Another Nutty Week

Wow... go away for a couple days on family affairs and the world gets crazy! This is just a note to let folks out there know that fun stuff awaits.

It was raining furiously today so tomorrow morning will get you some pics, reviews and clips of a newer Loar archtop guitar as well as a somewhat recent Taylor 110E. Later on in the day I'll be trying to get a bunch of vintage ukes up and on the inventory consigned by my friend Fran of the VT Uke Society.

What else? Upcoming both in repairs and for sale are a variety of x-braced Kay dreadnoughts, Harmony ladder-braced big boys, an old Vracas mandocello (the nearest to the finish line at the moment on the major repairs side), and a nice selection of old 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s smaller-bodied Martin and Gibson guitars.

Other highlights include a horde of Oscar Schmidt, Harmony, and Regal-made 20s parlor guitars and some fun old German trade violins including some bizarre fractional ones.


Ephemera: Shepard's Sheep (c.1890)

Instruments of all sizes for players of all sizes. Oh, my, Shepard Family... you guys put us all to shame.

Ephemera: Ahhhh (c.1890)

Ahhhh, relaxing in your overly-stylized den with your overly-inlaid troupe of instruments. Now featuring: full scale 5-string banjo, banjeaurine, and "concert" sized gut-strung guitar. To have a bit of $$ is nice, huh, lady?


Local Flavor: Sunday Closed

How about waking up to this on Saturday morning before a boisterous music jam?

In other news: we're closed this Sunday but will have regular Wed-Sun hours next week. Got some errands during the day to attend to!


c.2011 Martin D-18P Dreadnought Guitar

I was just about to put postage on this to ship it out to Mr. Alex "down under" in the morning mail when I decided to unpack it and check the setup before doing so. Fifteen minutes later with adjustment at the saddle, truss and nut and... perfection... and then some pictures, a sound clip... and back in the box.

What's not surprising is that it sounds like a D-18. What is surprising... is how good it feels. The D-18Ps have "Performing Artist" necks which are a little shallower (front to back) and a little wider (side to side) with the string spacing at the nut and bridge. Curiously enough this gives them a feel almost like a 30s Martin 12-fret guitar but minus the medium-v shape to the neck. I like it significantly better than an average Martin D-18 neck with the long scale as I don't feel as choked up when I stretch my arm out to play cowboy chords or flatpicking licks.

c.1920 Lange-made? SS Stewart Style A Banjo Mandolin

This SS Stewart is very similar in build and specs (even the same "donut" style Bacon tonering) to a Bacon style B tenor I worked on two years ago which I think was Lange-made. By the time this was made SS Stewart was simply one of a zillion retailer brands rather than something actually made in the old Stewart factory. It's a good-quality instrument and after getting some light fretwork and a setup over here it plays just fine and has a good, loud, punchy tone. I'm a fan of this tonering style (I think the size of it eliminates some of the zingy overtones you sometimes get with more typical hoop rings) and it certainly suits the banjo mandolin sound, too.

I worked on this for poor Mr. Paul who's had three mandolin-family instruments languishing in line for the last four months... all of which only needed minor repairs. Oh well, they're good now...! The funny thing about the waiting game on repairs over here is that often the repair time isn't hugely consuming but things have to get done in order to get to the next round of repairs as I only have so much time on my hands...

Ephemera: Gospel Trio (c.1935)

The "Gospel Trio" out of Dallas Texas. Backside of promotional card with names (Dorothy Cutbirth, Henry Cutbirth, Dorothy Suess) after the break. Note the instruments: mid-30s Dobro roundneck, mid-30s Kalamazoo Oriole (I believe) mando, and I'm guessing that's a Gib lap steel, too, though it's hard to make out. I love those old lap steel stands. This is another pic snagged from eBay.


Tag sale items coming soon...

I've been noticing my collection has been getting a bit thick and will be letting go of some fun but funky gear at below-cost or "work only" prices just to clear some room. The above Oscar Schmidt is one of these... so look out for a "Tag Sale" section on the inventory soon when I get some time to update.


Some Wednesday Post-It Notes

To my repair customers: I've finally unboxed the overwhelming amount of guitars that arrived in the last couple weeks and have been accumulating in the packing room and I will get back to you about estimates, what they need, and all that good stuff. What an amazing set of wild fun stuff that'll be upcoming on the customer side of things!

To folks who've donated recently: thank you so very much! Every little bit helps and we appreciate it much. This helps me feel less stressed about turning up interesting research and finds for all you guys and working on bizarre projects like banjo basses and mystery conversion instruments. I'm hoping to get a bunch of ephemera scanned in the near future to archive some of it online as well as perhaps some DIY tutorials for minor repairs in the farther future.

To folks who I've been trading and selling with: thanks! With the mushy economy I love how we've all done curious horse trading back and forth and all over the place. It's great to see people hooked up with the instruments that inspire (going both ways).

To anyone waiting on a response from me: please just call or email me again. I'm running around like a headless chicken these days so it's not personal if you've slipped through the cracks. There are a lot of them right now.


c.2009 James Einolf L-1 Style Guitar

I first came across Mr. Einolf's interpretations of the venerable L-0/L-1 Gibsons (of Robert Johnson fame, of course) reading an article in Fretboard Journal a bit back. You can read all about his take on them over at his website. It was pretty exciting to have one come in the shop, therefore, albeit one that'd suffered some heat damage and had a sprung neck due to it.

My work on this guy was to reset the neck and fretboard extension, level and dress the frets, do a bit of a light shave at the bridge, and set it all up. I've strung it with 11s but I don't think there'd be any reason you couldn't put 12s on it. The thing is: he builds these just as light as the originals and from my point of view that means it doesn't need 12s to get plenty of oomph and volume out of it. It feels very happy with the 50w-11 GHS set I've got on there.


c.1925 Joseph Pacheco Banjo Ukulele

This curious old banjo uke is stamped "J. Pacheco Mfg." on the dowel with the "Platophone" branding as well. Apparently most Platophone instruments (usually tenor banjos) have a bizarre, complicated tonering and some were made by Vega in Boston (where Pacheco was located). I honestly don't think that this is a Vega build but it's getting there quality-wise.

My work on it was for a customer and it got a quick refret, cleaning, and setup. It has a great sound (even with the sort of yucky black nylon strings) and has a non-tonering 7" maple rim and a longer 14" scale (for a soprano banjo uke) which gives this a bit more tension, sustain, and snap than usual.


c.1942 Harmony H917 Stella Parlor Guitar

This isn't your bog-standard Harmony-made Stella parlor. This one is fantastically interesting (to me) from a historical point of view. It's also extremely clean and crack-free for a guitar stamped with a Fall 42 date inside. The model is H917 and more info can be had at this link.

What makes this such a cool guitar is that the neck is actually old Oscar Schmidt stock from the New Jersey factory. By 1939 Harmony had acquired Oscar Schmidt's leftover parts and Stella, La Scala, and Sovereign brand names after OS went under. These guitars are apparently one way for Harmony to use up old stock during the transition years. The "Stella" name appears on Harmony builds after '39 but not often as directly as this... where the "Stella" name on this neck is quite honestly a "real Stella." The body, however, is pure Harmony output and is the standard shape for Harmony's 0-size 12-fretters from the late 30s right through the 70s.