10/19/2016

1930s Dobro Resonator Tenor Guitar





This instrument began life as a no-frills version of the standard Regal-bodied Dobro resonator tenor guitar, though a past owner had modified it into an 8-string instrument with the addition of an old replacement, mandolin-style headstock. This was great thinking, in some ways, and the sound was interesting -- but even with the bigger V-neck, that was just way too much tension for the neck. It, of course, warped a bit. Otherwise, however, the guitar was in decent repair.

I took this instrument in trade last week and since then I've been curious about it. In my "after hours" time I did the necessary work to bring it back -- a neck angle adjustment (Dobros often have a nice bolt-adjusted neck-angle gizmo "under the hood"), a board plane and refret (to make the neck straight), side dot addition, made a new bone nut and ebony saddles, and of course a thorough setup and cleaning. I also removed the mandolin tuners in favor of some older guitar-style ones and strung it up for octave mandolin GDAE tuning (44w, 34w, 18w, 12).

It plays on-the-dot at 1/16" at the 12th fret and sounds lush, full, and sustained with that lower-mids velvet and punchy high-mids/mellow highs that Dobros are known for. These instruments are not as forward and directly loud as their National equivalents, but they're more musical for the average musician, for sure. This guitar has a 23" scale length and 13 3/4" lower bout width, though it fits in the lap about like a KG-11.


The body is all ply birch (heavy-duty) and has a brown stain to it with a bit of "sunburst" on the rear. All the finish and body hardware is original with the exception of one coverplate screw. This has the standard "vented" (4 holes in the center) Dobro cone for the time with a spider bridge. I added a "gasket" at the soundwell (it has a full soundwell) and spent some time seating the cone a bit better as its edges had been crimped here and there.


The added-on mandolin headstock is actually nicer quality than the original Dobro headstock would be and is made from mahogany with a Brazilian rosewood veneer. My new nut is bone with a 1 1/4" width.


This neck (maple, I believe) has a medium V-shape to it and sports a stained-maple fretboard with pearl dots. The frets are new (but leveled/dressed) medium/bigger banjo stock.


Gotta love those covers!


There's plenty of back-angle on the saddles and the saddles themselves are about as full-height as they would've been from the factory.





There's some use-wear throughout the guitar but it's mostly in excellent shape for its age. I wish I could pin the year down better, but with the missing original headstock it's hard to date something like this exactly.



Whoever installed the headstock did a very good job.








The tuners are nothing special but they work fine. They're old 60s Japanese units.



It comes with an old 60s/70s chip case.

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