11/30/2015

1920s Oscar Schmidt "Sovereign" 00-Size 12-Fret Guitar




Yes, it's pretty. This is #1 in a batch of 4 nicer Jersey-made Schmidts I'm working on for a customer and it's my favorite of the bunch because it's "stranger than usual." With angled, bookmatched mahogany back and sides it stands out right away... and then when the Germanic pearl-twist rosette and "clawfoot" bridge are added to the look it definitely becomes something all its own. It also happens to sound tops with a flatpick or fingerpicked -- which is something I can't always say about ladder-braced guitars. These nicer-grade Schmidts are curious in that aspect: they have a little bit of extra presence and snap in the lower-mids which gives them a tone somewhere between the typical "open, sustained" ladder sound and the darker, more chocolate-sounding vintage x-braced tone.

This one is 00-size (14" on the lower bout) and has a 1 3/4" nut width and 25" scale. It's crack-free and had a refret job done in the past -- but as usual, whoever did the job didn't plane the board first and so I had to do both a fretboard extension reset and a fret level/dress to get the top of the frets nice and level. I also added a "popsicle" brace under the fretboard extension, relocated the saddle slot and made a new saddle, and reglued several braces. It's playing on-the-dot and strung with 11s.



There's use-wear but the guitar itself hasn't been abused.


The nut width is 1 3/4" and has an older replacement bone nut. The neck itself is mahogany and has a medium C shape (comfortable) to it.


The board and bridge are both rosewood -- and the dots are pearl.


Part of me wonders if the binding is original (because it's so white) but I've seen the same stuff on imported German guitars from the 1910s-1920s so I'm hazarding to guess that might be the origin of the stuff, especially considering...


...the very German look of the pearl/abalone rosette!



The bridge had been reglued in the past (note the little locating pin holes next to the bridge pins) but the last fellow to work on this didn't put the saddle in the right place. I fixed that and compensated the new bone saddle as well.


Here's an in-process shot of how far off it was! This would've hurt the ears to leave alone.

My only frustration with having to move the saddle this close to the bridge pins is that I needed to "double ball" the string ends to keep the end-wrappings off of the saddle's edge. Old strings had shorter end-wrappings and didn't usually cause such fuss. I didn't want to add an extra bridge plate topper as the original was doing just fine. The other issue with the pin-holes so close to the saddle is that the strings ride over it at nearly a 90-degree angle which means I need to glue the saddle in (lightly) to keep it from tending to flop-over with tension+time.











The "backwards-shaft" tuners are original and still going strong.



The original endpin survives as well.

Just as a note: other interesting features of the guitar (compared to an average upper-mid-priced Schmidt) include triangular kerfing and slightly-nicer center seam linings as well as more sculpted, lighter-weight bracing.

The neck has a dovetail joint which might rule out this one as a model farmed to the Cerrito workshop, but it's entirely possible that this was made for Schmidt to sell by one of its "family of related workshops" in New York rather than in the factory itself.

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