3/05/2016

1930s Oahu Style 50K Squareneck Hawaiian Guitar




Per the '39 Oahu catalog, this specs-out as a model 50K. I've worked on a number of Oahus of the same and similar model and I honestly can't peg the maker (for sure) for these student-level Hawaiian boxes. They have many features typical of Chicago parlors: all-birch construction, ladder bracing, and "0" size bodies... but the bracing and wood used is slightly heavier than most Chicago makes and the body outline isn't quite the same as I'd expect from Regal, Kay, or Harmony. They also have red-ink numbers nearly-always stamped on the main brace below the soundhole which is something indicative of Oscar Schmidt (New Jersey) manufacture. So confusing!

Anyhow, I got this guitar in trade and fixed it up to play right. Work included replacing the original aluminum bridge (see near the end of the post) with a parts-bin wood one, seam and brace repairs to the back, and filling/cleating of three hairline cracks (one on the top, two on the back). It also got bridge pins, cleaning, and a tuner lube. I've set it up with a custom-gauged set ("lights" 54w-12 tension) suited to open D (DADF#AD) tuning. It has a direct, punchy, and "bluesy" tone -- just as you might expect for a ladder-braced birch guitar. It's quite satisfying, I must say.



The extender nut is original equipment -- as are the Kluson-made "Safe-T-String" tuners that allow you to slip the string-ends into a hole in the tuner shaft to keep them tidy (no string syringes, please).


The board has 3 celluloid dots.


All the "binding" is painted.


The bridge is an old Regal or Oscar Schmidt bridge from my parts-bin. It uses a straight saddle which is why I removed it from its donor guitar long ago. However -- for a Hawaiian guitar, a straight saddle is ideal.

This instrument originally had a cast-aluminum bridge that was bolted-on but those always wind-up pulling the top into a domed shape (this one has a little of that) and aren't really very secure. This "new" wood one is a far better choice and will keep the guitar in good health for a long time to come.





The neck joint came nice, tidy, and tight but I also sunk a bolt into it for added security through the soundhole.









An original chip case (in good shape) comes with it.


Here's the original Oahu bar/slide and the cast-aluminum original bridge.



The original "Honolulu Conservatory of Music" student had his or her lessons back in the day through a branch of the "school" in Bennington, VT (per the label).

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