6/14/2014

c.1925 Oscar Schmidt-made Tiple Conversion




There are no markings on this guy but it's certainly an Oscar Schmidt build from the 20s. See this tiple and this tiple for reference. Compared to a Regal or Harmony-made tiple the build on these OS makes is a little heavier but also sturdier: their tops tend to do well with their original pin/tie block style glued bridges where the Chicago makes weren't reinforced enough and tend to develop top deformation problems over time if not converted to a tailpiece setup.

This one was sent in by a customer for work and it came to me in really good shape save that the neck joint was pretty loose. After a neck reset and fretboard extension adjustment I also found out from the customer that he was interested in having it strung with 8 strings in 5-string banjo tuning: DGBD (though this stringing works for CGCE and DGBE as well). I happened to have some spare 20s mandolin tuners so I swapped them in place of the original 5-on-a-plate tiple tuners (safely bagged up for the owner) and then went to work adjusting the bridge and nut for 8-string setup. My own tiple, even though I tune it GCEA, is strung with 8 strings instead as it's just easier to keep it in tune for live work that way.



The OS body form is a little less bulbous than its Chicago brothers and the simple but classy trim gives it a nice look. Both the board and bridge are rosewood. The top is solid spruce while the back, sides, and neck are birch.


While the tuners don't fill the headstock out entirely they're actually an improvement over the 5-on-a-plate types which ordinarily come with "post over" configurations... by which I mean the string post is on the "top" side of the button/worm shaft. That configuration doesn't engage the main gear as well since the string tension pulls the shaft away from the worm. In addition, if you swap to an 8-string setup and leave 10-string plates the empty tuners will rattle irritatingly despite your best efforts to dampen them (I know from experience).

The nut is new bone and I've slotted it to allow regular tiple stringing (minus extra octave strings) as well.


The frets got a leveling and dressing... and I like those mini pearl dots.



This is the original bridge, though I had to remove the tie block to make it useful as the tie block was both: 1) slightly hairline-cracked at the treble edge bottom and 2) drilled with its string slots positioned too high on the block for good back-angle over the saddle.

I did leave the original saddle, however, but converted the stringing to a pin style. Note how I've cut "string ramp" slots at angles to position those strings closer together than they ordinarily would be. I thought that this was a nice solution compared to staggering the pins like on a 12-string guitar.

The original straight saddle is not 100% the best option for perfect intonation but... it does allow the owner some flexibility in tuning and stringing it up... hence the reason I left it. I have a feeling that he'll want to play around with tunings (tiples make you want to do that).




Until I put a strap button on the heel of my tiple (also converted with mandolin tuners) I used the extra tuner holes to tie my strap off.




Well, I can't really argue with an old New Jersey OS... no matter what instrument you're talking about they all share a sort of "safe, secure, plain, but pleasant" feel.

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