10/12/2016

1960s German-made Tailpiece Parlor Guitar





I'm not sure if this is East or West German, but it's definitely a 60s, all-ply, parlor-sized box in the classic tailpiece fashion of student guitars of the time. It's the sort of guitar I don't often get a chance to work on (though I enjoy them) as the owners tend to not want to fork any dough over to turn them into real guitars -- sort of like the same issue that happens with the venerable Harmony H929s. As a result, folks miss-out on instruments that can be little gems.

Tonally, the light ply build with a tailpiece setup and ladder-bracing gives this a gypsy-jazz, forward, snappy sound. It's loud for its size and has a distinct "bite" which, when used on record, sits in its own space in a mix (like an archtop guitar). It's also got a short 24 1/4" scale length which means it plays super-slinky -- especially with the 50w-11 strings I've used on it per its unreinforced neck.


I will admit, however, that these need a lot of ironing-out to make them "good" instruments. I had to level/dress the frets, compensate and sand down the bridge, solve the problem of a shy back-angle from the tailpiece to the bridge, and sort-out a "good idea" version of the zero-fret concept that was bungled at the factory.


I'm pretty sure the neck is some sort of maple. This has a 1 11/16" nut width but the stained-maple board is flat and he neck has a medium-ish C-shaped profile.

This originally had a one-piece zero-fret/nut contraption in molded plastic, too, but it was ill-conceived and had to be removed to level/dress the frets. I recut that original plastic nut to be a "string guide" nut only and then added a vintage brass fret to make a proper zero fret before I did the level/dress job.


There were pearl dots in the board but I also added side dots when I was going through this.




Hilariously, the screw in the middle of the tailpiece string-anchor pulls the tail down towards the top. This is a solution I've used in the past on some United-made parlors of the same general makeup to get them functional. I've also wrapped the strings over and around to get the string-ends as close to the top of the guitar as possible (and thus improve back-angle on the saddle).







3 comments:

Nicholas Ratnieks said...

Most British or Irish guitar heroes from the 60s and 70s learned on this sort of cheap parlour guitar made in East Germany or Czechoslovakia. Others, had similar guitars made by Egmond in the Netherlands. I know Brian May's Egmond has been restored while Rory Gallagher's unknown original plywood box is in the collection he left. My Dad bought a guitar like this to learn on in about 1961- he gave up fairly speedily and it lived in a boxroom for years- a mystery object. How on earth does it work? I'm still trying to find out!

Jake Wildwood said...

I figured there was probably a parallel between the Stella Harmony products over here and this kind of guitar over there... :)

Thanks for that!

Nicholas Ratnieks said...

I found this on ebay- a beauty. It looks virtually unplayed- like my old dad, the owner gave up without a fight! It's not the same model as yours but it has the Made in GDR-East Germany sticker on it. The fact that the sticker is still there attests to minimal life outside of the wardrobe or from under the bed. I like the way the sticker was put on upside down- a real touch of class. I have to admit that it is a bit of a bargain at the start price. I got one playing for a charity thrift shop- it was going to be thrown away and it broke my heart. It was perfect except it had humongous flat wounds on it which had bent the neck- but you could still ride the range and sing and play with it in cowboy mode. It was sold for £15 but it looked great. As I live three miles from Eric Clapton's birthplace, I like to think it might have been his first guitar that was passed on to a top jazz player and then donated to the shop! I have a fertile imagination!

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Acoustic-Steel-String-Guitar-Old-Vintage-50s-or-60s-/302101663675?_trksid=p2141725.m3641.l6368