9/13/2014

c.1930 Kay-made SS Stewart 0-size Mahogany Tenor Guitar




Update 2016: The owner of this brought it back in for consignment. I've since updated the post with new pictures and description where necessary.

This is a customer's instrument and it's quite cool: it's an 0-size, all-mahogany, ladder-braced tenor with a long (23 1/8") scale and a warm but cutting tone. Its owner wanted GDAE (octave mandolin) tuning and the shorter 12-fret neck was perfectly stable enough to get strung up for this higher-tension, lower-pitched tuning. I'm using a custom set on it of 46w, 30w, 18w, 12 strings. I got to try it out in jam group and it did a great job punching through the mix while also getting a good background-chord sound when needed, too.

While branded SS Stewart in the soundhole this has all the hallmarks of a Stromberg-Voisinet (Kay) instrument including the very cool "Gumby" headstock shape and three-point bridge. Very similar instruments of a 6-string variety were often seen in this build style with Oahu badging. The body is entirely made from solid mahogany (with only one hairline crack -- old repair and stable -- on the back), the neck is poplar, and the bridge and fretboard are stained maple.


Work on this included a fret level/dress, new bone nut and saddle and a bit of a bridge shave which included some relocating of the bridge pins and string ramping. The bridge itself also got a reglue.


The original friction pegs were out of the question for practical use with steel strings so they were swapped for guitar-style tuners. I did a bit of fitting on the tuner plates to match the headstock shape. Note also the new bone nut.


Pearl dots in a dyed-maple board... and the board itself has some hairline cracking but they're all stable and good to go. The frets are original as well and the neck has a v-shape to it with a flat-profile board.


This bridge had a fret saddle originally which was badly-located. I cut a new slot and installed bone instead. The bridge, like the board, is dyed maple. I relocated the pin holes to the rear of the bridge as the originals were drilled too far forward and in addition weren't even seated in the bridge plate! The new location puts the underside of the pin holes right in the middle of the bridge plate... much more useful.

The "new" pins are vintage 30s celluloid ones from my parts-bins.


The bound back and top and 3-ring rosette looks great against the mahogany.


Here's the Stewart label in the soundhole.



There's one long (roughly 8"?) hairline crack on the "right" side of the lower bout back in this picture. There's also a tiny hairline at the waist on the "left" side. Both are stable and were repaired in the past.



When this came first in 2014 the neck looked like it had been reset some time ago and was perfectly good to go. When it came back in 2016 it remained so and the action had not changed at all -- nice and stable!






The endstrip is nice, too.

This tenor comes with an original (!) chip case in good condition.