6/01/2014

c.1925 Washburn Style 5265 Tenor Guitar/Baritone Uke Conversion




Update 2016: This came back in for trade and it'd been strung-up GDAE (octave mandolin) with nylon for 2+ years. I restrung it with all-plain, re-entrant uke strings for dGBE tuning which you can hear in the above soundclip. The original clip (below) is for low-D tuning using classical guitar strings. I've also added 4:1 geared tuners and added some new pictures where necessary.



Oh man, another fun tenor guitar, huh? It's a L&H-made/sold Washburn brand instrument (I think these were Regal-made) like this L&H American Conservatory one... but this one has a surprise... it's been converted to a baritone uke! Upon receiving this tenor I noted that the neck was just absolutely cut too thin for steel strings. It had a set of steel on it and even at 3/4 tension it showed warp. Conversion to nylon/baritone uke was thus necessary... and guess what? That neck is stable and flat... and it sounds loud, proud, and cool.

Some work had been done to this before: multiple hairline crack fills/repairs, replaced frets, and a top coat of varnish applied. My work "finished" some of this work including cleating some of the hairline cracks, leveling/dressing the frets, removing the last bits of mucked-up pearl work, installing new pearl dots, a uke-style glued-on bridge, new bone nut, crack repair at the headstock (as well as some dowels installed to support them), and setup. This has a 22 3/4" scale length and I didn't have a set of baritone uke strings on hand but the DGBE strings from a set of D'Addario classical guitar strings worked just fine on it.

Update: this is currently wearing a set of D'Addario "Titanium" soprano uke strings which are gauged almost the same as D'Addario classical guitar (normal tension) DGBE strings save that the first is re-entrant and plain. As mentioned, I've also replaced the tuners with geared 4:1 Grover units and re-used the original buttons. Take a look:




Now back to the original post and pictures...


I love this body shape especially with its peculiar "pear" profile. It sits beautifully in the lap and compared to some other tenor guitar shapes/baritone uke shapes it has the bridge in "the sweet spot" at the widest part of the soundboard. You get a lot more volume this way. The original light ladder bracing is also conducive to the baritone-uke conversion of this instrument... it's responsive.


New bone nut! This has a 1 1/8" nut and a thin front/back C-shape profile which makes it feel a lot like a modern baritone or tenor uke. It's great for playing closed-position chords up the neck.


I approximated the old lost inlay with 2 white pearl + 1 abalone dot inlays instead. It looks pretty classy from the audience's perspective. The board is dyed maple and bound in ivoroid celluloid.


I love the 3-ring rosette and cream/black purfling/binding.


This is an old 1930s Harmony uke bridge and it worked perfectly for gluing to this tenor/bari. There are several (cleated) long top hairline cracks on this instrument.


I think I forgot to mention materials: it's a solid spruce top with solid mahogany back/sides and a Spanish cedar neck.


There are, of course, multiple long hairline cracks on the back that have previously been worked on/mucked up a bit... but they're stable.



The cracks are glued up... but I also reinforced this precarious section with a couple dowels, too.

Update: the cracks are all holding pat 2+ years on. See earlier in the post for the newer 4:1 geared Grover tuners I installed (re-using the original buttons). They're a huge practicality improvement.


The neck is perfectly set.






The serial dates it to around 1925.


Those 4 old holes were for the old mandolin-style tailpiece.

Update: I'm posting a whole set of "taken today in 2016" shots below. The lighting isn't as nice and, as you can see, except for the new tuners the instrument is in the same condition:

















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