10/01/2014

c.1930 Harmony-made 7" Resonator Banjo Uke


There are no markings but this customer's instrument is a Harmony (Chicago) build for sure. It's an interesting one, however, because it's quite deluxe and then also at the same time closer in style in some ways to the relatively plain "California style" banjo ukes that, as far as I can tell, dominated their banjo uke output.

It's got a regular 13" soprano scale and the neck has a thin (front to back) but wide (side to side) profile which is common on their "California style" banjo ukes but not something I'm used to seeing from their more upscale, heavier-duty banjo ukes like this one which have a full hook/shoe style rim and, in this case, a resonator. These usually have a thicker neck with a thinner nut width which means they can take steel strings, too, if desired. With something like this one's neck (which is more comfortable in many ways) you can only string it with synthetics like nylon or fluorocarbon as the tension is less.

9/30/2014

c.1930 Regal Openback Tenor Banjo


This is an 11" rim, openback, long-scale (23") tenor probably from the mid-30s and made by Regal in Chicago. Many, many, many of the Slingerland-sold instruments conform to this instrument's basic design and styling (though finished in natural) and those were probably also made by Regal as well. It plays spot-on and with the current strings (38w-10) it's setup for Celtic/GDAE tuning which has a nice round punch on this banjo.

I actually worked on this banjo a few years back and since then it's fell on hard times. It came back in various trades and I finally got around to fixing it up again. The frets are freshly leveled and dressed, it has a new Renaissance-style Elite head, new compensated bridge, a set of vintage guitar-style tuners added, and of course a fresh setup. The dowel had been knocked loose and reglued once before and it took a fall and damaged it some more and came loose again so I also did away with that connection and simply bolted it up like an old 30s Epiphone banjo. This mod also let me add a vintage hoop-style tonering to the instrument, too, as it was originally a non-tonering 'jo.

c.2014 US-made Esquire-style Electric Guitar


I can't divulge the original maker of this instrument (it's been wiped off the headstock, too) for several reasons (modding being one of them) but I can tell you that it's American-made. I picked this up in trade and $$ a couple months back and since then I changed it over from a Tele into a black-pickguard Esquire. Why? I like one-pickup instruments. It also distilled this thing down to what it wanted to be in the first place: simplistic twang-picker.

I've been using it a lot since working on it and figured I'd share as I'm moving stuff around in the collection today.

9/29/2014

Ephemera: Picnic! (c.1900)


I wish I was off to this picnic! Fiddle, fiddle, mandolin, mandolin, banjo, guitar. Bet that noise was a little muddy-goody.

c.1970 Giannini Craviola Classical Guitar


This is a customer's guitar that was in for a bit of work. It's one of the Craviola model Gianninis (made in Brazil) and is dated via the label at 1970. This one is in pretty great shape which is mostly due, I'd imagine, to its long storage in an original chip case. The odd body shape means it sits perfectly on the knee and despite a 15 1/4" lower bout the playing comfort means it handles more like an 00-size instrument.

My work included a fret level/dress, new bone saddle and small bridge work (see pic a bit below), K&K pickup install, and setup.

Ephemera: Stolen Sweets (c.1900)


That, madam, is a big guitar for the time.

Description and dating is easy on this one for the back of the chickenscratch in the eBay ad for this photo reads...

9/27/2014

c.1935 Oahu Parlor Guitar Conversion


This is a customer's guitar I finished up on Friday and it began life as a raised-strings Hawaiian lap guitar complete with a cast-aluminum bolted-on bridge with a straight saddle. It came to me like that... except that the neck had been hacked off at the body (ugh) and a bolt-ish type of system was half-installed.

I was worried about that joint but after much frustration I managed to make do with disposing of the funky old bolt attempt and installed my own variation in its place. After that came the new bridge, a fret level/dress, pins, new saddle, cleaning, and a setup. Voila! A perfectly-playing, happy-sounding old bluesy 12-fret. I like.

c.1965 Harmony Stella Low-Brow Bouzouki


After noting that my recently-finished tres had left the fold I needed to make another one (I had been carrying it with me all over the place, hah hah) and eyed this poor old Harmony my friend Mr. Sween sent me out from California in a big batch of brutalized guitars. This has been hanging from the wall in the shop for about a month now and I never intended to do anything with it (seeing as the neck was loose, only one back brace remained, and two top braces were missing) because of the costs and effort associated... but after 40 minutes of work this poor man's trichordo (three-course) bouzouki was born.

9/24/2014

c.1925 Oscar Schmidt-made Galiano 0-size Parlor Guitar




This is a customer's old Oscar Schmidt (labeled Galiano) and it sure does sound good now that it's all in good order again. These typically have that sort of muted warm bluesy rumble about them that no other similar make from this time quite has. Hence the reason they're popular...

Anyhow, it got a whole bunch of work including a neck reset (and conversion to bolted-neck: see the end of the post for work-process photos), fret level/dress, bridge reglue, new bone nut and saddle, seam and brace reglues, a bit of cleaning, and of course a full setup. It plays spot on (3/32" bass and 1/16" treble at the 12th fret) with a set of 11s and could probably handle 12s just fine. It has an unusual scale for an OS running to 24 7/8" rather than 25" or over.

c.1955/2014 Cuban Tres Conversion




This little fella (it's approximately the size of a terz guitar with a 22 3/8" scale length) started life as something roughly similar to a US Strad style guitar but a bit smaller. It's got an all-laminate birch body with ladder bracing and a chunky 1 11/16" nut-width neck made of poplar (I believe). The short scale and build with its original classical-style bridge installed had just an awful tone as a guitar. I expected that: low tension, body too small for adequate bass, big bridge eating up a lot of the soundboard... typical 50s/60s student or kid's guitar mess.

So: why not have fun? I yanked that bridge off, covered up the light-colored unfinished bit under the bridge with some old-fashioned travel stickers, bolted the neck back to true, leveled and dressed the frets... and then converted it into a 3-course Cuban tres! Lucky for us, the specs of this instrument are pretty close to those of an actual tres in size and scale and the wider neck for 3 courses is traditional for these instruments. It's a win-win... because this thing is loud, saucy, playing spot-on (1/16" action at the 12th fret) and fun in this configuration where it was stifled and boring before.

Local Flavor: Make Me a Pallet on Your Lawn


Just a note: if you're someone waiting on me to send word to you via email recently or you're a customer waiting on an estimate, please be just a hair more patient until tomorrow. I've been getting through the stack but I intend to spend a good chunk of the morning trying to finish all that off. We've been busy, as usual!

Above pic is: girls insisted their Mama make a dance floor for them out of the oak pallets our wood heating pellets come on. I'd just stashed away 5 tons of the stuff in the barn the day before so the tempting pallets were leaning in front of our woodshed. Good plan, ladies!

9/22/2014

c.1935 Armstrong Dansant Carved-top Guitar




The last time I worked on this guitar was in May of 2011 and it came back recently via a friend for consignment. I did a fresh working-over including a fret level/dress, new rosewood bridge, replacement binding for the pickguard, cleaning, and a good setup. This thing really is a champ: it's loud, proud, and now that it's playing properly again, it's quite aggressive: this reacts like a good carved-top Epiphone from the same period -- it'll zing out single-note lead work or give you a good, crunchy chop-chop chord sound. This thing also comes ready for gigging with a K&K Big Twin pickup installed "under the hood" and a pair of strap buttons to hang it from.

I'd heard these were made by Harmony and in 2012 I thought I'd gotten confirmation of that: someone pointed out a Harmony xxxxHxxxx model number designation inside of one but I never actually saw the guitar. I'm therefore a bit skeptical again because I've seen a few lower-quality (but still nice) Armstrong-branded models floating about on eBay that were certainly Harmony makes but not up to the specs or design style of this instrument. That's not to say that Harmony didn't do top-flight work on their high-end models or that they didn't make this... only that this doesn't conform to any typical Harmony body molds or bracing types. To add credence to the Harmony claim, however, I have seen a few high-end Harmony-made mandolins from the same time that did have very similar trim, finish, and materials used.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way: this thing's classy!