1890s Joseph Bohmann "Tone Tines" 0-Size Guitar

This is the bigger brother of the "tone tines" parlor Bohmann I worked-on recently. It has the same odd quadruple-x-bracing on the top, birdseye maple instead of plainer wood (poplar or birch?) on the back and sides, and is fully an inch wider. Otherwise, it's very much the same design-wise as the size 2/parlor version and sports the same crazy, sympathetic vibrating metal rods that run the length of the interior.

I'm almost certain that this guitar got a topcoat of finish on the neck, back and sides as it's too even/glassy to stand-up in court as 1890s stock. (Update, here: the owner showed me that the sunburst is original, so I corrected the description!) It's otherwise entirely original save the endpin and a bit of modification to the bridge. It was built in Chicago and probably somewhere between 1895 and 1900.

Work included a bridge reglue (a bit tricky with all the rods inside), a couple of cleats and crack repairs, fret reseating (they all needed a bit of gluing to make sure they were firm in their slots), a fret level/dress, bridge shave/reprofile and saddle slot relocation, and a good setup. In the case of this guitar, that setup also includes tuning the "tone tines" or "resonating rods" inside the guitar -- which seems easy at first but is complicated by how much the tuning goes "off" when you tune-up adjacent rods. I have those rods tuned EDGABC from bass to treble side.

It's strung with 48w-10 steel strings and plays on-the-dot with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret but will need a lighter set for standard-pitch tuning as the slim, soft-V mahogany neck can't handle a ton of tension. I currently have it detuned D-D and it sounds very full.

The "white bits" around the tuners are pearl discs. The nut is bone and it has a 1 3/4" width. The fretboard has an intense, roughly 9" radius to it and is "ebonized" maple.

Don't you love the crazy pearl work?

Because we opted not to reset the neck on this guitar, the bridge got a bit of a shave and reprofiling on its leading edge. I then re-ebonized the maple of the bridge again and finished it to match the old look. The original fret saddle was re-used but I cut a new slot at a compensated angle and then adjusted compensation on the saddle itself for the B/high E area.

Intonation on the guitar is pretty good but hampered a bit near the joint by uneven fret spacing when it was made.

The screws can also be used as down-pressure adjusters. Since this pic, I used one to add a bit of extra back-angle for the high E.

That, folks, is a solid sheet of birdseye maple. Yum, yum, yum!

These are hand-made tuners that Bohmann, presumably, made himself. They look crude inside and don't work as easily as an average set from the time, but they do look fantastic and have neat innovations like access holes for lubrication. One mounting screw is a replacement.

These are the tuning mechanisms for the "tone tines" inside.

1 comment:

Brad Smith said...

Thanks for the great work on this guitar. In the mode of turn of the century (last century that is) figures Bohmann was part innovator, part craftsman and part showman. For readers interested in understanding how the "tone tines" are supposed to work here is a link to Bohmann's patent http://bit.ly/2vIPtkF And his guitars sound unique, as I would imagine all the other instruments he made (violins, bass, harp guitars, mandolins, etc) did as well.