Monday, 8 April 2013

National Square-neck Headstock Repair

Wobbly Headstock Problems

National Square Neck Guitars often develop problems with the joint between the wooden headstock and the metal body. The simple mortise joint into a pine block inside the neck is held by animal glue. This glue crystalizes over the years and any joint like this that takes a lot of tension is bound to give way. At some stage someone has  drilled through the metal neck from behind and inserted screws(3) . This isn't enough to hold it once the glue has gone. 

After removing the fingerboard the photo below shows what is revealed. Far from being hollow , the neck has a pine block inserted from the nut to the 10th  fret. The sides wrap around this and their edges are nailed in the block. The is no metal on the front side of the neck as you can see below.

When the glue is cleaned off the wooden surfaces they are still a reasonable fit so all that is needed is some  2 part Epoxy glue. This  is also good at filling any gaps in the recess. You can see the  3 screw holes in the back of the neck in this photo.

The dismantled tricone. The fingerboard is glued to a small fillet of  wood to provide a rebate for the overlapping edges from the nut to the 10th fret. I added a couple of screws under the pearl dots for extra strength. The rest of the fingerboard over the body is held by the traditional National bolt under the pearl dots that pass through the body and  a wooden pad and into a nut  under the wood.You can see the block bottom left  of this photo with it's felt covering to keep down the rattles.

The finished Style 2  1928 Tricone fully  fettled and back in playing order

Back in the 1990s Bill Johnson and I made  some square neck Beltona Tricones.Bill made the body with a complete square section neck ie it had a front metal surface too. These were very rigid and unlike some of the old ones there was no bending  along the neck. It also meant we could put a much smaller block in the neck to take the headstock. This left more of the body hollow , all the way up to the 4th fret.. I also drilled out  a honeycomb of holes in the block to further reduce the weight. The mortise also had a ramped face that  worked against the headstock ever  pulling forward. I think this was an improvement in the construction of these wonderful guitars that changed the world of steel playing back in the late twenties before the Tsunami of electrification.



 Above is a very poor scan of a photograph of two  Beltona Square neck tricones built in the 1990's. A tribute to Bill Johnson's metal working skills.


Thanks for looking


Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Beltona/Francis ukulele model


Collaboration Ukuleles

Limited Edition of 7

These are a collaborative effort between Steve Evans of Beltona and Tony Francis of Tony Francis Instruments.  

For the last few years, Steve has been experimenting with, making and selling non-resonator ukuleles made from the fibreglass moulded back and sides that are used for Beltona resonator ukuleles with the addition of a tone wood top to replace the fibreglass top and resonator cone.  The range of woods for the tops includes New Zealand Kauri, Tasmanian Blackwood and Mahogany - all with great results but had yet to try Koa wood.

Tony makes wonderful Weissenborn style guitars using nothing but Hawaiian Koa wood.  The leftovers from his tops and back shapes are pieces just the right size and quality for making uke tops.  The combination of Tony's koa tops and the Beltona fibreglass moulding produces the best tone yet in these experiments.  The Koa still has the lovely resonance and life that characterises it and the resin back and sides gives the ukes volume and sustain with a nice crisp attack
  • The tops are Hawaiian Koa Wood 
  • The backs and sides are a "Bakelite" pattern with a matt finish echoing the Maccaferri  Islander ukes.
  • The necks are mahogany and the fingerboards are rosewood.
  • Concert 14 3/4" scale length
  •  The headstock is a pearloid veneer with matching fret dots.
  • Gotoh tuners and Hilo strings
  • Price- $US700 including case and shipping

 All the ukuleles are individual and details differ.  A couple are shown here and photos of others can be supplied.

Here are a  couple of sound samples of one of these ukes being played by string maestro Rob Matthews

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Tiny Tim's Ukulele Part 3

Tiny Tim’s Uke     Part 3

Fortunately another customer came to our rescue:  Colin McCubbin, a collector and documenter of all things resophonic purchased the uke.
 His website is the  repository of wonderful pictures and information concerning National, Dobro and other resonator instruments of the past.
I think that when he first saw our Beltona uke Mr Tim hadn’t seen a resonator uke. Being a nickel plated brass uke it was obviously heavier than the wooden ukes he played. We installed a stud in the waist of the instrument so he could attach a saxophone type strap that balanced the uke and made it possible for him to use both his hands in gesticulating and the uke would hang there waiting for him .
Tiny Tim was a genuine eccentric and was accepted for it in the mainstream music world in his heyday. This would be difficult to achieve now in this much more fragmented world where you can be an eccentric star in a small group for a short time but not an eccentric star on the scale of  Mr Tim for a prolonged period of time.
Thanks for viewing