I rarely do more than one GammelGura to one and the same customer at a time, in this batch there were three. I made all three ready as the first in the batch, they are still waiting to be picked up. It is two Levin from 1920 and an old European parlor. The customer actually came with three Levins in numerical order (47232, 47233, 47234), the third with floating bridge was made about a year ago. Very special! If you read in "About Levin" in Melodin 1920 was not a good year for Levin, the premises had burned down in 1918 and they only had 5-10 employees.
Two of the three Levin had floating bridges, the third a fixed bridge. The first one in good condition was allowed to keep the floating bridge, the second with a floating bridge was in a very poor condition and was converted to a permanent bridge in DADGAD tuning. The one with a fixed bridge, also in good condition, got a standard GammelGura conversion. Three identical guitars, but still different.
All three in the batch were intonated. I missed that one of the Levin would have DADGAD tuning when I was doing the measurements and I had to measure the intonation twice. In any case, the mistake was a good experiment. It turned out that the first intonation of the nut for a normal tuning was very similar between the two almost identical guitars with a fixed bridge. This indicates that in a factory you should be able to measure some guitars of the same model, take a mean value and then use that intonation on all guitars of the same model and get pretty good intonation at the nut. In a DADGAD tuning, three strings have a different tuning, the other three have slightly thinner strings in the Newtone Herritage set. The intonation of the nut for the strings with a different tuning was very different (about 2 mm) while the intonation of the thinner strings was almost identical. One can conclude that a measured intoned nut saddle works very well even if you change the string thickness, but not as well if you change the tuning.
I have also got a white board where I will write down everything that is different from a normal GammelGura for the guitars I work with! You learn.
An interesting observation is that the one with a fixed bridge had better quality of the wood, especially in the side and bottom. Those with floating bridges had inferior timber. The tap tone in the top was also better on the one with a fixed bridge, it also sounds best when finished I think. All three guitars were very blonde, but the right color on the bottom and side was much darker from the beginning and hid most of the flaws in the wood. You can see the darker red color as a shadow under the string holder and also a little of the red on the back of the one that was converted to a permanent bridge, otherwise most of the red has faded away.
As usual with Levin parlor guitars, the bottom and top were about half a mm too thick to sound at it's best, about 3,5 mm. They were thinned to just under 3 mm. Both guitars got a new fretboard with a 16 ″ radius and bridge in Madagascar rosewood. I used Stewmac's new Gold frets, which is made of the same metal as the EVO Gold bands, for the first time. Very good frets and better than the Dunlop brass frest I used before I think.
On request from the customer, I adjusted down the string height to 2,3 mm on all of them instead of 2,5 mm on thick E (D) on the 12th band and the usual string height 1,5 mm on thin e (d). This may become a new standard for me, it does not rattle at least when I play.
GG175 with an original floating bridge was in poor condition. It had big cracks in the top that I filled with spruce sticks, the bottom was completely loose and had shrunk unusually much. The top had also been painted on (or rather smeared on!) with some type of plastic lacquer. Fortunately, it was possible to gently scrape loose the new lacquer without scraping through the original lacquer underneath. To be able to glue back the bottom, a 6 mm wide (!) rosewood strip was glued in between the bottom halves. The shade after the string holder is the only problem with converting from floating to a fixed bridge. Just give it another 50 years… Since it's DADGAD tuned I can not play it, but I think it sounds good.
GG174 with an original fixed bridge was in good condition. No cracks except for a small one in the joint between the bottom halves. The neck in birch / maple on both this and GG175 is slightly V-shaped and just below the border to feeling too thick. Nice to play on. The new fretboards were made 6 mm thick, with a 16 ″ radius cut in, they were about 5 mm thick on the edge. I skipped the plate in maple in the bottom of the neck pocket as both guitars came loose nicely in the glue without chipping up the neck block. The neck foot on it was sawn unusually obliquely, but it was compensated by sawing just as obliquely in the neck pocket! Because it was in such good condition, the renovation went without problems.
All guitars in the batch have been given a slightly different bridgeplate in spruce across the entire top. My thought was that the change would provide a faster response. It's hard to say if it turned out that way, the only thing I can say is that these three sound very good and especially this one with a fixed bridge as the original. Maybe the problem with the body's resonant tone decreased.
GG179 was grandmother's guitar, a European made parlor from about 1910. Crack-free except for the classic cracks on both sides of the fretboard glued to the top and with a thin strong V-shaped neck. Unusually, it got plum wood in both the fingerboard and neck. Plum wood is almost as hard as rosewood and as dense as ebony in structure. The heartwood can be as dark as rosewood, but is for the most part a little redder or salmon pink in color. Plum wood is probably the best alternative if you want local woods in a fretboard and bridge. I still think that rosewood is unbeatable when it comes to the sound, this one sounds good but would probably have had a fuller tone with rosewood. As the wood in the fretboard is lighter than usual, I used black side dots.
I had a problem with the top, under the glued piece of the fretboard it was not flat. I had reset the neck one more time when the height of the saddle went wrong, even though I measured carefully before gluing. After putting a spruce shim in the top under the fretboard and sanding the surface flat, it turned out right. In the future, I will keep my eyes open and double check and maybe flatten the top under the fretboard before measuring the angle. A small, small error in the neck angle gives a great effect of the height of the saddle. I have changed from hot hide glue to fish glue and Old brown glue for gluing the neck in this batch. If something goes wrong with the neck set, it is easier to loosen the neck again, especially since they do not dry as quickly as hot hide glue. After 12 hours they are still not completely cured.
May well take some picture when they are handed over eventually 🙂