5/22/2015

1950s/2015 Unmarked "Parlor Electric" Guitar




Update: I changed the bridge on this so I updated the pics. Also: Sorkin probably bought these from the New Jersey firm United.

This started out as a fairly clean (for its type) variant on the "US Strad" guitar that I'm familiar with from flea markets and antique stores around here. I feel like these might've been made by Sorkin in New York. It's an all-laminate, ladder-braced body with a tailpiece and a mediocre acoustic tone... but the sweet spot is in the comfortable, 25" scale necks on these that seem rather warp-resistant and stable over the years.

Instead of just making a new bridge (the original ones on these are useless) and setting it up as a slightly-improved camping/campfire guitar, I decided to "ES-125" this thing (tonally) and after leveling/dressing the frets I installed a funky compensated steel bridge and a nice GFS P-90 pickup (stripped of its cover to fit the aesthetic and bring the magnet right up under the strings) in the soundhole. Add newer tuners, some electric 10s, and voila -- close your ears and listen to that lovely P-90 hollowbody tone leaping right out. As a bonus it does make some noise acoustically, too, though I can't say much for an unwound G string if the plan is to get a lot of acoustic use.



The "steel reinforced neck" is probably what keeps this thing in such good shape, as the neck itself seems to be poplar with a dyed-something fretboard. A 1 3/4" nut width makes up for the flat profile and because of the 25" scale, this has a distinctly "1930s National" guitar feel. I'm thinking: nice 1930s Nat'l feel -- with the slimmer, round-back profile rather than the big V.


I added side dots to back-up the cool sprayed-on markers.



The bridge is a simple round bit of steel that I cut and compensated so it'd play in tune. There are two little posts embedded that simply hold it in place on the top.

Note the screw in the tailpiece: that applies downpressure on the rear of the strings by tensioning up to the top. This lets you adjust tonal brightness somewhat.



The all-laminate birch body construction certainly isn't pretty, but it's very sturdy and that was probably the point when this was made. Every one of these I've seen has pretty much held up decently, so who am I to complain?

It has some retro appeal to me, for sure.


This came with terrible, cheap tuners. These are parts-bin Japanese-made Kluson repros and they fit the style of this guitar perfectly while also fulfilling the role of practical tuner.






The pup is sent straight to a Switchcraft jack in the side. I also replaced the nails (!) holding the tailpiece on with some screws, hung it slightly to the treble to straighten its alignment, and added a ground wire to the jack from the tailpiece hanger.


I think the removed-cover look of the P-90 is pretty sweet in this particular use. Don't mind my workshop dust adorning its top.

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