11/25/2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, everyone, enjoy your Thanksgivings! I don't think I'll get back to posting until after the holiday (very busy with family) but please check in with me via email if you need to. I'll be checking my box and getting back to urgent needs. If you need to get in touch with me fast over the holiday, please call my not-often-used cell: 860 377-7928.

11/23/2014

1900s Bruno Style 2 1/4 Bowlback Mandolin




This fella dates either from the late 1890s or the early 1900s. It's a nice little thing and a customer sent it in for work. All it needed was bridge compensation, a light fret level/dress, one seam repair, and setup. It's quite clean, crack-free, straight-necked, and plays spot-on. It also looks gorgeous, too, with a silver(?) and pearl inlay set into the celluloid pickguard.

I'm really not sure who made this for Bruno but it does have a bit of a Washburn-y vibe emanating from it. Features to catch are the birdseye maple/rosewood ribs, ebony fretboard with bar frets, and nice swinging tailpiece cover. I've always liked that unit as the cover never needs to be bent time after time to keep it from flying off like those Waverly cloud tails. Soundwise it's clean, clear, and decently loud and the 13 1/4" scale is quick -- especially with the "bowlback" gauged 32w-9 strings I've popped on it.

2000s Alvarez Masterworks MD90 Dreadnought Guitar




This Chinese-made Alvarez (made 2005? 2006?) was picked up by a jam buddy of mine brand new... and despite its being a hot-sounding instrument, he simply hasn't put much time into it. I'm guessing the long scale doesn't agree with his hands as I've seen him toting only Gibson-esque instruments about. This has thus survived in near-mint condition with only one minor ding that I can spy. Apparently they ran about $850-900 when new and that got you all-solid Indian rosewood back and sides and an Engelmann spruce top.

Alvarez guits have always been popular and they, indeed, seem to be built with a populist mentality in mind because the necks are very "electric guitar" in feel while the bodies are very much the oft-reiterated Martin-style x-braced norm. Refinements from the Yairi branch of the Alvarez family show up on this in the understated classiness of the trim and the faux-Yairi bridge style (which I think is awful practical for an alternative bridge shape, myself).

11/22/2014

Workshop: Bowlback Rib Repair


Yes, seriously, you can do this. It's a heck of a lot more practical than making a jig that'll slip anyway.

Open up the loose seam or crack, squirt some glue in, wipe off, dry off the surface, and then press together with one hand while with the other hand plant one side of the tape on one side of the crack and then "pull" that tape (so it's under tension) while smoothing it down over to the other side. This pulls the joint together for the set time (around 30-45 minutes for Titebond) and you're good to go the next day.

The only trick is to make sure that you align each bit of the seam getting repaired as you go to make sure it's lining up with the rest of the surface.

2000s Austin AU735 Strat Copy Electric Guitar




Another blue-green Korean Strat copy. Another day.

But, ya know, she's alright.

1960s Colombian Tiple/Octave Mandolin Conversion




Just recently another batch of local repairs were handed off to me for fixing and the owner of said repairs and I agreed to do a bit of horse trading to get them done. This Colombian tiple (a genuine, originally-12-string, 4 course, tenor-guitar-scale South American-variety tiple) was one of the ones I was taking in trade and I decided to quickly put it to use by converting it to an octave mandolin (GDAE low to high an . I'd initially strung it up with nylon strings and liked the sound but after sleeping on it I reprofiled the saddle and popped a set of steel on. Boy am I happy I did -- big, loud, saucy, vibrant -- that's how I'm talking about the sound now.

Aside from the mods to the bridge, nut, and tuners the only structural work really needing to get done was to shore up one major unrepaired top crack and fill-in and pretty-up some of the already-cleated cracks that are all over the instrument.

11/21/2014

2009 Mainland Honeybee Soprano Uke




This Mainland "Honeybee" soprano came in a trade and it's near-mint save one tiny ding along the top edge lower bout binding (hard to see in any of the pics). It's Asian-import, solid mahogany throughout, plays well, and has a sound reminiscent of a 20s Oscar Schmidt of the same general makeup. Not too shabby, huh?

This one also has an undersaddle pickup and while it's low output (you'll want a preamp or at least a hot board input for this uke to get the most out of it plugged-in) it has a good tone. My paws only had to setup the nut for better action and slightly adjust the compensation at the saddle to get it to play spot-on. The strings look like Martin fluorocarbons and give a sweet, mellow, midrangey strumming sound but I'll bet an Aquila set would pump a bit more volume and snap out of this guy.

11/20/2014

Ephemera: Ukin by the Ocean (1920s)


If only it were warm enough to be taking snapshots and playing as a uke duo by the salty brine!

Yes, sorry folks, just more old pictures today. I didn't get out of the workshop early enough to take pictures myself before the sun went down. Aside from customer gear getting neck resets and bridge reglues I also finished up a quick mod of a Colombian tiple into a nylon-strung octave mandolin -- yeah, it's cool.

11/19/2014

Ephemera: All that Facial Hair (1910s)


While these guys look like they could be 1890s fellas I'm fairly certain this is more from around 1905-1910 judging by the tail on the guitar in the lower right. What a cool group, though, huh? I wonder if all that facial hair is the real deal. If it is they'd be styled perfectly for some of the citygoer facial hair fashions of our time.

In other news: I have been hammered by the flu for the past few days. I will try to get back to everyone's needs but please bear with me. Flu and polar vortex (it's been 20-25 degrees F the past four days) -- a winning combination.

11/17/2014

Ephemera: Red Foley Show (1957)


Surprisingly, Red poses with a 50s Kay for this shot advertising the Red Foley Show in '57. I'll bet he didn't know the neck pockets on all those Kays are just garbage when it arrived in his arms. Thankfully... they can be fixed!

11/16/2014

1960s Kay X-braced Dreadnought Guitar




This guitar has been hanging out in the shop for a while awaiting repair and then consignment. I've now finished resetting the neck (double-bolt conversion), leveling and dressing the frets, and modding the original bridge to let it play well and in tune. The problem with old Kays is that they had the fundamentals right: big body, solid top, chunky x-bracing to make it sturdy... but until they're worked on the neck pockets are terrible and the saddle is almost always located at least 1/8" off-target.

With everything done, though, this guitar is big, ballsy, and has that sort of grungy sound that a bunch of blues performers have made use of on this particular model. I wouldn't say it's suited to old-timey stuff... it's more like a big thumping guitar.

2005 Epiphone AJ-500RC Masterbilt 12-fret Dreadnought Guitar




Wow is all I can say to this fella -- and especially for the money these are going for used. This came in for a bridge reglue and setup via a customer and ended up getting that as well as a bit of spot work on the frets (a few were uneven). It's like-new and, from what I've gleaned via the serial number, it was made in China in the "Grand Reward" factory in 2005. This model is sort of a clone of late 30s Epiphone 12-fret dreads (super rare guitars) and sports solid cedar over solid Indian rosewood. It was discontinued pretty early on but there seem to be a lot of fans of the model out in net-land.

It handles like a Martin 12-fret dread but with perhaps a bit more of a Gibsony 30s profile to the back of the substantial neck. Tonally, and I'm guessing because it's got a cedar top, it responds like an older guitar but with a bit more clarity in the mid-range than I'm used to from old 12-fret dreads. As far as dreads go, though, this is "right on" for my style of playing. You get a lot of clear, full, big, articulate sound which makes it really useful for someone who flatpicks with a lot of crosspicking and bass runs but also sounds great for fingerpicking, as expected.