I will willingly admit that my work discipline in the shop has faltered a bit lately. My interest in playing music has had a revival and has taken its time. Also, the most boring of all; the accounting that has finally been completed. But at least a lot of general repairs have been done in the meantime, I'm now back in my old ways. A new batch has been started with several interesting old guitars. It feels good.
The first step in the renovation is to loosen the old strings, the tuners, any tailpiece, the end plug, the bridge, the fingerboard, the neck and the bottom in that order. The braces in the top and bottom must also be removed before the next step, which is to repair all cracks and any other damage. The tuners, screws and other loose metal parts are cleaned in my small ultrasonic cleaner. Bent posts on the tuners are bent straight and the tuners are lubricated. All loose parts, that fit, are collected in a lunchbox with a lid and marked with a descriptive text. The fretboards are also labeled and stored in a larger box (most will be replaced, but they are good to use as a template).
Since there was a lot of snow outside, I had to take the pictures before I took the guitars apart in a snowdrift! I also took some pictures during the actual process of dismantling.
GG199 American Conservatory, circa 1900
This is an exciting parlor from the USA with the finest rosewood in the bottom and sides and neck in mahogany. It was guitars like this that Herman Carlsson Levin basically copied, but made with local woods, when he came back to Sweden from the USA in 1900. The body shape is familiar, so is the simple attachment of the neck and the wooden stick across the top under the bridge.
It was in good condition, almost completely without cracks. However, the ebonized fingerboard had about the consistency of biscuit chocolate! It was very easy to shatter it into a thousand pieces. This is an extremely lightweight build, definitely made for gut strings. Removing the bottom without damaging it was not the easiest, as it was only about 1,9 mm thick, 1,7 at the thinnest place. The precious wood was not wasted when making the guitar. The bottom had three braces and the top only two. The stick under the bridge was made of spruce, which I love, but there was no reinforcement around the stringpin holes, which meant that the stick was worn out by the ball ends. The bridge, which came with it, had come off and the top under the bridge was in good condition. The tuners were substantial, but perhaps a little loose. I think they can be kept as they are extra nice.
I'm saving the even number 200 for the guitar I was sent free from the US after my first long article in American Lutherie. The fact that I got it for free is because no one in the US wanted to take it on as it was in bad shape and the owner wanted to save it. I'm going to write an article about the whole restoration process with this guitar for the magazine, so I'm taking extra pictures of it.
This is also a typical USA parlor guitar from the end of the 1800th century with the finest rosewood in the bottom and sides, and a neck of mahogany. This one is not as light a build and the neck has a sharper V shape. It had been given a tailpiece, the head had been hit and repaired with three wooden screws. One of the tuners had been replaced and the edge of the head where the tuning screw is attached to was completely broken off, it showed when I loosened the tuners. It will be a special repair. The rosewood fingerboard was very thin. It was easy to loosen the neck with a little water and a thin knife in the joint.
It had five braces in the bottom, the other American Parlor only had three, but also more braces in the top. It had a similar spruce stick under the bridge, this one was also torn apart by the string's ball ends.
GG201 Levin, 1943
No batch with at least one Swedish made Levin, this one had been saved from a junk room. It has a burst (yellow color, not red as in the first pictures) and is a fairly simple Levin, looking a bit like a Gibson from the same time period..
It was in relatively good condition, the tióp had a crack along the center joint. The bridge had already come loose, which made the work easier. The fretboard, neck and bottom came off without a problem. The braces in the top and bottom were more or less loose and easy to pop loose.
GG202 European parlor, circa 1920
A European curvy parlor also had to be in a new batch, this one had extra good quality mother of pearl inlays.
It had received a major renovation in 1975, there was a hard-to-read pencil note on the inside of the bottom. The bottom had been replaced, and it had been given a new one in mahogany. Oddly enough, a replica of the bridge was also made in the same type of wood, which is actually a bit too soft for a bridge. Decorative moldings around the edge of the bottom and the soft mahogany in the bottom made it difficult to pop, but I managed to get it apart in one piece.
A Gottfrid Söderman from my "Waiting room" is the last so far in the batch. I'm waiting for word on another guitar. It's always fun to be able to save a locally made guitar, Västerhus is only a few miles from Örnsköldsvik.
It was in good condition except for a few cracks in the top and with glue coming off the side at the neck block. Some methods were questionable in his production, the saddle in this one was e.g. in celluloid attached with three nails. The extra thick oak bridge "block" was also not optimal, but maybe a later repair of the spruce stick under the bridge. A fun detail is the slightly lumpy mother-of-pearl shirt buttons that he used as decoration in the fingerboard! Sometimes the good Gottfrid wrote under the top in pencil, this one had both a little comment and a year, which is always nice to find. It said "On a sunny day, this top was glued on. G. Söderman 1926".