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Saw this at our classic all purpose music store, the Folk Shop in Tucson. They’ve had this for a while and it has no label or logo. Clearly, it’s old. It appears to be set up for steel—tall nut, no frets. Does anyone know what it is?

Larry

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It's sitting next to an electric, laptop slide guitar. I imagine that this is an acoustic equivalent. The front reminds me of fronts carved by Orville Gibson. I don't know if laptop slide guitars existed in Orville Gibson's day but if they did it might be worth examining other construction details to see how well they match.

It’s pretty clearly a slide guitar. What the shop owners and staff don’t know is what’s the origin. Given the popularity of Hawaiian slide in the 20’s and 30’s, it is likely from that era. When did Orville pass away? Do we know if he still dabbled in instruments after he sold to Gibson?

I worked at The Folk Shop for a few years, from about 2012-2015. That instrument defines that store. My guess was that it just some well made folk art. There's no way in hell it was made by Orville and Paul didn't know, or at least suspect that it might be. He knows his shit, that's for sure. And if you are wondering what it sounds like, I can tell you it does NOT sound like a Gibson!

I agree that this strikes me as almost certainly the case; It looks like someone who loved the aesthetics of F-style mandos was trying to make their own ambitious and ornate variant of a Weissenborn or something. From the photo it looks like it was built by someone who was capable and competent in the workshop, but if they were ever a builder of any renown then it looks like this would've been one of their first builds, or less-likely an experimental prototype with no intention of ever being released into the world, and with no hallmarks or provenance or anything then it's a matter of no further value than humble musing-over. It looks like a good overall build quality, but some details such as the choice of tailpiece, as well as how the "fretboard" seemingly asymmetrically tapers as it approaches the soundhole relative to the lie of the strings, seem to me to suggest "folk-built".

It looks like it is not wood - likely to be bakelite?

It's wood.  it has black stain, something like early Gibson black finished instruments.  Looks to be heavily oxidized.

It's a giant prehistoric beetle exoskeleton. Duh.

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