Tuesday, February 24, 2015

1930's Supertone Terz Style Acoustic Guitar

The temps have finally risen well above zero here in upstate NY for what seems like the first time this winter.  This allowed for a very hasty photo shoot and a suitable follow up to the Orpheum Terz Guitar we saw in the last post. 

This little Supertone is tuned Terz style or G to G.  These little guitars really shine when they get that little bit of extra tension on them.  Of course you want to use an extra light gauge string on a little guitar like this, unless you have a thing for bowing the necks on your instruments.  I really enjoy playing these guitars with the extra tension on the strings.  I hate the feeling of floppy strings under your fingers, and that is kind of what you get if you don't tune these guitars up a few steps.

Playing this Supertone alongside the Orpheum in the previous post is a good study in tone.  The Supertone has that bright Birch body sound associated with many ladder braced instruments.  Because of its size it almost gets a mandolin like tone, especially if you start messing around with a capo.  The Orpheum has a different tonal quality because of the mahogany body which knocks down the brightness and warms up the tone just a bit.  The fact that this Supertone has a floating bridge and the Orpheum has a fixed bridge is also a tone factor.  I love both of these guitars for different reasons.  As I said in the last post, you might be hard pressed to make either one of these instruments your number one guitar, but they are great additions to any studio and can provide inspiration for songwriters and pickers due to the fact that they put you into a different tonal range.

I actually own three of these small bodied, half size guitars.  The third is another Supertone that is a flat top with F-holes instead of a round hole.  It looks like a mini archtop without the arch and was the subject of a previous post.  All three of these guitars project differently and have different tonal qualities.  These guitars are pretty rare.  I have never seen another like this Supertone or another like the Orpheum.  In terms of value, who knows.  With guitars like these, value is measured in the heart and in the hands not in the wallet.  I can't tell you how many of these catalog guitars i've picked up for $100 and wouldn't sell for a $1000.
fretboard was painted on and crumbling off because of its age.  James Ralston did a great job recreating the color and repainting the board.  He sealed it all with a shot of lacquer.
headstock says harmony made
super old school style floating bridge with fret wire saddle

Thursday, February 5, 2015

1930's/40's Orpheum Terz Style Acoustic Guitar

Here we have a Kay made Orpheum guitar.  She is a little thing only measuring 34.5 inches from head to toe.  The scale length is a shade less than 22" and oddly enough this guitar is 15 frets to the body.  Most of us are used to 12 and 14 frets to the body.  The lower bout is 11" and the upper bout is 8".  As I said, many of these Orpheum products were made by Kay in the 30's and 40's and distributed by William Lange as well as C. Bruno and Son both of NY.  The Orpheum name was later taken over by Maurice Lipsky and morphed into a number of types of manufacturing and distribution after WWII.  Safe to assume this guitar was handled by the Lange's or Bruno's.

I just love these Kay made products.  They all generally require some work upon acquisition, but they are built like tanks and this little thing is no exception.  Sturdy bracing and a super comfortable and chunky neck  have helped to keep this guitar in amazing shape.  Everything on it is straight from the neck to the body.

Once again James Ralston did all the work on this one which included a neck reset, bridge replacement, fret work and some saddle shaping.  When i received this guitar the pin bridge had been removed and was replaced with a floating bridge and tailpiece.  I had an old Kay bridge that fit the footprint exactly and now it is a much better sounding and looking guitar.  I try to keep some of these old Kay bridges around as a lot of them are rosewood and they are chunky and sharp looking pieces.  James took really good care in getting this instrument back into playing shape.  Action is great and intonation is spot on.  This is a great playing guitar.

James had to fill some screw holes as well as rebuild the string slots which had worn over the years.  These bridges are worth saving
Because of its size and scale length, this guitar is tuned G to G(terz style tuning).  The shorter scale leaves standard tuned strings feeling a little floppy.  The terz tuning makes this thing sing.  The tone fits the size of the guitar, but is very becoming and would be a great asset around the recording studio.  Doubling guitar parts with this instrument will have a great effect.  It sings in a different range and though it may never be capable of being your number one instrument, it will have a lot of uses.  It handles both a flatpick or fingerpicking wonderfully.

The guitar is all mahogany except for the fretboard.  It is a beautiful deep color that has a cherry like shade to it.  You have to see it in person to appreciate how beautiful it is.
Here is a video of James playing the guitar

Here are some more photos which may shed a little more light on the subject