5/15/2014

c.1920 William J. Smith Koa Soprano Ukulele




I actually finished this uke on Sunday but didn't get around to taking pictures until this (gloomy) morning. It's a cute little number all in Hawaiian koa but I'm pretty sure it was made in New Jersey by Oscar Schmidt for the William J Smith outfit. It's got a nicely-flamed top but the back, sides, and neck are all fairly plain-Jane. Sound is sweet, plucky, decently loud, and "choppy" in that I'm sure it will sit well in a jam. It plays great with 1/16" action at the 12th fret.

Work included a bridge reglue, fret level/dress, setup, cleaning, seam repair near the end block, hairline crack fill/finish on the back, and a countersunk screw to secure the dovetailed neck joint. The dovetails on this type/make of uke aren't really all that well cut and are little more than a vaguely triangular insert sort of like a hybrid between a mortoise/tenon and dovetail in design so the screw (plus glue) in this case makes it a little more secure than average.




The top is pretty stuff, no? It's all a pumpkin orange/red-brown color just like you'd want to see in koa.


Despite all being apparently original, one tuner shaft is different. The headstock with its triangular insert is also very similar to "Sammo" brand instruments, too, and the shape is similar to old Dias ukes.


An "actual" fretboard with cute extension gives a nice look. Pearl dots... one apparent replacement fret. These strings are the new Aquila "Super Nylgut" and to my ears they sound like a slightly mellower Nylgut and to my fingers they feel like fluorocarbon.




Folksy bridge, huh? Pretty typical. As for intonation: the uke is close but not 100% up at the 12th fret. This is usual for old mainland ukes.



The finish shows wear and tear throughout but still gleams nicely. It's got plenty of varnish weather checking all over.


These are original spring-loaded fancy uke pegs and they work nicely. They're still friction pegs but the spring helps them adjust more smoothly.


You can see the small evidence of the countersunk screw/bolt in the back of the heel, here.


This hairline crack was super tight so I simply filled its outer layer and sealed it with finish. I didn't want to ruin the label installing unnecessary cleats inside under it.





Endstrip...


...and Smith label with a nice sailboat.

1 comment:

Geoff Davis said...

That headstock looks a lot like my pair of c.1920 Frank Bremermann ukes from Indianapolis. I'll have to get them out and take a look. Frank was building in Indianapolis -- the Indianapolis Star did a wonderful feature on his operation.