11/04/2015

1930s Gretsch-made Hager's Artist Hawaiian Guitar




This is a customer's old Gretsch (branded "Hager's Artist") and while it began life as a Hawaiian (played in the lap with a steel/slide and raised strings) it'd been converted (sloppily) to a Spanish-playing guitar sometime back. I made lemonade from those lemons and now it's a good player and has a rather full-on, up-front, interesting tone.

This is an x-braced guitar and it's "mini-jumbo" in shape with a 15 3/4" lower bout. The wide nut and 12-fret body joint make it perfect for fingerpicking and, not surprisingly, this is where it sounds best -- crisp and clear and slightly compressed. The top is solid spruce in a tobacco-sunburst finish, the sides are solid mahogany, and the back is laminate mahogany press-arched into shape (it has no bracing on the back). The neck is two-piece flamed maple. It has an extra-long scale (26 1/8") and so I've strung it with 50w-11 to keep it in check. I have to guess that, tonally, this would've been a whopper when it was strung heavily for "Hawaiian" play, though the neck adds a tiny bit of relief when strung to pitch as-is, so heavier gauges can't be used in this application.


I'm a fan of mini-jumbos, so this guitar (with its awkward centered soundhole look) is right up my alley.


The headstock veneer is covered in "black pearloid" with pearl-inlaid extras. I added the new bone nut as there was a very cheesy synthetic one in place.


The board was apparently leveled in the past and some of the inlay was touched-up or replaced. It was also refretted (sloppily) and I had to do a fret level/dress on these (almost new) frets to get them to cooperate.

The board itself is stained maple -- as typical for Gretsch at the time.



The nice ebony bridge had been shaved like crazy in the past (and reglued in the wrong place and fit with a fret saddle in the wrong place...) and the rest of the modding on this guitar meant a neck reset would be complicated (and expensive) so I lightly sanded its finish down and polished it up to clean up the look and then re-saddled it with individual "screw" saddles that're compensated. I only did this because the bridge is so thin that the addition of a saddle slot would likely end up with a split bridge over time.

I also added a "bridge plate cap" in spruce top material to help seat the ball-ends farther down from the top and hold them securely. Then I filled/redrilled the pinholes and reinstalled the original bridge pins.





Nice aged gold hardware with a bit of wear and tear... note the ivoroid buttons.




The binding is (amazingly) holding up just fine.




Original endpin, too.

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