1/12/2015

1920s Mahogany Rope-Bound Soprano Uke




Update: Tired, brain-fried Jake listed this as a Harmony. It's not! It's an Oscar Schmidt -- thank you clever reader for catching this. Post updated.

I worked on this sweet little thing for a customer of mine and that included a bridge shave/reglue, crack repairs, some seam repairs, a brace reglue, very light fret level/dress, replacement pegs, and setup with new Martin fluoro strings. It turned out nice and has a mellow, warm tone that's perfect for relaxing on the lonesome and singing or working-out songs.

This was made by Oscar Schmidt (Jersey City, NJ) in the late teens or early 20s and it's solid mahogany throughout with nice rope binding on the top and back edges with a rope rosette. The fretboard also has an inlaid "zipper" that looks snazzy.


The top has a number of hairline cracks and when I reglued the bridge I installed an oversize "bridge plate" patch to stabilize them on the underside of the top.


This came with 3 original wood pegs. I've replaced 1 of the 3 and then added a 2nd as well. Both the new ones are from my parts bin and a tiny bit of peg dope is all it took to get these turning smoothly.


The frets were near-perfectly level (rare), but they did need some dressing to get them feeling better.



The bridge slots are worn, but knotting the ends a number of times creates balls "big enough" to hold them in place just fine. Before regluing the bridge I also cut it down from underneath to improve action to standard 1/16" height at the 12th fret.


The "Spanish heel" overlap-look on the back (it's actually a doweled-in neck joint) gives this an authentic Hawaiian look from the outside.


There are somewhat large sections of missing binding on the back and a crack I had to glue up as well. For the missing binding I drop-glued in sanding dust from the bridge shave and then lightly shaped the fill and put a finish on it. Unless you're looking at the uke closely you'd probably miss the fill job. The reason the missing binding needs to be replaced or shored-up on a uke like this is that it's easy to damage the sides when they're "hard" angles... ie, pretty easy to catch it on something and pull up a seam.



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