8/28/2015

1920s Mainland-made Koa Soprano Uke




What a pretty little thing! I tend to think this style of soprano was made by Oscar Schmidt for a few years in the late teens/early 20s but have never been quite sure. Regardless, it's a well-made instrument with a body of solid koa wood (flamed on the top) and a neck and bridge made from mahogany. It's got pretty rope binding on the top and back edges and a rope-style rosette, too. In addition... check out that nice "zipper" inlaid bit down the fretboard. Sweet!

Work on this uke included regluing the bridge, a fret level/dress, new tuners, some hairline crack seal/gluing, a brace reglue, and setup with Martin fluoro strings. It plays spot-on (1/16" action at the 12th fret) and has that distinct mix of chunky 20s sound combined with chimey koa sparkle. It's a good sound for a straight-up strummer or a fingerpicker. Folks who aren't used to ukes without "real" fretboards, however, should consider the fact that all of these non-boarded ukes have the strings riding closer to the body at the body join. At the time, most players fingerpicked and strummed right at the end of the neck, though, so it wasn't a consideration.



I just love the way this little sucker looks. So folky-gorgeous.

The label in the soundhole says this is a "Conservatory" brand, but that's basically a meaningless trail to follow.



The 13 1/4" scale is pretty standard for the time. The last fret is seated just slightly lower than the rest -- as is typical for ukes with the last fret right in the joint.


All that "rope!"


The G string slot had "popped out" in the past but I built all these slots up a little and recut their "string ramps" for better seating. Still -- the string-balls need to be knotted up a few times to keep them happy in the slots.




These are brand new uke friction pegs and they work nicely. These are "Golden Gate" or "Saga" tuners and are a distinct upgrade vs. the standard Grover 2Bs.






While the top and back are certainly made from koa, the sides might actually be mahogany like the neck.



Hubba, hubba!

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