5/03/2017

1960s National 3/4 Scale Solidbody Electric Guitar





Update: Originally I put this back together after work as an electric Cuban tres. Since then I've converted it back to guitar and so I've updated the entire post.

This guitar is, basically, a National-badged version of the Supro Super -- a Les Paul Jr 3/4 copycat with a short, 22" scale length and one single coil pickup in the bridge position. It came to me with a wonky aftermarket humbucker installed and I replaced that with, of course, a P90 measuring around 8k ohms -- but in a big old chrome shell.

After doing work on it -- which included a fret level/dress, installation of an "antiqued" nickel Gotoh adjustable bridge (to replace the original archtop-style bridge), general cleaning, side dot installs, a new nut, and some old string trees added at the headstock -- I pulled that humbucker out and wired-in said P90 with most of a "riser base" installed under it. I set it up with a set of 49w-11 strings with a wound G and, after strumming the first chord... instant vintage LP Jr tone!

That said, it's a LP Jr tone with a National twist of a bit more grit and peculiar (reverb-like) overtones that lend it a more bluesy vibe. The 11s are average tension tuned E-E on the short scale and give it the feel of 9s on a 25 1/2" scale instrument. 


The body is roughly the same size as a Les Paul Jr, though the neck joins at the 12th fret. It's finished in a sparkle-gold-green color that's "sunbursted" into blac at the edges. Much on the guitar is original, but the bridge, pickup, and nut are replacements.


The headstock is at a pretty flat angle, so I added old Fender-style string trees for the ADGB strings.


I added side dots, too. The neck is a hefty, baseball-bat round shape with a 12" radiused rosewood fretboard. The nut is 1 5/8" in width. While the frets in the middle are about as "tall" (short, small) as they were originally, the first fret and neck-joint area frets are shallower but still "note" just fine.



The controls are actually pretty clever -- it's basic volume and tone but the switch is a tone-pot bypass which effectively allows for a "two pickup" sound, though there's only one pickup on it. With the tone pot rolled off and the switch engaged for it, you can get a darker/mellower/slightly-less-volume tone and then switch it to "bypass" mode which lets the bright/biting/louder tone shine right up front.


The chrome-covered P90 is a generic, Alnico-magnet variety, but it sounds great. I like the metal covers on these as they seem to reject poor-lighting noise a little better.


For whatever reason, National decided to use gold-plated tailpieces on a lot of these offbeat student models.


The bridge is a new, Gotoh, antiqued nickel TOM unit. Note the filled mounting holes for its adjusters -- I had the bridge slightly more forward for the alternate stringing I had this in previously.






The stickered serial number tells us this is at least a 1964 model and probably more like a 1965. The original Klusons are nice to have, though, too!


The two larger bolts are original and I added the two smaller, recessed ones. The two main bolts left the neck with too much play so that just tightened it up.





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