7/22/2014

Net Outage

Dear everyone -- our net has been down for 3 days. I've been trying to keep up with emails and whatnot at the cafe in town but it's slow going so my replies will likely take a bit longer to get to you. Please be patient with me while our net provider (Fairpoint!) sticks a few more chopsticks into our sides to see us squirm...

7/21/2014

c.1990 Froggy Bottom F-14 Flattop Guitar




Solid spruce over solid flamed koa... and quality all the way. Who can argue? This is a wonderful rig. For the player wanting pure, clean resonance and projection for flatpicking or fingerpicking, this will suit. The neck is also super-slick and fast and the build is superb throughout. The bracing is reminiscent of 30s-style Martin weight and cut and as you'd expect it has a similar palette to boot. Anyone who knows of Froggy Bottom's boutique reputation knows that something new built like this by the shop would run in the $6500-7000 range. Eek!

This is up for grabs as consignment for a customer and I've given it a quick fret level/dress (light) and setup. It plays spot-on with 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble at the 12th fret. The neck cut is similar to a modern Taylor in depth/bulk but has a sort of 30s-Martin rear profile so if you wanted to jack the action up for bluegrass lead playing you'd still have a very fast feel. The body is almost identical to a 000-size instrument and more info can be found at the FB site.

c.1960 Harmony H8448 Meteor-style Hollowbody Electric Guitar




Sheesh... this guitar is so clean and gorgeous it hurts. It came in pretty good shape though the frets needed leveling/dressing, it needed a bit of cleaning, the saddle needed some intonation, and it needed a good setup overall. It now plays beautifully and feels like a garage-rock/rockabilly king in the hands. These old Harmony electrics tend to rock a short scale and this has a 24 1/4" length which means I've strung it with 50w-11 plain-G strings (as opposed to 10s) to get a good-feeling tension at standard pitch.

The model is stamped inside as an H8448 (with a 1960 date-stamp) but it's identical to late-50s, early-60s Harmony H-70 Meteor models. There's no branding at the headstock though it looks like someone removed said branding (probably stenciled on or stickers) a long time ago as there are marks in the finish if you look closely enough where branding should be.

c.1930 Gibson UB-1 Banjo Ukulele




UB-1s are so cool... but so odd, too! This one came by way of a customer getting work done on it which included: fret level/dress, fret seating (sunk superglue into each fret joint to keep them seated well as they were slipping all over during the leveling), replacement hook/nut/shoe set (I actually had identical parts in my bin), new bridge, and setup. It came in pretty clean but this is the usual sort of work I expect to see on banjos of any type from this time.

It has a great, chimey, sprightly sound and I even bended to the owner's desire for Aquila strings and (hopefully) surprised him with a set of reds which is perfect for this (especially since it's tuned up to ADF#B tuning). The scale length is a short-as-heck 12 1/2" which really surprised me but must've been done to fit the neck to the tiny little pot with the bridge in a nice place.

c.1978 Yamaha FG-345 Dreadnought Guitar




Well here's a good, practical guitar. One can say that about most Yamahas, though! This one came as part of a trade deal and I just gave it a fret level/dress, new set of 50w-11 strings, and a good setup. It plays like butter and has that simple, useable lower-end Yamaha sound. This is an all-laminate guitar (spruce over rosewood) so it's not going to win any prizes for superb tone but it sure does get you a good deal closer to decent tone compared to the vast majority of similarly-built guitars from the same time. I wouldn't be ashamed to record on it or bring it to shows. This one was made in Taiwan and the serial dates it to 78.

c.1958-62 Gibson Brown ES-335-style Hard Case


Pink-lined, sized for 6-string ES-335 (or ES-125, ES-125, ES-345, etc.) models... and in really good shape. It has a tiny bit of that "old case smell" but no mildew or nasty stuff. There's only a tiny bit (4") of small detached lid at the very bottom (butt end) of the case on the reverse. Overall? Ready to go...!

I'm not entirely sure of the date but I'm pretty sure these were offered from 1958-1962 or so. It didn't come with a Gibson in it (hah, hah) but there's a 335 in the workshop from the late 60s that fits in it perfectly.

c.1960 DeArmond RHC-B Acoustic Magnetic Soundhole Pickup


I had the exact same pickup in a while back and this one is just as good though the original volume wheel is missing (the pot is still there and works) and the original jack was missing as well. I replaced the jack with a same-period jack and this pup is now 100% functional and ready to go.

7/19/2014

c.1910 Supertone-style 5-String Banjo




I've had a ton of folks egging me on for about 3 months to get this banjo done and so... it is! This came in with a number of issues: first it needed to be refretted... second it needed a new head and bridge... and third it needed the dowel reset and a better neck-brace system. The work's all done and it's turned out to be a surprisingly-sweet, decently-loud little number and while I haven't weighed it on the scale it seems to be about 2 or 3 pounds which makes it exceedingly lightweight. The only apprehension I'd have as a player wanting to grab it is that the nut is narrow at 1" in width. So, for someone looking for a light banjo with a long (this has 26 1/4") scale and a fast-y thin neck, this would be ideal. For players looking for that typical 1910s-1920s Supertone-style banjo feel, this isn't.

And coming to the Supertone-style labeling... that's what this is. It's almost identical (sans-label) except for the oddball nut width to other Supertone (and non-Supertone-labeled of the same type) banjos I've worked on. My sneaking suspicion is that these were all made by Lange as they're very similar to low-end Lange builds from the time but there's no way to really prove that. I think this one probably dates from 1900-1910 due to the pot design and some of its build features. It was meant for gut/nylon strings and here it's strung with Aquila Nylgut "reds" which allow for an unwound low D string and give a snappy, dry, gut-like sort of tone. It's setup for 3/32" action at the 12th fret which is how I like my gut/nylon strung banjos though someone with a light touch could swap in a 1/2" bridge and get it to 1/16" or so.

7/18/2014

c.2014 Antebellum Electric "Esquolin" Bouzouki




Today was "one of those days." The store was dead quiet which should have meant a lot of work would've gotten done except for the fact that I fired up the Volvo to go fill the tank this morning and get some sandpaper in town and I got a bunch of bogus error messages lining up in my dash LCD. There was much swearing while I then sorted out what the heck was going on and gave my ABS module a lobotomy over the next many hours...

At any rate the day perked up when the postman arrived with a couple "blank" Telecaster-style control plates which let me finally put a cover on the exposed control cavity of this project I've had done for a few days now... and now I can eat a bowl of fresh homemade ice cream and vent a little shade tree mechanic frustration for a bit with this thing turned up!

Update: If something like this (or this particular instrument) interests you... shoot me an email and I can talk your ear off about pricing a build like this out on the very budget side or the quite fancy side.

c.1955 Magnatone Pearloid-Wrapped Lap Steel Guitar




While Magnatones can't be dated by their excellently-marked serial numbers (backplate on headstock) this particular steel can be dated by the original Kluson tuners that were removed (they were near shot). Said tuners put it from 1953-1956 and that was a nice bit of relief for me because I'd guessed about 55 just from the looks of the hardware.

I'm going to admit now that I don't play in C6 tuning (what the lappy is tuned to in the soundclip) but I wanted to tune it up there so this could be heard in a "natural" lap steel voice (I tend to play in open G, D, or E as I lack the skills and patience to get into proper steel tunings). Still... I think you can hear that glorious old 40s/50s lap tone in there. This thing chimes old country/Western swing right off the bat. It practically sings out "There Stands the Glass" in its sleep.

7/14/2014

Ephemera: Hawaiian Lap Sweethearts (c.1925)


Fuzzy, indistinct... but who can blame a couple for sitting by a stream, laying a Hawaiian guitar across their laps, and singing under the dangling leaves? Funny way to hold it, though!

Just a note: we lost the net over here for about a day so I'm playing catchup again -- I will return your emails, get your tracker numbers, let you know what's coming up, etc. as soon as possible.

7/12/2014

c.2000 Breedlove Columbia Carved-top Mandolin




This is a friend's near-mint Breedlove Columbia model Kay-ish looking two-point, round-hole mandolin. It's a high end carved-top Breedlove and was made around 1995-2000 when the operation was still smaller and in Tumalo, Oregon. Apparently Kim Breedlove's hand was in this instrument (so says the original owner... this is now on its second owner).

All that said it's a fantastic piece of gear. My friend is selling through me simply because he doesn't want to trash it up playing rock-y gigs every other night. He's terrified of making his "Rick spot" on the top of it (as it has no pickguard). I can attest to its staying power: when he first acquired this we jammed for a few hours handing it back and forth during an impromptu acoustic show and it sure held its own over a double bass, two guitars, and another mandolin. It's got kick but it also has that sweet round-hole clarity and sustain, too.