2/08/2015

1920s Unmarked Mahogany Soprano Uke




I'm really not sure who built this uke. Much of it is very close to Oscar Schmidt builds from the time but I just can't place my finger on that for sure as there are small departures from the norm here and there. It doesn't matter too much, however, as the "proof's in the pudding" -- after work it plays well and sounds swell.

It's all-solid mahogany throughout with a rope-style rosette but otherwise no extra decorative touches. The body shape is roughly that "peanut uke" look but it's a hair wider than Harmony and Regal efforts from the same time and the overall build is a little bit more sturdy than I'd expect on those two as well. This uke came to me in trade and had a few "old repairs" which always means some need to be undone and redone and some were fine as-is.


The top is crack-free but the back has one longer (3-4") fixed hairline crack (which I re-filled, cleated, and sealed) and the sides have a couple "old repair" hairline cracks which I left as-is (they're holding fine). The bigger work was resetting the neck (which had a sloppy, icky old glue job) which I did with a combination of glue and an internally-hidden bolt, refitting and regluing the bridge, and leveling/dressing the frets followed by a setup. I also popped in a replacement 12th fret from my parts bin supply.

This is all work I usually expect to do on a uke this old, however.


This originally had some wood friction pegs but one was mismatched and the other three were fairly worn-down. I had these old celluloid pegs (probably pulled from a Rolando-branded banjo uke, as I recall) and fit them to this uke instead. They turn freely, hold well, and were exactly the right "height." Plus... they look snazzy.


The finish is all-original but there's the usual age-related use-wear and a few seams that show small amounts of glue drips and the like from old repairs.


The strings are Aquila Nylguts and action height is a hair under 3/32" at the 12th fret. I usually like to setup ukes with 1/16" action for straight strumming and 3/32" for fingerpicking/heavy strumming. Since I figured something like this guy was going to be used for the latter (as that's what tends to sound best on them), I was comfortable with leaving the bridge where it was after reglue rather than cutting it down and re-saddling it.




It's hard to see the repaired hairline crack on the back but it's there: look to the upper-right top.



The heel gives the appearance of a Hawaiian-style "Spanish heel" joint. It's not: the back simply overlaps the bottom of the heel.




You can see the two old hairline crack repairs on the bass upper-bout side, here. They're not going anywhere but it's not the prettiest repair.

The color of the finish on this uke gives the impression that this is made from koa but the grain patterns just do not lie.


A cute contrasting end-strip yet again gives more of a "Hawaiian" impression to this certainly mainland-made uke.

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