GG199 American conservatory circa 1900

Work continues with ongoing batch, one that has already been completed and delivered is an American American Conservatory parlor. Although I have a stamped serial number, 79982, I have not been able to work out when it was manufactured. Probably around 1900, but maybe a little later. It is rare to see similar guitars in Sweden, but those that exist have probably accompanied returning emigrants. The shape resembles a Levin parlor, not so surprising since Hermann Carlsson Levin more or less copied the shape and construction from the American parlor guitars he made in New York during the 1890s.

The woods were luxurious, the finest rosewood in the bridge, bottom and sides and light and light mahogany in the neck. The fretboard, on the other hand, was a disaster, ebonized pear wood (most likely) with about the consistency of biscuit chocolate! The fretboard had to be speared loose into a thousand pieces. During the ebonization, high heat and aggressive chemicals were probably used, which have destroyed the wood over time. The spruce top was in good condition with a few cracks. The bottom was incredibly thin, only between 1,5 and 1,7 mm. Normally it should be about 2,3 mm thick! I had to be extremely careful when I loosened the thin bottom along the edges where it was still a little thinner. Another thing about the bottom was that the inside had a very smooth and nice surface, almost polished. It was also unusually evenly thick. There is probably a reason why, perhaps they deliberately built an extremely light guitar. Even the mahogany neck was light as a feather without the fretboard. The top, on the other hand, had normal thickness. The guitar was probably sized for gut strings. The ribbing in the top was sparse with only two braces and a fir stick under the bridge in the top, the bottom had only three braces.

It was in good condition, except for some cracks in the top and bottom. The biggest problem was that one of the sides had completely detached from the end block, which was also cracked in half. Unlike a Levin parlor, it had a dovetail. The bridge was not in good condition and too narrow for an intoned saddle, so a replica in the finest rosewood was made. The fretboard was replaced with a new one in ebony. The customer wanted to keep the original tuners which were in good condition for their age, almost as good as new. No side dots on the fretboard or a guitar band knob on the neck foot should be mounted, however a K&K mic.

The braces came off without a problem, to soften the glue and loosen the fir stick under the bridge I heated it with a small travel iron. The loose rim was a bit tricky to glue back to both the end block, top and sides, you have to press from three sides at the same time to get tight joints. But with various cauls and clamps it worked out well. I always use a soft steel plate as a counter-hold on the outside and plastic foil to avoid gluing the cauls in place.

With the fretboard off, I was able to sand off the glue and fingerboard residue on my sanding board while flattening the neck. In cases where the neck has a noticeable bend, I first heat it straight. This one could be sanded straight. The neck was very light and in light colored mahogany. The neck had its carbon fiber rod milled in and glued, it's a step that I do at the same time for all guitars in the current batch.

 

The top had narrow cracks around the center joint. They could be pressed together with the top bracing removed and glued with hot hide glue. This is one of the many good features of the hide glue, you can dab on and massage the glue into the crack and then wipe off the excess with a damp cloth. The clamps on one half are tightened first, then the clamps across to compress the crack, and finally the clamps on the other side. Cauls are then clamped onto the inside of the top to keep the top flat across the crack. When the cauls are in place, you can then detach the long side clamps, the stop blocks towards the outside of the rim and other clamps that are no longer needed. It's always exciting to "open the package" after a gluing like this the next day when you can't see exactly what you're doing, but so far it's always been a good result!

The crack at the end block had also spread a bit on one side of the rim, a piece of rosewood veneer was glued on. It is important to get even pressure on the entire veneer, for that I use small cauls with a 4 mm soft yoga mat that molds to the bend of the edge.

The most artistic thing I get the chance to do at all GammelGura is the new bridge. I have a stock of rosewood and ebony blanks, I chose a rosewood blank of the finest variety. To make the job a little faster and easier, I use a wood drill to drill out the channels between the middle of the bridge and the pyramids at the ends. An old maple table leg is a good platform when shaping the bridge.

The channel is widened and thinned down to approx. 2 mm at the edges. The pyramids must be lower than the middle part, the height is cut down with a Japanese saw or my small band saw.

The bridge is rounded off towards the back with grates. A nice detail is to give the edge at the back a slight, even bend. The small razor files are perfect for fine-tuning as they leave a smooth surface.

The pyramid bridge on this guitar had a flat top on the pyramid. A stick with coarse adhesive sandpaper is also a good tool.

The string pin holes are measured and drilled before the bridge is glued with freshly made fresh hot hide glue.

The ebony fretboard was given a 16″ radius and a scale that places the front of the bridge bone about 4mm into the bridge. The bottom got four ribs instead of three, the top the patented GammelGura bracing with plugs and bridgeplate in spruce.

Before the bottom is glued, the string pin holes are reamed and a groove is filed in the bridge plate, top and bridge for the strings and for solid string pins. I have tried different ways to make the groove, the fastest way is to use a needle file rasp. They are rare, but they are available for purchase. Some cut NH 0,12 strings are used to fit the string pegs so that they are tight, but can be loosened with your fingers.

The gluing of the bottom and neck went well and the guitar had to hang for a couple of days with a vibrating aquarium pump with strings at tension, the neck usually moves a little the first few days before it finds its final position. Typically, the string height at the 12th fret increases at most 0,5 mm, but sometimes not at all.

It will take a couple more days before the guitar is completely ready. The most tedious part is measuring the intonation, but it is something that must be done. With the measured values, it is easy to mill the bridge in the right place and manufacture a segmented saddle.

The sound in this GammelGuran is a bit special, an unusual amount of jingle&jangle! I think it's due to the rosewood in the bottom and sides instead of the usual maple/birch. The wood in the bottom and sides is important and shapes the sound, even if the top is the part that accounts for most of the sound. Because it was so lightly built, I strung on NH 0.11 strings, which is equivalent to regular 0,10 strings in tension.

The pictures of the finished GammelGuran were taken on a cold winter's day on the bridge outside the shop.

 

2 Comments

  1. In the evening when I got the guitar home, I put a Kyser Lifeguard humidifier in the sound hole and sat in the living room playing with a light hand on the guitar. My daughter who was simultaneously frying pancakes with a pod in the headphones in the kitchen came into the living room and wondered what guitar I was playing, it sounded so beautiful.
    The guitar sounds great and has a strong sound character. Bass, midrange and treble blend nicely in the small body. I am extremely pleased with Roger's work.

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