6/20/2014

c.1935 National Trojan Resonator Guitar




Update 2015: Mark says: "These are not National Trojans. As an instrument, they are, of course, identical with Trojans. They were never branded as Nationals however. None of them ever had a decal on the headstock. They were sold direct to Sears Roebuck catalogue from Harmony, with resonator bits supplied by National Dobro. They all have Z series serial numbers and were sold under the SUPERTONE brand in the catalogue. REAL Trojans have split f holes, not the long ones, like these and have T serial numbers. OK?" Fair enough, Mr. M!

Gosh it's fun to work on old Nationals. This is the first Trojan I've seen through that actually came to me in really good shape: the others I've worked on have been real dogs!

This Trojan's serial places it at 1935 and the bodies for these were made by Harmony (note the distinctive Harmony "swoop" at the top of the slotted headstock). The neck joint is dovetailed but there's a rod/dowel running the length of the body inside like on a metal-bodied National (on this one, at least). Curious! The other Trojans I've seen have had mildly warped necks as well but this one is perfectly straight and I found out about the reason why when doing the neck set: it has a non-adjustable steel truss in it -- fantastic!





This guitar came to me by way of a customer purchasing it and getting it fixed up for his father. What a nice present, huh?

Work included the neck reset, fret level/dress, fretboard extension reglue/adjustment, saddle compensation and recut, lots of setup work (resos always take a while to setup as there's a zillion ways to pick up rattles and ugly overtones), and new neck binding on the bass side. Despite the long list of work the binding was the most obnoxious -- I used vintage stock from a busted guitar from the same time but had to cut it down and painstakingly thin it up to fit. The end result is worth it because vintage celluloid bindings look so much better than using some sort of new alternative as they have the years of wear and tear on their exposed edges and are yellowed correctly.


Everything on the guitar is 100% original. Bone nut.


The fretboard is dyed maple (like on many Harmony products) and it sports pearl dots. This has a roughly 25 1/8" scale length and I strung it with 50w-11s for standard pitch with "OKed for 12s" for dropped tunings. Even with the steel rod it's good to take it easy on old Harmony necks... especially a thinner one like this which feels fairly Martin-modern in cut.

The board, by the way, has a slight radius.


Thick mahogany ply is used for the back and top but solid mahogany is used for the sides. It's nice-looking stuff especially in the "redburst" finish. Note the plethora of use-wear.


The ribbed coverplate is great...!


Now that I'm done taking photos, this tailpiece has a bit of foam stuffed under the strings to cut down on any rattles/overtone ring that may pop up in the future.


Being a 00-size guitar with a 14-fret neck, this fits beautifully in the lap and has just enough body depth and air chamber size to give a lot of oomph to the resonator's output.



Mahogany neck...






The tuners, after a tiny bit of lube, work nicely.




...and who can argue with an original chip case and factory strap?


...or cool old thumbpicks?


This fella even stopped nearby to take a gander at the guitar.

3 comments:

mark makin said...

These are not National Trojans. As an instrument, they are, of course, identical with Trojans. They were never branded as Nationals however. None of them ever had a decal on the headstock. They were sold direct to Sears Roebuck catalogue from Harmony, with resonator bits supplied by National Dobro. They all have Z series serial numbers and were sold under the SUPERTONE brand in the catalogue. REAL Trojans have split f holes, not the long ones, like these and have T serial numbers. OK?

Jake Wildwood said...

That's such an angry response! I'll post your information as an update up top -- still, it's a "Trojan" to me as it's, well, the same darn instrument. Is it really enough to get angry over? :)

Scooter Lee said...

I've been looking for this info for some time now. I bought, what was advertised as a '38' National wood body from a music shop in Santa Fe, NM. In my research, i coulden't find any wood body with those F holes. I thought i purchased a frankin guitar. My 'SUPERTONE' Is a great player and has super tone! I understand Harmony built most wood bodies for National . So with National hardware and a decal it's a National...no decal it's a SUPERTONE! BFD I love my National SUPERTONE Tojan!!!