1935 National Trojan Resonator Guitar

This is a customer's guitar that was in for some work (fret level/dress and glorified setup) and the T-serial at its headstock dates it to just about 1935. This Trojan has a Harmony-made body and neck and, considering the owner's love for heavy-duty strings and open tunings, it's held up very well. It's also quite clean and all-original (save my new nut and one screw), too.

The sound on this one is robust, forward, and thumpy. It reminds me more of a Dobro in terms of "creamy tone" than it does a National, though the short decay and powerful rahmff sound up-front is very much a Nat'l thing. Regardless, it has the original Nat'l biscuit cone under the hood and in this case it's one of the ones with the riveted biscuits -- interesting and a bit more functional than the older screw-mount style...

The sunburst looks great and so does all that hardware. This body is made from very thick ply which is an improvement over some old Harmony resonator bodies which used thinner ply mixed with solid woods. On a resonator that's not so useful as you're looking more for durability and rigidity out of the body for the most part.

Pearl dots in a dyed-maple or pearwood board. This is really typical for both Harmony and National at the time. This has the typical Harmony 25 1/8" scale, however.

Note how the strings are strung under the tailpiece's edge -- better back-angle!

When I first took this apart I was thinking I'd do a quick reset of the neck (since it has a dowel passing through the body). Unfortunately that dowel was glued so I simply compensated and lowered the saddle for better action instead.

The owner likes to keep the guitar in open G and has something like a 14 and 18 on the two treble strings. I swapped out the wound strings for lights vs. original mediums but kept the plains as a "for comfort" reference for him. Unfortunately, one can't trust these Harmony necks with too much tension. The light warp that was dialed out in the fret level/dress can attest to that.

The original tuners work just fine.


Art 'Dreco said...

Jake, I also keep my '34 Trojan in Open G and have swapped out lighter strings for a .15 and .18 on the top two strings. The reason I do this is because I get a lot of string noise (and bottoming out) when playing slide--which is practically every time I play the Trojan. What would you recommend to put less stress on the neck, but get a decent slide sound on the top two strings?

Jake Wildwood said...

As long as the neck is happy with those strings (not gaining relief), it's fine. Just back them off a gauge (14/17) and keep the wounds at 12s and you should be fine. The ideal mix is a set mixed for your tuning (I'm guessing low D open G) like this:

56w D
44w G (or 42w)
32w D
24w G (or 22w for better tension balance)
17 B
14 D

I totally understand the need for stiffer treble strings for slide -- you'd get a lot of ugly fretting-out if you use a brass slide otherwise. Glass slides tend to do ok but are an entirely different sound. If you need the stiff treble strings and the neck is mad at you tension-wise you can always lighten the wound strings a notch or two. Most bottleneck players aren't banging the wounds around too much with the slide!