5/05/2017

1930s Oscar Schmidt-made Collegiate Parlor Guitar





This guitar was made a bit late in the game for Oscar Schmidt as it, presumably, dates from the mid-1930s, like this other OS Collegiate. In form, it's the same as the company's better-known lower-grade Stella parlors -- all birch, slightly-under-0-size, 12-fret, and ladder braced. Like other OS builds, it's got a thicker top and more stout bracing and neck compared to many parlors of the day and that means that one gets a woodier, thumpier tone out of it and a build that holds-up just fine with "regular" modern strings (12s) and enjoys them rather than screams at them.

All these attributes make a great "blues" fingerpicker that doubles as a darn-good old-timey flatpicker, too, for a little guitar. Most of its contemporaries along the same lines are zippy-sounding under an average flatpicker's attack and one really has to be careful about technique, whereas these can be plunked-on like an x-braced guitar and driven without losing warmth.

Work on this one included a fret level/dress, replacement bridge and saddle, cleats for two already-sealed back cracks, some back brace reglue jobs, side dots, and a "safety" bolt hidden at the neck block. The angle and fit of the neck was good, tight, and "right" on the guitar, so I left it as-is -- but I don't like taking chances with non-reset necks down the line, so that bolt is just for peace of mind.


I love the 30s stencil look to this guitar -- the red rosette in particular is pretty cool. The sunburst is a "tobacco" style one, fading from dark, dirty brown to a medium, almost-natural color in the center. The "binding" is painted-on.


Amazingly, the original nut survives. This thing has a 1 7/8" nut width and a big old V-shaped neck profile with a flat fretboard, so it's not for everyone.

I'm pretty sure the neck is poplar and the fretboard is probably stained maple.


The original brass frets still have good height and the neck is straight. Like all old OS frets, however, they're not as smooth-feeling as anything made in the last 50 years even after a level/dress job, so "neck squeezers" might not like the feel. If you have a light/medium touch, however, their peculiarity makes no difference.




The wood pins are original but the new rosewood bridge and its compensated saddle are not. I always find these instruments really perk up when the old, mealy, fret-saddle-equipped, dyed-maple or dyed-birch bridges are swapped-out.


The bridge is about the same height as the original, and while the saddle is on the lower side, there's still room for a little adjustment and I made generous string-ramps behind the saddle to keep back-angle on it healthy.






Of the two hairline cracks on the back, this is the longer one. Before I got my hands on this, it was sealed-up, but not cleated. Now both this one and...


...this one on the upper bout are cleated and good to go.




The tuners are lubed and work just fine. The strings are more-or-less 12s but with slightly thinner strings on the low-end (50w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 16, 12).



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