11/30/2014

1900s Larson-made Parlor Guitar




Back to work! I'm very sorry everyone for the longish break but Thanksgiving and family affairs (as well as getting ready for Xmas with the shop) have kept me out of the workshop. I hope this post makes up for that a bit!

This guitar is unmarked but it's essentially a carbon copy in terms of build (not detailing) to this Larson-made Stahl I photo-shot a couple years ago. This guitar on Reverb also shares some similarities. Larson builds are innately peculiar in that they certainly have "their own style." I'm almost certain this was made by the Larsons but it's awfully hard to confirm "for real" without any sort of serial stamp or brand affiliation located in some obvious place.

That said, I've handled my share of old Larson makes and this one is built in the same manner and has the same tone... that full-spectrum, crisp and clear, sustained voice that's pretty much unmistakable. All the other ladder-braced guitars from the time just don't quite have that rich and clean a sound and there are reasons why... which are also the same reasons these guitars have skyrocketed in value so recently.


The top is solid spruce while the back and sides are Brazilian rosewood. There are some hairline cracks here and there on the back and sides but they're all so tight and minimal that work was not needed to address them. The top is, shockingly, crack-free and some useful work was done in the past by way of a custom-made replacement bridge and neck reset.

Both were done well but the guitar needed a bit of TLC to really get it going which included the very tedious job of reseating/gluing-in most of the bar frets and then leveling/dressing them and giving the guitar a full setup. I'd say about 2/3 of the frets were loose for at least half their length. I also replaced the aftermarket Kluson tuners that came on the guitar with some StewMac repro tuners.

Setup was easy because whoever worked on it before the fret woes had done a good job: I only had to compensate the saddle a bit more but didn't need to adjust its height... and then after that the nut just needed to be shimmed up and adjusted.

I should mention now that this is a customer's guitar and not for sale.


The "straight cut" to the slotted headstock is very Larson-y. So is the curved-over cream celluloid binding that pops up everywhere on this instrument. The bone nut is original, too, and the headstock is veneered front and back with rosewood. Slick!


Fancy pearl inlay is all throughout the fretboard. The frets themselves are bar stock that was "notched" on the bottom to grab the slots. The board is bound, too, and the 1 13/16" nut mixed with a radiused (another Larson-y feature) board makes this ideal for a fingerpicker. The ebony on the board is actually a thinner veneer while the board itself is made of maple.


The rich mix of wood purfling gives this guitar a strikingly-pretty look.


The repro bridge (ebony) was done exceedingly well by some unknown other repairman. I'm guessing it was made as an oversize version of the original... otherwise why use the Chicago-style "wings?"

And, oh yeah, actual compensation for the saddle is a nice feature, no?


It's a gorgeous little guitar (0-sized, 13" lower bout) and has the same features of that Stahl I mentioned including the "domed top" which is integral to the sound of Larson builds. This means that the top is slightly bent over the bracing when the guitar was made which gives extra stiffness to the top and allows the bracing to be slightly lighter while still taking the tension of an extra-light set of steel strings quite easily.

This is the major contributor (in my opinion) to the sound of these guitars while at the same time it's also why these guitars are so stable... when I string them up I almost never have to adjust the setup after the strings set overnight... the top just does not deflect (detectably) under tension unless you overstring it.


Can't complain over a feast of Brazilian rosewood...


Aren't those StewMac repros nice? They have a good feel, too. I've had trouble with some of their mandolin sets but their guitar sets are always an improvement to old tuners while maintaining the same look.


The old reset work on the neck was tip-top. Also -- the action may look higher in this particular pic but it's spot-on at 1/16" treble at the 12th fret and 3/32" bass.


Gorgeous details, huh?




The neck itself is Spanish cedar rather than mahogany on this guitar. And, folks, how about that peghead "backstrapping" with rosewood? Super slick.






I think any guitar collector wizard would be happy to have one of these around... and especially one like this which plays perfectly and sounds tops.



Classy endstrip, too.

1 comment:

canondude said...

Nice finish on the back of the headstock!