In search of a new project
After watching dozens of YouTube videos of guitar repairs, and emboldened by the success of my bridge repair, I decided it was time for a new project.
In September of 2020, I found it on Craigslist. The ad just said “I think its worth saving. Asking $30.” It had these three pictures:
I could see a lot of potential there, so I bought it.
Some internet sleuthing revealed that the Orpheum brand was used already in the late 19th century by an American banjo maker. In the 1930’s the company began marketing acoustic then archtop jazz guitars and even wind instruments but that business ceased during WW-II.
By the end of the war the trade name was recycled by the Maurice Lipsky Music Co., Inc. of New York for a range of stringed instruments, positioned in the same market segment as Kay, e.g. affordably priced average quality. Hollow-bodies from that era with a Orpheum logo appear from time to time on the U.S. vintage market, they surely do not compare to Gretsches or Gibsons but own a specific post-war or early 50’s charm all the same.
Based on the characteristics of the original Kluson Deluxe tuners, I believe this instrument was made in 1957 or 1958. It was probably made by Kay, as the model number and serial number stamped inside the body. The body of this guitar is laminate, and the arched top and back are pressed rather than carved.
The seller had a carboard box with most of the original hardware from the guitar in it. The tuners were just rusted hunks of metal with no knobs, so I didn’t try to save them. I replaced them with period-correct Kluson Deluxe tuners.
I regret that I didn’t take photos of the repairs as I went along. The first job was to get the neck glued back on. It took a lot of scraping to remove all of the old glue. The neck was loose in its socket, so I shimmed it with some very thing pieces of maple. After I had a tight fit I glued and clamped the joint.
There were several places where the binding was loose, so I glued those down. The rest was just clean-up.
The finished project
Here’s the result:
I was thrilled with how the guitar looked, and also how it played. The neck on this old-timer has no truss rod, but with just a small amount of relief the action was not bad. And it sounded great, perfect for twangy blues, jazz, or Americana.
Unfortunately, after a couple of weeks under string tension, the bow in the neck increased quite a bit. I sold it to a young man who plays slide guitar, because he didn’t care about string height. I made a tidy profit on it, too.