I recently acquired a 1936 0-17H and I'd like some advice about restoration.
Background: It's in pretty good condition Except it's missing the original fingerboard and the bridge has been removed and has been thinned. It's pretty obvious to me that the bridge is unusable but I have a piece of BRW I can use to make a reproduction bridge. I'm planning on converting it to a standard guitar, and won't need to feel guilty about molesting a pristine Hawaiian guitar. I can put a slanted saddle in the bridge and reset the neck at the proper angle.
The real question is about the fingerboard. It came with a new slotted and shaped IRW fingerboard. Would it make a significant difference to the restored value if I used BRW instead? Any reason to use modern bar frets rather than T-frets? These models have a wide 1 7/8 neck. Any suggestions to make the finished neck feel less wide? Is it possible to taper the edges of the fingerboard a bit? I'm presuming it's sacrilege to narrow the neck slightly as it would disturb the original finish on the edges of the neck.
The original fingerboard would have had bar frets. Actually since it's a Hawaiian model the frets would have been flush with the surface of the fingerboard to act just as markers. Standard procedure is to shim the bar frets and raise them up. That way the 0-17H guitar ends up pretty much the same as a normal 0-17 guitar. But the original fingerboard is long gone so I can't do that. Apparently it's possible to get bar fret material but in the end it won't be the original fingerboard, so I'm not sure if it's worth the effort. I'm hoping someone knowledgeable can advise me.
I've attached a photo of a bridge from another 0-17 for comparison. You can see that the top of my bridge has been flattened down to where there's almost no wood left to hold the saddle. If the slot is deepened it weakens the bridge, so I don't think it's possible to use this bridge. Maybe it's possible to laminate a layer of rosewood onto the bottom of the bridge, then deepen the slot. Again, I'm hoping someone with experience can advise. I don't think I'd have a problem making a convincing replica bridge, so that is probably the solution. And it also allows me to use an angled saddle and end up with better intonation.
Thanks David, your comments are appreciated.
The Indian rosewood fingerboard that came with the guitar is already slotted and profiled and seems to be the correct scale. (Looks like 24 7/8 but I'm using a cheap tape at the moment so that might not be precise.) As can be seen in the photo it's lighter than I'd prefer, but will darken some when finished. Most of the 0-17's seem to have dark fingerboards but I've seen some that are a bit lighter. I want the finished guitar to look credible from across the room. I do have a Brazilian slab but it would need to be thicknessed and slotted. Guess the main thing I'd gain would be a darker fingerboard, and as you say, there are potential legal issues.
The bridge string spacing is 2 5/16 but I'm going to need to make a new bridge. Of course there's the bridge plate issue. I also tend to want to preserve things, but a 1 7/8 nut is really wide. Is there anything wrong with leaving the bridge spacing but narrowing the nut? If I were to narrow the neck on each side by 1/16 to 3/32 it would leave a small band of neck wood along the fingerboard with no finish or touched up finish. I'm not sure if that could ever look ok. As an alternative I'm wondering if I could leave the neck width but taper the edges of the fingerboard so the top surface is not as wide? Maybe that would help the neck feel slightly narrower. What are your thoughts?
I'm inclined to think that narrowing the neck would require refinishing it. If you did limit the finish removal to a narrow band, you'd end up with an unnatural profile, unless you widen that band to about 3/4" on each side of the neck, so by the time you're done, you'll have wished you went for the full deal.
Thanks Frank and David for good advice. It was worthwhile to talk through the options but we don't want to refinish that beautiful neck. I have a 1 & 3/4 neck guitar and find it playable so can probably play 1 & 7/8.
I'll also have to do some careful measuring of the fingerboard scale and saddle position. Thanks David for the tips.
An idea that comes up every so often may apply here too. Modifying the guitar with a different wood for the fingerboard and installing modern fret wire is reversible should someone want to return to the original setup do in the future. Narrowing the neck isn't reversible. If you are uncomfortable with the neck width, rather than making a non-reversible modification to a decent vintage guitar, you might consider fixing and selling it then apply the money toward a guitar that you find more comfortable.
Good point Ned. I agree about narrowing the neck. I doubt someone would return it to a Hawaiian guitar since the original fingerboard is gone and it will never be completely original. But narrowing the neck would require new finish and then we'd lose some of the original character of the instrument. I'll also need to reset the neck to regular playing angle, as it's currently dead flat to the top of the guitar. I don't think that's reversible without shortening the scale. So, for me it's more about retaining the character and look of the instrument.
It may be worth just using a narrower string spacing on the existing nut width(moving each e string in 1/16")