1/14/2016

1920s Lyon & Healy "American Conservatory" Rosewood Parlor Guitar




This "parlor" is actually a straight-up 12-fret "0" size at 13" across the lower bout and a longish, Washburn-shaped body. It was made by Chicago's Lyon & Healy for their upper-mid "American Conservatory" line and this particular example is, quality-wise, actually a step or two above their entry-level "Washburn" (high grade, Gibson/Martin-comparable in price) instruments for the time. I'm not quite sure if it dates to the late teens or early 20s, but presumably it's right around 1920 in build and was probably originally intended for gut/nylon strings. The owner has had it strung with lighter steel for a while with no issues so that's what I set it up for after work.

Work included a neck reset, top crack cleating/sealing, a fret level/dress, and a fill/redrill and fill/recut of the pinholes and saddle at the bridge. It also got a new, compensated bone saddle as well and the usual cleaning/fussing I give to these old boxes.


The top is solid spruce and ladder braced, the back and sides are Brazilian rosewood, and the neck is mahogany. Both the bridge and fretboard are ebony and the headstock veneer is also Brazilian. It's a classy, well-built instrument and the sound is, surprisingly, something smoother than usual and getting towards x-braced territory in the way it responds to a pick. There's that nice low-end "thunk" that I'd expect more from x-bracing than ladder. Obviously some of that has to do with the nice-spec woods, though, huh?


The headstock veneer is nice and thick and the original nut is ebony.


The frets are original and were fairly low to begin with, so I couldn't make 100% use of my fret level/dress job and had to leave just a touch of relief in the neck so as not to "boil them frets right down" to the board.


The multiple purflings, elaborate soundhole rosette, and ivoroid binding add up to a fancy look. The purfling originally had a bunch of bright green edging that has been faded-in to a more drab green look. Still -- what a dish, no?



Originally this bridge was slightly taller (it'd been shaved before I got to see it) and had a straight saddle slot and pin-holes right behind the saddle. I've since filled all that, recut the saddle slot so it's compensated, and relocated the pinholes to the rear of the bridge (like on a Gibson) to keep the break-angle over the saddle from being too-killer.


The new saddle is nice and tall -- but snug -- and will give this guitar many, many years of stress-free setup adjustments. Hopefully it won't ever need to be touched again save perhaps adjusting the height of the saddle here and there.




The Brazilian rosewood sure is pretty.






The tuners are original save one shaft/set screw replacement.




Here's the branding on the inside strip.

2 comments:

charlie said...

That purfling is pretty, tell tale L & H is it not? Seen it on a few of their instruments.

Jake Wildwood said...

Yep, but very similar stuff can be found on other makes as well (some Larsons, some Boston guitars).