1920s Gibson Style 3 Soprano Uke

I have a lefty customer who sends all manner of nice old ukes to me for various degrees of work. This gussied-up Gibson was a pleasure to have in the shop and boy -- she sure is a beaut and sounds good, too! This is about the cleanest style 3 I've seen while browsing the net for old ukes but it did need a light bridge shave/reglue and fret level/dress plus setup to get the most out of it.

In addition, Gibsons tend to have a dry and snappy sort of sound (and an excellent feel to the necks), but that's enhanced on this one even more with a set of genuine gut strings. Listen to the clip and you can get an idea of what gut sounds like -- they're a little poppier and has really defined mids compared with nylon or fluoro strings and Aquila Nylgut does a good job of capturing that but not quite.

1968 Fender Redondo 00-Size Flattop Guitar

I've been wanting a "show guitar" for kicking around and taking less-seriously, lately, and spied this one -- in its cracked-up glory -- and snagged it. I like 60s Fender necks so I knew at least it had that going for it... though from the online gossip you'd expect the boxes on these instruments to sound terrible. The truth is, after being properly adjusted, it sounds good. Just listen to the clip above: it's got a dry, punchy, almost 50s Gibson voice a bit like an LG-2 but with more chime and long-scale sparkle and less thunk on the bottom.

I can see why these guitars get a lot of bad words bantered about them, though -- it'd be pretty easy to blow the setup side on this by not setting the neck angle properly (all you have to do is shim it like a Fender electric!), getting your truss dialed-in just right, and making sure the saddle is compensated correctly. In fact -- the stock saddle's radius was certainly cut incorrectly which meant that even with a decent factory setup, this guitar must've played a bit "off" right out of the shipping box.  


September Parts: 1960s Bigsby Aluminum Archtop Bridge

This is an original 50s/60s, aluminum Bigsby "rocker bridge" so-called because it has angled "feet" on the saddle topper that "rock" gentle with a Bigsby whammy's movement to keep a guitar in tune. It's compensated for a wound G string. I picked it up in trade for other parts and now it's available. I simply don't know what to use it for!


1940s Kay-made Gagliano Jumbo Flattop Guitar

Between structural work on a number of customer parlor guitars, I managed to get this big boy finished-off and ready to go for a customer coming up this weekend to grab it. It's a relatively rare version of a typical Kay ladder-braced, 17" jumbo, in that it's a bit higher quality and earlier than most. It's also the best-sounding of the ladder-braced jumbo Kays I've played to date. Most are very gutsy, forward, and thrilling to bang on but don't tend to have a lot of warmth on the bottom end. This has all that normal stuff but a bit of bottom-end velvet, too.

Work included a fret level/dress, crack cleat/fill to a big one on the treble side of the top, and a hearty bridge shave to improve on someone's previous modification to the saddle area of the bridge. I also added some Kluson-style repro tuners to replace the not-so-nice-condition Grover Rotomatics someone had installed along the way. It plays just as the Dr. ordered and I've got it tuned half a step down for setup purposes as this will probably be kept in some sort of slacked open tuning by the owner.


1986 Guild F-20 Flattop Guitar

This is a customer's guitar that was in for some repair. When I first saw iPhone pictures of it in email I thought it was an earlier (early 70s) guitar, but the serial "does not lie" and this was made in 86. Guild wasn't making a lot of F-20s at that time so it's a relatively rare guitar for that period. While the 60s models are the most desirable due to falloff from Nick Drake's preference for the mahogany-top M-20 model, every F-20 I've handled has had some sort of charm or another that spooks its way into your consciousness.

This one is no slouch and has distinctly-punchy mids, snappy highs, plenty of projection, and a good tight bass. It's sort of like an 0-18 on steroids (minus the lingering sweet mwah that better 0-18s have). I suppose you could expect that, though, with a body almost the same dimensions as a 14-fret 0-18 but with a longer scale (25 1/2") and arched maple back. It's an interesting experience and I'm betting that this would make a good "jam guitar" for folks who don't want to carry around something bigger but still need some cutting power.


Shipping Delay

Just a note that I will be shipping all recent repairs and purchases on Tuesday rather than Monday this week. Thanks!


1927 Gibson L-1 Flattop Guitar

Robert Johnson, anyone? Aside from being the mythical model that the selfsame bluesman played, this is just a great guitar in general. Despite the lack of serial number or factory order number, I think I have it pegged as a 1927 model because of its mix of features.

It has a spruce top with A-frame/tonebar bracing and mahogany back and sides. The top is slightly "domed" over the braces and its body shape is a "mini-jumbo" cut, though the 13 1/2" lower bout marks it as "extra-concert" in overall size. This construction yields an interesting sound -- something that crosses between a period "ladder braced" tone, a punchy/gutsy archtop projecting tone, and the lingering, rich sustain I'm mostly used to on fancy flattops. It sounds absurdly good for fingerpicking... which is probably what we want to hear, huh?

1951 Gibson TG-50 Carved-Top Tenor Guitar

With 30 minutes left to go in the workday, I quickly polished this customer consignment up, restrung it, compensated the saddle, gave it a setup, and adjusted the K&K pickup inside for better tone and fit. After that? Ready to roll. It's apparently had a refret in the past and still had a very good setup when it came in. It plays perfectly with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and is strung for DGBE ("Chicago") tuning at the moment, though the bridge compensation suits standard CGDA as well, too.

With Gibson's standard 22 3/4" long tenor scale length and full 16" carved-top archtop body, this thing certainly does that projecting, dark-ish, mids-heavy jazz tone to a T. I'm pretty enamored of it, really. Part of that, though, is due to just how amazingly clean it is! This one is pretty as well as functional. Early 50s L-48s and L-50s had carved spruce tops and laminate maple back and sides -- and that's just what this one is made of.

1991 Alvarez-Yairi DY-38 Dreadnought Guitar

This is a customer's guitar in for consignment. I'm pretty sure he said he bought it new and the date stamp inside reads as 1991 per the "Emperor Code" on these old AYs. This model was made in Japan and has a solid spruce top over (probably laminate?) mahogany back and sides. The neck is mahogany and the board and bridge are rosewood. It's your classic "D-18 knock-off" save that it has that fast, easy Alvarez neck shape that I come to expect with these guitars.

I only had to do a light setup and compensation and radius adjustment on the bone saddle to get this playing spot-on. The truss responded happily (with a short "I haven't been touched in years" creak) and the guitar is in good health. It doesn't have any cracks, though there are a few dings, scuffs, and a bunch of pickwear on the pickguard with a few stray pick marks around the soundhole. As far as I know, everything is original on it as well. Overall it's a good-sounding, practical dread. Sounds like an AY, huh?


1974 Guild F-48 "Navarre" Flattop Jumbo Guitar

I like old Guilds -- I cannot lie. This big old 17" jumbo is like the venerable F-50 but a bit more understated and toting solid mahogany back and sides rather than flamed maple. I actually like it a bit better than the F-50s I've played -- but then again I've always been a fan of mahogany back/sides for that woody thick-mids punch (which this has). This is a consignment guitar and after giving it a light fret level/dress, compensation adjustment at the saddle, a setup, and cleaning -- it's spot-on and good to go.

Let's admit it: it's a great-looking guitar and will look handsome while you're riding away in your convertible with your Western shirt and bolo tie. It sounds great for both bluegrassy lead and fill work and also big, rumbly chords. It's a charmer -- and the last owner installed some sort of decent undersaddle pickup (not my preference but it works just fine -- especially for rock band use -- needs a 9V which I added fresh) so it's ready for the stage, too.

1920s Lyon & Healy Camp Mandolin

Blog followers will be aware of Camp Ukes but probably aren't aware of the Camp Mandolin! It blew my mind when this came up in my email box about a year or so ago -- and recently the owner of it did a trade/money deal with me and I picked it up from her. It was in a pretty sad state -- lots of seam separations on the back, frets needing a level/dress, tuners needing lube, bridge needing seating, recutting, and compensation, and a number of tiny top hairline cracks needing attention.

The work is all done, however, and boy what a cute little thing this is! It's got fret access right to the 17th, a nice small body size (about the size of a larger soprano banjo uke -- 8" across the face), shorter 13 1/8" scale, and a sound that's like a mix of a bowlback, flatback, and DeWick weirdness. I can't help but enjoy it!

1920s Mainland-made Koa Soprano Uke

What a pretty little thing! I tend to think this style of soprano was made by Oscar Schmidt for a few years in the late teens/early 20s but have never been quite sure. Regardless, it's a well-made instrument with a body of solid koa wood (flamed on the top) and a neck and bridge made from mahogany. It's got pretty rope binding on the top and back edges and a rope-style rosette, too. In addition... check out that nice "zipper" inlaid bit down the fretboard. Sweet!

Work on this uke included regluing the bridge, a fret level/dress, new tuners, some hairline crack seal/gluing, a brace reglue, and setup with Martin fluoro strings. It plays spot-on (1/16" action at the 12th fret) and has that distinct mix of chunky 20s sound combined with chimey koa sparkle. It's a good sound for a straight-up strummer or a fingerpicker. Folks who aren't used to ukes without "real" fretboards, however, should consider the fact that all of these non-boarded ukes have the strings riding closer to the body at the body join. At the time, most players fingerpicked and strummed right at the end of the neck, though, so it wasn't a consideration.