Vintage National Questions

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Vintage National Questions

Postby gaucho » Fri Aug 26, 2011 5:43 pm

I have stumbled upon a guitar that I'm interested in but the seller knows nothing about it (original owner passed away). They are calling is a 30's ish Dobro but I think it's possibly a National body. It has a canoe w/moon scene engraved and has a new neck. The seller said it's a square neck, but the photos look like its round but set up to play lap style. The original neck is gone (and so the serial #) but he says it has #S1731 stamped on the body (I think I see it in his photo of the fretboard joining the body). I asked about the cone being original but of course he had no idea. In my opinion, it's value will be determined by it's playability and tone and not by the possibility of it being a vintage National (since it's missing the neck, serial # and history). Any thoughts? Here are the photos he sent. I have not seen it in person yet.

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Re: Vintage National Questions

Postby gaucho » Fri Aug 26, 2011 5:57 pm

I posted this on another board and got some great info pre-purchase. Turns out it's a '31 National Style 0 with a new neck.
I picked it up yesterday for $650 US. Seems like a good price, even if it needs some work. As it is, it plays and sounds pretty good. The only issue for me it that the strings are really low (almost touching the cover plate) right by the bridge. It seems like the break angle is pretty shallow as well. I like to play right on top of the bridge sometimes (to get that Fred McDowell kinda sound) and you can't really do that now. Plays fine further up the strings tho. There's plenty of room under the cover strap for the biscuit to be higher, but that would raise the action too much. Plus the biscuit and cone appear to be original so I don't want to mess with them. The strings are very level all along the fret board, so I don't think the neck is lifted or warped, just not well set up. Any suggestions? Think it needs a neck re-set? I'll try to get a shot of the strings in front of the bridge and the break angle. I really love this thing! Here's a couple photos. Any rough ideas of what a neck reset costs and a good place on the east coast (Florida) of the US to have it done?


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Re: Vintage National Questions

Postby Lo-Fi » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:01 pm

Without eyeballing the guitar it is hard to tell what is going on but I would suspect neck relief is the culprit. The cost of neck reset will vary depending on where you are. Round these parts they run around $275.

The serial number indicates the body is a 1930 Style O. The number should be stamped into the body down by the endpin. The engraving looks right.

I am thinking the cover plate on that guitar is also not original. The 1930s or thereabout guitars had the diamond pattern covers. The style on yours is a later one (I have seen them on mid-1930s guitars) and may be a reproduction.

Don't have a clue whether you done good on thing in terms of price - the value on a guitar like this is what it is worth to you.
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Re: Vintage National Questions

Postby gaucho » Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:10 pm

Yeah, the chicken foot coverplates didn't come out until '35 or so. The one on mine is a National from the 30's, but not original to this guitar. I had thought that this one originally had the hook type cover that only had one screw. Those were on some of the '30's or '31's and the hooks tended to break and the only good option was to get the newer 9 screw version and drill holes. I opened her up to see what was going on inside (and causing the problem with the low strings on the coverplate). There were no signs of the hooks, so I'm not sure why the coverplate was switched. Maybe the owner just liked the chicken foot style. This one looks a bit more domed than the sieve-hole ones I have seen and I initially thought that might be the problem, but what I found was a somewhat collapsed cone. Other than that, everything was original and clean inside. There was a weird wooden shim between the cone and the soundwell rim that wasn't original and was probably put in there to prop up the collapsed cone. That thing had to be a tone killer and I ripped it out and removed all the glue that was holding it on. I was able to massage the cone back into decent shape and even without the shim, that brought it up to a good action. I think the neck is straight and the angle good. Although it's not original, it's very well made and installed. Looks the part too, but I'm thinking of trying to scuff it up a bit so it doesn't look so new. Any suggestions? Steel wool or 1500 grit sandpaper to knock down the gloss? I put it all back together and turned the tuners over (they were set up for lap style) and it plays and sounds great. Don't know if the cone will retain it's shape or if it will compact back down to it's collapsed height. I really wanted to save the original cone and buscuit/bridge, but if it collapses again, I'll see how it sounds with a Hot Rod cone. Here or some photos of the guts...
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As for the price, I feel like I won the Lotto!
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Re: Vintage National Questions

Postby bigdaddyguitar » Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:20 am

Good score !!! Enjoy .
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Re: Vintage National Questions

Postby Lo-Fi » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:13 pm

Ya might try taking some 000 steel wool to the neck. This is what you use when you have a sticky feeling neck (the Fender AV '52 Teles were notorious for this) or want to take the gloss off. Best, of course, to try it on a small spot first.
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