9/18/2014

Local Flavor: Incoming Fall


Well, it's that Fall time again. The above pic is in the pineywoods on Mt. Cushman which is 10 minutes from our house. Gorgeous, mossy place and you could almost fall asleep on that green

Lately we Wildwoods have been busy as usual and I've started adding a 6th work day to my week to catch up on structural repairs (vs. light repairs/setup) I can't get to while conversing with folks stopping through the shop. This has been helping to get me back on schedule after a super-intense Summer and boy is it helping to curb a bit of stress over stuff hanging too long in the "waiting room."

Oona's in preschool now and little Elsa and I get to share about 2 hours every morning before work now which is super: we go for walks, strum on the old banjo(s), practice fife, watch old Felix the Cat cartoons and roll around in the grass or hunt bugs in the garden.

It's just starting to get cold here an we've laid in our 10 tons of pellets (5 store/5 house) and now I've got the unenviable task of opening the pallets all up and stowing them in the barn. We've had our first few fires in the stove, too, as the weather creeps colder and more leaves start to turn.

I love this time of year... it's the sitting on the porch writing songs season... while at the same time it's the gathering wild apples to make tart apple pies season... and the thanking old Ethiopia for coffee season... because you know you're gonna need it in a 3 months during that harshest part of the Vermont cycle.

9/17/2014

Ephemera: Play a Bari, Wear a Boa (c.1960)


Apparently, playing baritone uke (50s Harmony) means that you also have to wear a snake as well.

c.1940 Favilla 0-size 14-fret Guitar




I posted this 40s Favilla a while back but decided to entirely repost now that it's in the shop again. I previously worked on this for a customer but now it's back for resale as he's downsizing his collection. This time around I did all the work on it that I wanted to do in the past to turn it into a perfectly-playing guit. As a bonus it also sounds even fuller and more responsive than it did before which is extra icing on the cake.

This was made by Favilla in New York and the original tuners and basic build date it probably to the early-to-mid 40s. It's essentially Favilla's take on a Martin 0-18 14-fretter with a solid (Adi?) spruce top and solid mahogany back, sides and neck. The lower bout is 13 1/2" across and it has a 25 1/4" scale length. The top is fan-braced which gives it a sound somewhere between an x-braced small-body Martin on the low end and a ladder-braced parlor on the high end. You get a ton of rich sound but also more sustain and warmth/crunch vs. standard ladder bracing. It's also hecka loud for its size and suits fingerpicking as well as flatpicking equally well.

9/14/2014

c.1940 Regal Carved-top Archtop Guitar




This guitar is, hands down, very cool. It's also pretty rare: there aren't a whole lot of carved-top Regal guitars out there and it's too bad because it sounds excellent and is definitely in the warmer, creamy "Gibson archtop" camp. It makes a perfect chordal-backing guitar but does have enough punch for single-note lead runs. It's fun! Quality, sound, and feel-wise I'd easily put it right alongside a Gibson L-48 or L-50 from the same time.

This is another one that came in for consignment via a friend of mine and it only needed light work to get it spot-on which included fitting and adjusting the bridge a bit, a very minor fret level/dress, cleaning, and a setup. Amazingly, the guitar is also crack-free.

c.1935 Harmony-made Biltmore Diana Archtop Guitar




This guitar came in for consignment from a friend of mine and during today's light work of setups and whatnot I... set it all up. Harmony made this for the Biltmore brand which can be seen at the super-cool celluloid deco headplate. Unlike most of their archtops this one is quite fancy and has what appears to be a carved spruce top over solid birdseye maple back and sides.

It looks like it was refretted in the past (a good job) but it was poorly setup and the (newer rosewood) bridge needed much fitting, the frets needed a very light dressing/leveling, the nut needed setup work and the tuners needed a lube. That's all done and it plays spot-on despite its bigger V-neck shape, longish 25 1/8" scale, and regular light (12s) strings. The top is carved in a similar manner to an Epiphone carved-top guitar with a high arch and likewise it has a zingy, punchy-loud, crisp sort of sound. It's not at all like a Gibson-flavored carved-top and I tend to think this type of tone is ideal for a lead player in a group while a Gibson-flavored guitar of similar design would be much more suited to chordal thumping. When you drive this guitar hard it's all clarity with a bit of a compressed "mwah" on the low end that cuts right through.

c.1940 Gibson-made Kalamazoo KG-21 Archtop Guitar


Another lovely KG-21! These L-00-size instruments sure kick butt. This one came by way of a trade deal and after a bit of work (seam reglues, bridge fitting, fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup) it plays spot-on and has that classic creamy/crunchy sound I've come to associate with Kalamazoo-style archtops. There's a lot more bottom end on these guys than your average archtop but it's pushed forward so your audience hears it more than the player. It makes these a perfect choice for someone who needs cut/carrying power but also needs to clean up their tone.

9/13/2014

c.1930 Kay-made SS Stewart 0-size Mahogany Tenor Guitar


This is a customer's instrument and it's quite cool: it's an 0-size, all-mahogany, ladder-braced tenor with a long (23 1/8") scale and a warm but cutting tone. Its owner wanted GDAE (octave mandolin) tuning and the shorter 12-fret neck was perfectly stable enough to get strung up with heavier gauges to really engage the top and push some sound out of the instrument (it's running 46w, 36w, 20w, 13.5 gauges). I got to try it out today in jam group and it did a great job punching through the mix while also getting a good background-chord sound when needed, too.

While branded SS Stewart in the soundhole this has all the hallmarks of a Stromberg-Voisinet (Kay) instrument including the very cool "Gumby" headstock shape and three-point bridge. Very similar instruments of a 6-string variety were often seen in this build style with Oahu badging.

9/11/2014

c.1920 Gibson A-2 Carved-top Mandolin




This is a customer's instrument that was in for a fretboard level/planing, refret, and setup. The neck through the fretboard extension showed that "usual Gibson U" relief that sanded out right quick. At the same time I reglued the main brace below the soundhole (its wings were coming undone) and fit the bridge a bit better to the top. Judging from the 1960s shipping form in the case this mando went back to Gibson for some work around then.

I'm guessing it was Gibson who oversprayed the whole thing with a thin coat of finish and also installed a second brace (right under the bridge) in the instrument. Curious, huh? I'm betting the top was sunk. It hardly matters because this thing sings with a pretty thunderous clear tone even with the volume-sapping pickguard installed and a lighter set of strings (10s) installed.

9/10/2014

c.1956 Gibson LG-1 00-size Guitar


Ah, the Elvis guitar (or, rather, the guitar he used in movies). This one is owned by a local old timer and it was in for a fret level/dress, new bone saddle (as well as some saddle slot repair and whatnot), cleaning, and setup. This was scheduled for next week but the owner's birthday is this weekend so I pushed it up in the light repairs index of guitar-fest that's hanging out in the workshop queue right now.

The truss on this one is unfortunately maxed out so to keep the neck straight under tension I've got it strung with extra lights (46w-10) which are actually remarkably loud and cutting on this fellow... but then again the ladder bracing and 50s Gibson build helps with that, too.

9/09/2014

Local Flavor: Camp Fever Band


The shop relocated to Rochester's Harvest Fair for Saturday and I played some Civil War tunes (and some originals) with Misters Joe, Tom, and Dick for the run-up to the White River Valley Player's 2nd running of the locally-made play Ransom. Fun was had by all and no one seemed too alarmed at my frailing on a tenor banjo or Tom's 150-year-displaced mandolin.

9/07/2014

c.1976 Aria Model 9480 J-200 Copy Jumbo Guitar




If you're into countrified bling on the cheaper side... these old Japanese-made J-200 clones sure can't be beat. It's got real pearl all over the neck and headstock (minus the Aria logo which isn't the real stuff) and that semi-reflective translucent stuff used for the flowers on the pickguard.

This came in trade looking quite clean (save for the stenciled "Bob" on the lower bout which was removed by the last owner) but it certainly did need a bit of work: I leveled and dressed the frets, lubed and tightened up the tuners, shaved the bridge and cut a new bone nut and saddle, cleaned it up and gave it a good setup strung with regular 12s. It plays beautifully (standard 3/32" at 12th bass side action and 1/16" treble) and has that big, mid-frequency response and clarity that I expect from this body shape with a long (25 1/2" in this case) scale and x-bracing. What this type of guitar does really well is remain clear-sounding even while you're pounding the heck out of it to push the volume out there... hence the reason full-on strummers in the know tend to prefer jumbo models.

Coodercaster Revised


Mr. Parker and I went back to the drawing board slightly and revised his Coodercaster. I finished this up (finally) on Friday and boy it's fun to play. More pics and info at the revised original post.