1920s Oscar Schmidt-made Banjo Ukulele

Sound clip soon!

Like the Stella tenor banjo in the last post, these little banjo ukes seem to be all over the place up here in the Northeast. This was made by Oscar Schmidt (though it's unbranded) in probably the late-teens, early 20s. Other examples of the same type can be seen here (as a "Winner) and here (unbranded) and this same design later (I think) changed into the typical "Stella" openback banjo uke I see more often.

At any rate, these always sound nice and have a very "uke style" neck in that the board is a little wider side-to-side and the neck has a soft C profile. It's a standard OS-style soprano scale at 13 1/4" long. Work included a fret level/dress, new nut, replacement (vintage) bridge and (vintage) tailpiece, a couple replacement (same type) shoes and hook/nuts, cleaning, replacement (vintage) friction tuners... and general setup. It plays spot-on and is strung with Martin fluorocarbon strings.

1920s Oscar Schmidt "Stella" Resonator Tenor Banjo

Sound clip soon!

This is a mid-late 20s "Stella" made by Oscar Schmidt (of blues parlor guitar fame) in New Jersey. It's a very simple instrument and the build, aside from the turned resonator, is almost identical to 1880s-1900s instruments rather than the average 1920s build. This means it has a thin, lightweight maple rim with no tonering and a simple friction-set neck brace. The rim design means this instrument has a woody, round, mellower tone compared to the typical mid-20s zing and pop. It behaves more like an old-time 5-string banjo... though the resonator certainly pushes the volume right out front.


1982 Daion Caribou

The short-lived Japanese-made Daion brand came up with all sorts of great guitars. I actually worked on a Caribou a few years ago and wasn't expecting to be working on one anytime soon (they're rather rare). I was pleased, then, when my buddy Rick (he's a huge Daion fiend) came in with this guy. These are interesting guitars that have that "mini jumbo" sound to start-off with but have a snap, zing, and bite that's also sort of jazzy or archtop-y in flavor as well. Part of it is the maple back and sides, I'm guessing, and the contorted shape.

In addition to cleating a crack, work on this included a fret level/dress and swapping the original (junk) undersaddle pickup for a K&K Big Twin. At the same time I wired a volume control for the K&K that utilized the original control housing (though a tone control was nixed as K&Ks are not happy with them).


1999/2007 Fender American "Coodercaster" Stratocaster Electric Guitar

Pretty fun, no? This is a Fender American Strat that's been customized into a "Coodercaster" style rig. This means it's got a genuine humbucking "Gold Foil" pickup in the neck that's paired with a Lollar-made single coil lap steel-style pickup that reminds me very much of old late-40s Gibson steel pups. Since the Lollar dates to 2007 I'm guessing that's when the modding was done.

This just came in for consignment yesterday and my only work aside from cleaning it was a general going-over and setup with a fresh set of 10s. It plays effortlessly and has gorgeous, lingering sustain. The pickups are awfully nice, too, with that brash vaguely Tele-like (but with more chomp) tone at the bridge and a warm, sweet, and balanced tone at the neck. I'm not as much of a fan of the more jangle-pangle mid-position on the 3-way switch, but it would certainly have its uses for strummed chords.

Ephemera: Wallflower (1920s)

Fancy uke, fancy pose.

Ephemera: Fuji Trio (1920s)

Nice shot of the three stringed instruments I think of most when I think of traditional Japanese music: koto, shamisen, and kokyu.

Used Calton Mandolin Case

A consignor dropped this off as he has no use for it anymore. It's a lightly-used Calton mandolin case in ready-to-go shape and has moss-green plush lining inside.

1935 National Trojan Resonator Guitar

This is a customer's guitar that was in for some work (fret level/dress and glorified setup) and the T-serial at its headstock dates it to just about 1935. This Trojan has a Harmony-made body and neck and, considering the owner's love for heavy-duty strings and open tunings, it's held up very well. It's also quite clean and all-original (save my new nut and one screw), too.

The sound on this one is robust, forward, and thumpy. It reminds me more of a Dobro in terms of "creamy tone" than it does a National, though the short decay and powerful rahmff sound up-front is very much a Nat'l thing. Regardless, it has the original Nat'l biscuit cone under the hood and in this case it's one of the ones with the riveted biscuits -- interesting and a bit more functional than the older screw-mount style...

1960s Kay Jumbo Archtop Electric Guitar

It's a big boy! This is a customer's (possible consignment) guitar that's been lingering in the workshop forever. Last week I finally pulled it out, dismantled it, and put it back together. In the process I found that the "original" pickup was much-messed-up and the older replacement (ebony) bridge left a little to be desired for electric use. So -- being a Gibson fan -- I of course dropped an Alnico P-90 in the thing and gave it a Tune-O-Matic style bridge. The result is the sound and bulk of a late-40s ES-300 but the feel of a late 60s Kay -- in a good way!

Work included a neck reset (and screw reinforcement), very light fret level/dress, wiring swaperoo (the only thing left of what came in is the vol/tone unit), new tuners, new bridge, and new pickup. I've got to admit that I really like the feel and tone of this. I just played it last night for a couple hours at our jam and it nailed that big old Gibson P-90 hollowbody tone -- with perhaps a little bit more snap from the inch-longer (25 3/4") scale length. The acoustic tone is nothing to write home about so the recording above is a direct plug-in from my mixer plus a hair of reverb and a mids-boost to simulate a guitar amp's flat setting.

Ephemera: Camp Uke & Curls (1940s)

A Camp Uke! In a photo! This looks like Ma's uke getting some play by her daughter.

Ephemera: Wild West Strumming (1920s)

La, la, happy as can be, desert skies and my uke-u-le-lee...


1920s Lyon & Healy "Mauna Loa" Soprano Banjo Uke

Sheesh! Today was very much a meet and greet in the shop. That meant that I didn't get much done save packing a few instruments for shipping -- and this cute little thing. This one bears the "Mauna Loa" brand that Lyon & Healy used for student to mid-level ukes and banjo ukes and it has a neck that feels very much like a Camp Uke and has the same taller old brass frets.

It came in a dirty and finish-flecked shape but after a fret level/dress, a couple mods, and a bunch of cleaning it turned out to be a nice little player. The wider nut width and C-shape profile recalls regular wood-body soprano ukes from the time more than contemporary banjo ukes (which have more mandolin-ish necks) which is a trait shared with period Oscar Schmidt jo-uke builds. This is generally a little more comfortable for wider-spaced "open" chords and fingerpicking techniques.