10/22/2015

2002 Dale Fenn Vermont-made Dobro-style Squareneck Resonator Guitar




Dale Fenn was apparently an established builder over in the Middlebury, VT area. Unfortunately he passed in 2009, but considering the build quality of this instrument he left behind some very playable memories for the guitar community.

This is a squareneck bluegrass/old country "Dobro" through and through -- but on steroids. It has a slightly larger body compared to vintage actual-Dobros, a full soundwell build, and all-solid flamed maple used in the construction rather than plywood. Add to that some quality guts and you have a very, very, very large-sounding, hugely-loud guitar. It responds at the tiniest prick of energy from the player and this makes it immensely-enjoyable to play. With some Dobro-style instruments you really need to pick hard to be heard and make an impression -- not so in this case.



The only thing amiss with the overall build is the finish -- which is a slightly-sloppy poly on the top but a decent job on the back, sides, and neck. I very lightly topcoated it and somewhat buffed it out to get some more "grain pop," but there's only so much to be done without total refinishing.

That said -- it's not a distraction and the guitar is, overall, gorgeous. I'm pretty sure the binding is either koa or mahogany. It looks grand against the buttery flamed maple (which I'm assuming might be local wood supply).


Big old bone nut...


...and ebony board with nice pearl inlay.




The guitar was in for a saddle swap-out and general setup. The owner wanted ebony-topped maple saddles. I think it added a bit more snap and resonance to the higher frequencies but the original maple saddles had quite a good sound, too.


I strung the tailpiece backwards, per my usual fancy, to apply a bit more down-pressure on the saddle and thus increase projection and "boom."




Pretty, pretty, pretty...


The original Ping tuners work just fine but had ugly big buttons on them. I swapped them out for some rounder Grover buttons in my parts-bin (on the house).



Even the neck!








Here's the label in the soundwell.

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