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Need Some Advice On A Vintage Acoustic

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by h2odog, May 26, 2017.

  1. h2odog

    h2odog Tele-Meister

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    IMG_3665.JPG IMG_3666.JPG IMG_3667.JPG IMG_3668.JPG IMG_3669.JPG IMG_3670.JPG IMG_3671.JPG I'm looking for some advice on an old acoustic that belonged to my great-grandmother. The guitar is likely from the early 1900's but there are no marks on it that would tell me what it is. I would like to get it into playable condition. At a minimum, I would need to replace the tuning machines and I did find some that should fit. My question is, how far should I go in this restoration? Tuning machines, nut, bridge? What about refinishing? It looks like someone (possibly my grandmother put a coat of varnish on the original finish. There's some left on the frets. Or would you leave it as?
     
  2. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Victorian era parlor guitars (what it appears to be) are not worth much money and don't sound very good (worse still with the trapeze), so it's probably mostly a wallhanging.
    If it was a Martin or Washburn it might be worth being more archival with, but I'd say do what you like with it.
    Course, i could be wrong and it might be the first guitar John D'Angelico made as a kid.
    Some nice Brazilian rosewood there, might get you a night in jail...

    Edit: if the tuners are not bent or damaged they might just need a rebuild.
    That type should disassemble easily for cleaning and a little fresh oil.
    Try the least restoration to make it play before going all out on rebuild and refin.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2017
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  3. elihu

    elihu Poster Extraordinaire

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  4. Teleguy61

    Teleguy61 Friend of Leo's

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    https://guitars.com/appraisals

    This is a pretty cheap and reliable way to get an idea what you're dealing with.
    Any value to the instrument, don't change a thing.
     
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  5. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Silver Supporter

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    I would contact the guy at VintageParlorGuitars.com. He does light restorations and sells old parlor guitars. A super nice guy that might not only help you identify it, but could probably do any certain level of restoration that is needed and/or desired. I think he is in Vermont.

    Yours is a beaut plus the added value of a family heirloom ... priceless.
     
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  6. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    Have you tried putting some fresh strings on it just to see how it sounds? Even if just three or four strings ring without buzzing, their sound will tell you something about whether you want to restore it.

    It's cute as hell. Cool wood, and a much nicer body shape than a lot of parlors.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2017
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  7. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    PS - And if a pro pronounces it worthless, that's your license to put in a fixed bridge and commit other tone-driven sacrileges.
     
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  8. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    I dunno, I think it's beautiful! I'd also suggest a light restoration and try to get it playing.

    I have no issue with replacing the tuners, and saving the originals, of course. Same goes with the nut and bridge. Guitars are meant to be played. Obviously, your great grandmother played this one some. I would love it if I had an instrument from one of my ancestors!
     
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  9. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    On the contrary, parlor sized guitars from that era tend to sound pretty good, with a much bigger tone than you'd expect.

    The first question you have to ask yourself is what you plan to do with it. Do you want to keep it just to show off? Do you want to keep it to play it? Do you plan to sell it?

    Is there a label inside that gives us some info on the manufacturer or model?

    I'd also like to know how it is braced. Though it's strung with classical strings, my guess is that it's not actually a classical guitar. If it's x-braced or ladder-braced, it was almost certainly made as a steel-string model.

    If it's a guitar you'd like to keep and play, it's probably worthwhile to do whatever work is required to make it playable to your preferences (or something like them). That may mean new frets, neck reset, new nut, new tuners, etc. It's hard to say without having the guitar in hand to inspect. None of these are particularly invasive, and a neck reset can actually add value to a guitar.
     
  10. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    I would do the minimum to make it functional. I have an early '30s L-00, on which I have spent about three times as much as I paid for it (new bracing, fretboard, bridge, tuners), but it still looks the same, except for a few more dings.
     
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  11. Jimmy Owen

    Jimmy Owen Tele-Holic

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    I'm with Koko. I'd want to see bracing. It most likely ain't x braced. But it was likely designed for nylon strings. Steel strings might injure it. But perhaps low tensions such as silk and steel would be okay.

    It bears similarity with guitars produced in Chicago in the late 1800s/ early 1900s.

    Leave the finish as is.

    I'd give Vintageparlors a holler.
     
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  12. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    This one looks unmolested, and savable. Don't worry with the finish yet, but maybe a gentle cleaning, and possible delicate buffing. Looks like Brazillian Rosewood. I'm thinking a 1910's/1920's Regal? Thankfully its still intact with the floating bridge. The tailpiece looks awfully shiny, but period correct. Nut looks improvised, and probably dysfunctional (bad intonation). These have a devoted following, and unmolested like this one, has value. New tuners, a nut, some fret polishing and perhaps an updated replica bridge and saddle and light gauge nickel strings wouldn't cost much, maybe $250? I wouldn't hesitate. The big questions are, has the neck rotated? Are the braces and seams loose? You'll be adding another $3-400 for the latter. To me, having a period correct flattop from that era, especially with relevance, is totally worth $6-700. Unless, you don't like the music from that era, and the characteristic tone of the period. In that case, you might consider letting it go to someone who does - cool find.

    PS - those tuners may be repairable too - especially if you can't find drop in replacements. Be careful with the measurements, tuners weren't standardized till later, and just a fraction off, forcing may damage/split the peghead

    PPS - don't discount the floating bridge. They were designed to respond to very lightweight strings and very lightweight bridge. Floating bridges with the proper string selection can be louder than a fixed bridge, aka Django's Selmer style, Gibsons Archtops, etc. I wouldn't retrofit a fixed bridges on these - it may mute the top and kill the sound, and disfigure it as something its not - like mudgrips on a Ferrari ;)
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2017
  13. bill4519

    bill4519 TDPRI Member

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    I think you have a Lyon and Healy instrument. I have an identical model which is marked. The maker is famous for their orchestral harps. It is a Chicago outfit and you can find detail on the internet. Pretty decent instrument worth a little effort. I'm with Musekatcher on leaving the bridge and tailpiece as is.
     
  14. h2odog

    h2odog Tele-Meister

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    Thanks, I think you may be right. I found this video of a Lyon and Healy that's been restored and it's almost identical to mine. The tailpiece was the thing that really convinced me.

     
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  15. h2odog

    h2odog Tele-Meister

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    Thanks everyone for all the great input, I appreciate it. To answer a few questions, I did put new strings on and tried to tune it up but one of the tuner gears is stripped. It sounded fine, other than the one string that won't tighten up. The others are stiff but do work. I'm thinking I'll gently take those off and try a gentle cleaning/ lubrication and see if the one is fixable. I think it was originally intended for nylon strings. At least, that's what was on it when I got it after my grandmother passed away. My grandmother didn't play the guitar, she just kept it wrapped up in pillow cases in her closet for many years, so I don't think the strings had been changed since my great grandmothers day.

    Since it's been in the family for so long, I plan on keeping it, showing it, and occasionally playing it. I'm also of the opinion that guitars should be played if at all possible. But at the same time, I don't want to go too far with changes that aren't reversible. For now, I'm going to leave the finish alone. but I will polish the frets up a bit.

    No X bracing, the braces are single straight pieces that run the width of the body, at least 3, maybe 4 on the back and another 3 on the front. If a pic or two would help, I could try to get an inside shot. I'll definitely take lots of time and careful consideration before doing anything. I like the idea of contacting VintageParlorGuitars.com.
     
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  16. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    The bracing pattern you have is called ladder bracing, and it probably looks something like this on the inside:

    [​IMG]

    I'm absolutely certain that it was designed for steel strings, not nylon as you found on it.
     
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  17. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    Re bracing. Since I doubt it has a truss rod, or neck reinforcement of any kind, I would be cautious with steel string gauges. - 9, 10s or 11s, which are comparable normal, hard and extra hard tension nylon strings. These might sound really good with the ladder bracing. - The Selmer Maccaferris were lightly ladder braced and designed for very light strings.
     
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  18. h2odog

    h2odog Tele-Meister

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    I think it must look very much like that, based on what I can see through the sound hole.

    Thanks good to know. Once I get the tuners fixed up I will stay with light strings.
     
  19. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    This is one of those threads that makes me go "ugh" an awful lot.

    When Selmer designed those guitars, the strings we consider "light" or "extra light" had not been invented. With the shallow break angle over the bridge, you need a heavier string to drive the top and bring out the sound.

    The lack of a truss rod is not a concern either. The neck is perfectly capable of handling the string tension, though it may develop a little more relief than is optimal. That can be fixed.
     
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  20. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    I couldn't easily find anything on original Selmer Maccaferri strings, but a quick Google search indicatd that Django Reinhhardt "and almost every one else" used Argentine strings, that, as far as I can tell, are 10s or 11s. As a digression, that makes me wonder what gauges were used on the Martin "transitional" guitars of the mid-20. I played safe and used 10s on mine, but I might have been over-cautious.

    http://www.djangobooks.com/Category/Argentine-strings

    EDIT. True, bowed necks can be fixed by heat treatment, I had it done on my old reso, but I would just as soon not have it happen in the first place.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2017
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