8/08/2016

1950s United-made Tailpiece Parlor Guitar





United, out of New Jersey, made a lot of "jobber" guitars, and I've worked on variations of this all-ply tailpiece parlor box a number of times. I bought this one alongside that wonderful Chinese drum a few posts back, and when I got home I did my usual, "why did I buy this?" take. I can't help it, I suppose! Despite the fact that I never make my work-time back out of these instruments, I can't stand seeing them sit neglected in corners of dusty antique shops never to play again.

This model is also dirt-tough, has a more comfortable neck compared to your average cheap Harmony, and has a sort-of 30s, blues-box tone with a zippy, snappy mids-treble sound that -- given a bit of an equalization tweak -- could make it sound almost gypsy-jazz on record. It's also got a longer 25" scale length which means that, even though the strings on these should be kept to very light gauges (so the neck doesn't warp), it feels more contemporary on the left-hand vs. the usual ~24" scale of most old student guitars.


After work (a neck-bolt plus glue, fret level/dress, comp/adjustment at the bridge, and setup), the guitar plays spot-on at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret. The neck is straight and it's strung with extra light/custom light hybrid strings gauged 46w, 36w, 26w, 18w, 15, 11.


This has a 1 3/4" nut, flat-profile board, and medium-sized C-shape neck profile.


The original frets are "medium" in size and brass.



The painted-on "pickguard," painted-on "rosette," and painted-on "binding," are far from classy -- but fun.


I string the ball-ends through the tailpiece backwards from normal to make sure that back-angle on the saddle remains decent. The strings are about 3/8" off the top -- about average for something like a 60s Gibson flattop but 1/16" lower than your average Martin.


The whole body is ply birch with the simplest ladder bracing and the neck is poplar with a poplar fretboard.



Originally this had 8 nails holding the tuners in place -- I swapped 4 of them out for screws just for insurance. These are the only replacement bits of hardware.


My neck-bolt additions are not-so-beautifully hidden but -- who cares? They work. I glued the heel back down as well as bolting it.






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