Correspondence Catchup

If you're waiting on a response via email or phone -- please be patient a little longer. I've read it all, but because of how busy this time of year can be, it all looks like a tidal wave looming in front of me at the moment. I will get back to you -- and if I don't, please send word again.


1941 Gibson L-30 Carved-top Archtop Guitar

Who doesn't love old Gibson carved-tops? This one came late in the game for the L-30 model and has a factory order number that places it at 1941. Hello, war! At any rate, these L-30s are pretty hip creations with the famous "L-00" body shape and sporting a carved (rather than pressed) top and flat back. With 3 1/2" side depth and the tight-waisted, sexy shape, these handle extremely easily and "fit like a glove" in the lap.

Like I said, the top is carved solid spruce and the back and sides are solid maple (plain Jane, though). The neck is a medium C-profile mahogany number with a Brazilian rosewood board. I really like 40s Gibsons because (more or less) right after the late 30s batches they went to a C-shaped neck that's much more comfortable for the average player. This neck is even a little bit thinner front/back than your average 40s Gibson and it really feels more like a mid-late 50s one on the left hand. I was pleasantly surprised at that!


1958 Martin 0-18 Flattop Guitar

Can't argue about a pretty old 0-18! This one lacks any cracks in the top and back and is in rather good "player's" shape -- excusing a few filled-in jack-holes on the treble side. I have to admit that I have a fondness for 50s Martins as they seem to toe the line between underbuilt for uber-tone and slightly bulked-up to handle wear over time. After work this one is a joy for the left-hand and has that mid-rangey, tight chordal sound I associate with 0-size 14-fret Martins. If you fingerpick, these are gorgeous recording machines, too, as they don't muddy-up anywhere on the neck.

Work included a fret level/dress, pin hole fill/redrill, cleaning, bridge and saddle adjustment, and setup. Action is 1/16" treble and 3/32" bass at the 12th fret and the neck is nice and straight. The original frets were fairly pitted so the frets are leveled lower than stock. I still think it's good for one or two more level/dressings before replacement, however. Good to go...

1930s Gibson-made Kalamazoo KG-11 Flattop Guitar

With a squashed-00 size, Gibson 24 3/4" scale, and 14-fret neck joint, these KG-11s make a perfect "cozy on the couch" guitar while also having plenty of volume and tone for a jam. They've become very popular guitars these days and their sound suits fingerpickers, especially, while also being able to hop around in old-time, early country, and blues genres quite easily.

This particular guitar lacks a factory order number inside so I can't for sure date it, but the small sunburst finish and general style makes me assume 1933-1935 production -- which is a little earlier-on. This guitar is (amazingly) crack-free and the finish is in overall great shape, though it does have the usual pickwear around the soundhole that these non-pickguard KG-11s tend to have. Everything is original equipment on the guitar save the strings and new bone saddle.


Workshop Note #5

Perhaps it's crazy to be excited about having an order in for an extra decent mic stand and quality cables?

Part of what I've found about doing hands-on work 24/7 is that it's really nice to have proper tools. The same goes for the recording side of things, too.

Don't even get me into talking about having nice instrument-tools. We all know that's an economic juggernaut of temptation!



1930s Gibson HG Century Flattop Guitar

Sorry, everyone, no soundclip for this one!

This walked in right at opening today and I spent the next few hours with its owner leveling/dressing the frets and tweaking all the setup to bring it back to near-perfect playability. It's an astoundingly good-sounding guitar with a big thick midrange and warm bottom that I absolutely did not expect out of an L-00 body. Must be that 12-fret thing going on, huh? The owner (one of two Pauls who came down to visit with this and other toys) also owns an A-Century mandolin (he's the "king of the mother of toilet seat guitars" up here) and this beauty rounds out his "Gibson Century twins."

At any rate, you can read all about Century of Progress instruments here. This one began life as an HG-Century -- that meaning it was intended to be a Hawaiian guitar with raised strings for lap-slide playing. It probably didn't have "real" frets to begin with (just celluloid spacers or similar) and it came from the factory without a truss rod -- as a warped neck has no meaning to a Hawaiian instrument. There are conflicting reports about whether the lack of a truss rod means it was made during wartime or not, but the lack of a factory order number in the body means the date can't be pinned down so it's safest to say it was built during the production run of the HG-Cs -- that being 37-41.


1933 Martin 0-17T Tenor Guitar

I have to admit that when this guitar first came in I wasn't that impressed with its tone. Fortunately, that all disappeared as soon as work was done! This thing's now a go-getter with full, out-front, delicious "hog top" Martin appeal. This is a consignment guitar and I'm glad I had the chance to breathe some new life into it, as the last work done on it just wasn't up to snuff to make it a player (or to make it easy on the ears).

These 30s Martins just sound great when they're dolled-up and the lighter bracing and lighter overall build certainly help. The 23" scale puts snappy tension on the strings, but because the mahogany tops are much more mids-centric, I think that 0-17T and 0-15T models are still best utilized for CGDA or DGBE tunings compared to "Celtic" GDAE tuning. I've got this one currently strung-up with the DGBE strings of a standard "12s" guitar set and it's loving it. Can we say "Delmore Brothers?"

1979 Richard Raimi 5-String Openback banjo

This banjo just came in for consignment and it's a nice old US-made instrument that was built in Seattle by maker Richard Raimi (an original receipt from the owner dates it new in 1979). It's mostly original save for a compensated bridge, Remo FiberSkyn head, No-Knot tailpiece, and fretboard "scoop" -- all of which were added by Smakula at some point in time. These are all thoughtful upgrades for an old-time player.

Features include a fast Gibson-y profile neck (thin and C-shaped), longer 26 5/8" scale length, mahogany neck with aluminum non-adjustable truss rod, ebony board, 11-ply maple laminate rim and has narra-wood veneer (which is awfully pretty -- sort of like koa in the curly grain). The rim is a standard 11" in diameter, sports two coordinator rods for full neck/pot adjustment, and the build is sturdy all-around. The neck itself is dead-straight even with its relatively quick profile -- something I say thanks to for that nice big old block of aluminum installed under the board. This has a standard brass "hoop style" tonering which gives it a classic 20s/30s voice when combined with the long scale.

1930s Harmony-made Kleartone 5-String Resonator Banjo

This is a customer's instrument and when it came in I was on the fence about whether it was a Harmony or a Kay build. The headstock and resonator flange reminded me of Harmony products but the long 27" scale length was speaking "Kay" to me. Well... after double-checking the features, yep, it's a Harmony. The flange is a dead giveaway.

It's a plain-Jane sort of instrument but it's well-built for all that. The neck is maple cut on the quarter and the rim is multi-ply maple and still nicely "in round." Tone is bright and poppy with the sort of excess sustain that one would expect of a simple hoop-tonering build (I dampened it with a bit of foam under the head right away to get rid of overtone ring). It now plays beautifully and fast with a set of 9s on it (I'd never use anything higher with a skinny neck like this).


1910s Regal-made Lyon & Healy Parlor Guitar

In summer, walk-in repairs are always interesting. I played tonight at a joint gig with my buddy Aaron's band going first and his guitar player came in early with this nice old L&H parlor for a quick setup -- which it got, plus new ebony pins, and a set of new strings. I'm certain that this was made by Regal for Lyon & Healy as it specs out (and is built) just like a contemporaneous Regal (transverse ladder bracing, even) but has fancier "Washburn"-style appointments in terms of bound headstock and fretboard. I'm guessing it might've been sold under their Lakeside or American Conservatory brands.

This guitar had previous work including, presumably, a neck reset -- but also an installation of a replacement bridge (in the "flattened pyramid" Chicago style), newer tuners (kinda ick but functional), and a coat of French polish to clean up the (original) finish. It did, however, need a good setup desperately as it played only marginally acceptable. I was amazed that the original frets were in good order -- all level and with nearly no wear!


1980s Yamaha G-55-1 Classical Guitar

I bought this old Yamaha in-shop the other day and while it could be a late-70s model, the intonated saddle says it's probably an 80s model. It's Taiwanese-made and came in with a good straight neck and only needing a good setup and tuner lube to get it going again at full proficiency.

Yamahas, as I've mentioned before, are almost always very practical and well-thought-out instruments. Despite being all-laminate in the body (cedar lam top, maple lam sides/back), it has a full, warm sound that works for both classical picking and flamenco thrumming. This has to do with the tolerances Yamaha chose for its laminate: they generally choose very thin materials with stiffer, taller bracing -- that makes a responsive instrument with controlled bass. The laminate makes it great for a beginner (or as a campfire guitar) as it's very stable as well and deals well with being manhandled.