1933 National Triolian Polychrome "Surf Green" Resonator Guitar

Forget custom-color Fenders -- this thing is the ticket! I'm used to seeing National Polychrome Triolians in yellow and off-yellow variations, but this "surf green minty avocado sunburst" color is simply amazing. I adore it -- and it sounds as good as it looks! Too bad it's not mine. A customer brought this in to me in hopes of consigning it but his family, conscience, and free will informed him that it'd be better to bring it home instead after seeing how the repairs turned-out.

And those repairs? The simple part was simple -- resetting the neck angle -- but the board plane/refret process was convoluted for a variety of reasons. After that it just needed a new, compensated saddle slot cut and then a new bone nut, saddle, and setup. The end result, however, is something that plays perfectly and has a single-cone sound to die for. It's airy, open-sounding, balanced, and full-on with a tremendous amount of volume and punch. It's actually probably the best National I've heard -- and I've worked on some really good Nationals over the past few years.

Aside from the color, check out what gorgeous shape it's in! There are no dings or dents, very little playwear on the coverplate, and the wear to the finish is mostly confined to the edges (where you'd expect it).

These steel body, flat-cut f-hole, 12-frets are among my favorite National designs as the bodies seem to resonate a bit more freely than the later, rolled-hole models.

I had to replace the (replacement, older) nut as the spacing was terrible on it. This one is bone.

Most everything on the guitar is original, however, aside from the nut and saddle -- including the nice tuners.

I refretted with jumbo-size, pyramid-shaped fretstock. I wanted to be sure that after the agonizing refret job, no one would have to deal with pulling/refretting the guitar for a very long time. These frets will eat and spit-out level/dress jobs for many, many, many years to come.

What you don't see is my new, properly-located and compensated saddle slot cut into the original biscuit (about 1/8" to the rear of the old one) and the new bone, compensated saddle. Yes -- I use bone as opposed to maple -- and every time I've made the upgrade the sound is better in the end... not more shrill but definitely more nuanced (in a good way).

The tailpiece still has its original felt dampener. Nice!

Internally, after resetting the neck, I removed the dried-out original "gasket" (as well as a lot of random electrical tape on the cone itself...!) in the soundwell and replaced it with a thin "duct-tape-lining" method that I've been using for the past couple years. It works like the old felt gasket but doesn't seem to damp the cone at all -- it just keeps the edges from rattling on "just the right note" if the cone isn't 100% flat after all these years.

This came in with a strap button on the heel but I replaced it with an older-looking type to match the "endpin" strap button.

The stencil job still looks awesome!

So... the serial dates to a 4-year period, though the later number suggests 1933-1934. I'm guessing it's around 1933.


Robert Gardner said...

I played this guitar at Jake’s shop before it (sadly) left town and it was really a magnificent little guitar. It is only occasionally that you come across a guitar that has that raise-the-hair-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck quality of sound and this National had that. I played it with picks, three finger style, and it had not only the punch and bark that makes these things so great, but a fine clear decay on the trebles as well. And the green paint with tropical scene stenciled on was sublime. That guitar is a peach. It was a lucky guy that took that one home. Nice work, Jake.

Jake Wildwood said...

Thanks! And I agree -- I was floored by this particular guit.