sitting, strung up, probably in someone's attic didn't help, either, though!


Here's a better view of what that distorted top looks like, now (Oct 2014). No difference from August last year and stable in service but hilarious.


Simple electric-style jack...


...and here you can see how the fretboard extension dips down and the soundhole mounting of the GFS lipstick pickup.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice job on that one, Jake. I'm really tempted...