1940s Vega "Special Tenor" Jumbo Guitar

While at first glance this may look like a Vega neck with a Kay-supplied body, it's not. This is 100% Boston-made Vega and 100% oddball! It's a long-scale tenor guitar (23") but has a giant 17" jumbo body. The top is ladder-braced solid spruce but it's lightly-done and in the manner of the first FT-85 I worked on (meaning: it sounds awesome).

The side depth is only 3 1/4" and doesn't taper anywhere on the body. It's my guess that, especially with the "Special Tenor" model description in the soundhole, that this guitar was a custom order and borrowed the sides and curvaceous body shape of a 17" Vega archtop from the time and replaced the top and back with flat stock instead. I mean, even the back and sides are made from the same thick flamed maple laminate that Vega used on its Electrovox models.

My work on this one included a fret level/dress, new compensated bone saddle, minor adjustments, cleaning, and setup. It's a crack-free instrument and in very good health... especially now that the frets are done. It's also all-original save a couple of replacement tuner parts (on the original tuners) and my new saddle.

I've set it up for "octave mandolin" GDAE tuning in gauges 46w, 32w, 20w, 13 and it sounds big, full, and proud. It's got plenty of volume for group work and the thin sides and very flat back give it an interesting, "full bore" sort of octave mandolin projection vs. your more normal tenor guitar designs. They also mean that, combined with the tight waist, this sits comfortably in the lap despite the giant lower bout.

The slotted headstock is curious, huh? Love it. The nut (bone) is original, I think.

The board is ebony with real pearl position markers and binding. It's flat-profile on the top and the neck has a medium C shape to it with a 1 1/8" nut width.

There's plenty of weather-check in the finish. Note the nice black plastic binding plus the raised black plastic (celluloid?) middle ring of the rosette.

On the upper bout bass side there's the imprint of some sort of "moon" decoration that's long since gone.

This bridge looks like original equipment to me... but the saddle was in the wrong place for intonation's sake. Considering the build of the bridge, I simply made a larger slot in the top of it and used nut bone stock to make an extra-wide saddle that I could then compensate correctly. It's compensated for three wound, one plain right now (for GDAE tuning), but could be reprofiled or replaced for the higher CGDA (two wound, two plain) or DGBE tunings quite easily.

I love the look -- it's a tenor guitar on steroids, for sure. All that extra width and air space makes this one of the warmest tenors I've played for GDAE tuning, too.

The back and sides are both made from that wild flamed maple laminate that I think of when I think of Vega archtop electrics from around the same time (late 40s).

The neck is mahogany, by the way.

Oops! Forgot to take a direct photo of the back of the heel. There's an old screw-hole (not patched) from a strap button. The next owner can decide: fill or replace the button.

The neck set itself is spot-on and in good health.

Interesting tuners, huh?

It comes with a TKL gigbag as well.

1 comment:

Andrew Vogt said...

Sweeeet! I can't believe I missed this one. I thought spending less time on the net was good.