WezV - Antique Parlour restoration

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WezVWezV Frets: 16393
I assume this is German, and at least 100 years old.  It's in a bit of a sorry state, but I saw some promise in an eBay listing and thought it might be worth a punt at £70.  I have a few ideas on the maker, but nothing concrete

It's just turned up.  I obviously can't tune it given the state of the tuners, but there is a very promising tone coming from it already.   i think it will be great if I can make it structurally sound.   The neck is a lovely shape, and nice and straight.  the action is 3mm at the 12th so we are in a good place to start 


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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    Here is the closest similar example I have found, slightly fancier decoration but an exact match on the rosette inlays



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  • impmannimpmann Frets: 12601
    Will be watching with interest! Good luck
    Never Ever Bloody Anything Ever.

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  • TheMarlinTheMarlin Frets: 7628
    Wow. Cool project !!
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  • BillDLBillDL Frets: 6816
    There's going to be a lot of work with that, but I think it's a really great challenge.
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  • paulnb57paulnb57 Frets: 3022
    What a great little guitar and a fascinating project...subbed
    Stranger from another planet welcome to our hole - Just strap on your guitar and we'll play some rock 'n' roll

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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    this will be a slow burner, but I will try and cover off as much as possible as I go.   I was drawn to this one for a few reasons.

    • The fretboard was consistently dark, suggesting rosewood as opposed to dyed pear or something like that
    • The detail on the inlay and purfling suggested some level of craftsmanship
    • The symmetry and look of top splits suggests a decent bit of old spruce was used, meaning there is a good chance of it sounding decent once restored
    • The back is already seperating from the rims, so I have easy access for major structural work if needed.  my hand doesn't fit in the soundhole

    So first job is to assess what is required.

    I took the strings off, and the bridge fell right off with them


    this was an area of concern from the original pics, so it was a nice surprise to see minimal damage and almost clean wood.   I fully expected to be doing major repairs under the bridge, but I don't think that will be needed.

    The bridge pins look original , but also falling apart so will need replacing, but it is getting a new bridge anyway


    The saddle is literally just a piece of wire

    I expected it to be fret wire on this.   It does pose a dilemma for the new bridge though.  I'm not sure whether to go with a proper bone saddle, or stick with fretwire


    Tuners have hollow brass posts, 1 is split and wobbly.  The spacing is obviously non-standard.  4 buttons are gone, one fell of in transit.  2 posts are bent.  Despite this they all turn really well and the moving parts seem to be in good shape.


    i've put them in an ultrasonic cleaner  to get the worst of it off


    I may need to replace them, but am going to have a good go at trying to save them first

    And that fretboard is rosewood, so almost certainly brazilian.  Nicely straight grained and very close to quartersawn too.  I've given it a quick clean with isopropyl and wire wool


    The frets are in pretty good shape other than the first 2.  I'm on the fence about refretting.  The board is flat, it may even be slightly concave from shrinkage, but it's in better shape than expected





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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    Minimal work required:
    • Close/fill top splits and add internal cleats for reinforcement
    • Make a new bridge
    • fix back split and reattach
    • sort tuners
    • level and dress frets, possibly with partial refret
    • figure out the best low tension strings for it.
    i will be doing more than that, but those are the things that will get it playing again
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 7656
    Cool project! The top looks flat with no sign yet of collapse. Be interesting to see how it behaves under tension. Planning to put on silk n steels? 
    Or depending on the scale length, Savarez Argentine 10s? 

    Based on my youtube diet of repair vids I'd reckon on reinforcing the  "folding" part of the soundboard just past the fingerboard with two small bars.
    Neck reset and a proper bone saddle with more clearance should improve the tone too. 
    Are you planning to take the back off?
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    the top is flatter than expected.  the bridge pulling off may have saved it from worse.

    I'm undecided on strings, or if the original wire style saddle should be considered part of the sound

    The back is halfway off already, so it makes sense to take it off completely 


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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    32mm post spacing on the rollers :tired_face: 
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    the wobbly/split roller.  It's actually a rolled piece of flat brass rather than a solid tube, so i was able to squeeze it back to shape and reattach it for less wobble  



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  • BeardyAndyBeardyAndy Frets: 714
    what a pretty thing, it's worth £70 if only to hang on the wall!
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  • BillDLBillDL Frets: 6816
    I can't see from the photos. Does it have tanged frets or are they the old style pressed or glued-in bar type?
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    They have tangs 
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    WezV said:
    They have tangs 
    which I should say is a little inconsistent for the style and time period. 

    It may put this closer to 1920-1930 than the turn of the century.   Or it is has been converted from bar to normal frets at some point in its life, but I would expect to see more evidence on the sides of the neck.   It does seem a lot of German parlours sold as 1850 onwards don't all have their bar frets, but  standard lore for American guitars says tanged fretwire didn't appear till the 20's and wasn't consistently used till the mid 30's

    As a side note, mine has a scarfed headstock  and more modern heel shape, rather than the traditional fingerjoin and ice cream cone heel seen on earlier guitars.  This may also point to a later build for this style

    I'm still hoping I find more info inside, but there is a good chance I will not
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  • DartmoorHedgehogDartmoorHedgehog Frets: 855
    edited February 8
    WezV said:
    WezV said:
    They have tangs 
    which I should say is a little inconsistent for the style and time period. 

    It may put this closer to 1920-1930 than the turn of the century.   Or it is has been converted from bar to normal frets at some point in its life, but I would expect to see more evidence on the sides of the neck.   It does seem a lot of German parlours sold as 1850 onwards don't all have their bar frets, but  standard lore for American guitars says tanged fretwire didn't appear till the 20's and wasn't consistently used till the mid 30's

    That's interesting, I didn't know that. The oldest fretted thing I've had any experience of is a 1920s banjolin and that has normal tanged fret wire, albeit very small and brass-coloured (I had to replace a few frets and it wasn't hard to find some modern wire that's a near-enough perfect match).  I had no idea that would have been "cutting edge tech" at the time.

    I'd heard of stick-on frets on Parker guitars, and frets made of wire tied all the way round the neck on some ancient and/or oriental instruments, but didn't realise tangless frets were normal in Europe as recently as 1920.  Would they be just stuck on the surface of the board or is there still a fret slot, just the full width of the fret?
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    I'm not really an expert, but the well documented Martin history seems to dominate info available on this topic.

    The T shaped fret was patented in America in 1929.  Martin started using it in 1934.  

    I guess none of this means it hadn't been used by others for many years before
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  • WezVWezV Frets: 16393
    the back came off easily

    I'm happily surprised to see it actually has a bridge plate.



    the back is in more of a state


    I think those braces will need to come off


    this is the only marking inside


    and i found a split in the side that cant be seen from outside

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  • DartmoorHedgehogDartmoorHedgehog Frets: 855
    edited February 8
    WezV said:
    The T shaped fret was patented in America in 1929.  Martin started using it in 1934.  

    I guess none of this means it hadn't been used by others for many years before
    Or my banjolin is a decade or so newer than I thought.  I've got no provenance for it and it has no identifying marks that I've found, I just estimated the date from pictures of similar-looking ones.

    I've got the urge to read up on the history of frets now...
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  • At the risk of hijacking your thread (but I think it's sort of relevant to the "dating by fret type" discussion), my banjolin is a lot like these two, which are reckoned to be 1920s or earlier. And they both appear to have tanged frets.


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