I have a 1800’s Bruno Parlor in the shop…it has the # 5974 stamped on top of the headstock.. this is the first time seeing one of these in person and I had a few questions. It has the usual problems… neck set, badly glued cracks, refret…requiring the usual repairs, but I’m wondering, were these guitars originally built with this thin of a fretboard? It measures about .140” 9/64” on the two outside edges… Or is it possible this one has just been sanded away with refrets over the years? the fretboard has a 12" radius Also, did they originally have bar frets?
On the other end of the guitar the bridge saddle, in this case a piece of fret wire, is very high off the top … around ½”... of course the usual problems, high action etc… I just wonder about the fretboard, the original frets and why such a tall bridge.
Thank you for any insight.
a few more pic's
I believe that both the fretboard and bridge is original. Fretboards was very thin in the early days, a veneer and not much more. They became thicker with time, this thickness is not uncommon on 100 year old or more guitars. The bridge is high, but the fret on top is low. You should measure the actual string height over the top, maybe not so high :-)
OK Roger.. thanks for the info, I will be going ahead with neck set soon.
The neck joints on the Brunos of this era are often just a shallow mortise and tenon. The heel of the neck is inlet with straight sides about 1/4 inch into the neck block. I showed pictures of the joint fairly early on in the compendium of neck joints here on Frets.net.
yes Sir George.. I have seen/studied yours and others on the most excellent neck joint collection here... thank so much.
Well.. a good nights sleep but this thing is still bugging me… to neck set to this bridge is going to take .075” off the heel which to me is substantial, and it will leave me with a kink at the bodyjoint that I wont be able to sand/fudge out due to the thin fretboard so, a wedge can be fit under the extension…all that may be good but it just seems like I’m neck setting to an unnecessarily high bridge. I understand the incorrectness of shaving down a bridge in most all cases.. but something about the geometry I’m forcing on this guitar with this much change to the neck angle just to satisfy the tall bridge seems a bit wrong.
I have no problem shaving down a bridge that is way too high down to a reasonable Martin pyramid bridge height of about 9 mm. Done with care reshaping the top of the bridge it will look nice and period correct.
Some old parlor guitars have this type of neck/bridge setup, probably because they were made for gut strings comparable to a classic guitar. Or due to structural change in the whole guitar from the string tension over time. The fretboard extension "dives" towards the bottom of the bridge. Instead of taking off a all the material from the heel and making it too weak I would dig into the bottom of the neck pocket, possibly taking away some wood from both the heel and the neck block.
This type of neck joint with straight sides with a tight glue joint and nothing else to hold the neck is problematic. With a standard dove tail, the neck rests against the sides. The sides are curved, made of hard wood and very stable. But the force from the strings on this type of neck joint rests only on the soft wood in the neck block (and a little spruce end wood from the top). The neck will often rotate forward with strings at tension. Not much but the effect will be very visible at the bridge. Lately I have started to inlay a plate of hardwood (maple) in the upper third of the neck pocket to give the neck a hard surface to rest against. It helps. It doesn't hurt to glue a wood shim inside to make the neck block thicker too, they can be too thin and weak at times.
I can recommend Newtone Heritage strings for a parlor like this. They are great sounding low tension strings. NH 0.12 have a tension like a standard 0.11 set, NH 0.11 the same as a standard 0.10 set. The strings vibrates a bit wider though, add about 0.2 mm to the string height at the 12th fret.
One last warning, loosen the heel cap! This is the first thing I do nowadays, I can't count the times I've been fooled before by the heel cap when shaving the neck heel when doing neck resets...
You may have to insert a wedge under the fretboard to keep the fretboard straight without to much "slope off".
OK Roger.. thank you for your insight and the great tips on working with this type of neck pocket… it’s very much appreciated and will come in handy when I get this apart.
I think I will be happy if I can bring the bridge down to the 9mm Martin spec you referred to .. thanks for that info, the maple inlay makes a lot of sense also.. The client was asking about strings so I have an answer for that also. OK I’m felling much better about the whole thing.
About lowering the height of the bridge, you can probably take away some wood on the bottom first of all. You may have to lower the pyramids too, the top of the pyramids should not be higher than the middle part.
The only glue I would use on both the neck and the bridge is hot hide glue. Simply the best.
Forgot to mention that I always add a screw from the inside on this type of neck joint about two thirds down from the top. Nothing fancy, just a wood screw with a small spacer to distribute the force over the neck block. The predrilled hole in the neck heel is reinforced with thin superglue, I add some paste wax to the screw and do a couple of test runs screwing it in and out before the neck is glued. Makes the neck reset easier and will keep the joint stable with time (the screw may need to be tighten now and then).
Fritz, It looks to me as though the bridge is made of some light colored wood, possibly maple, dyed or stained to look like ebony. If this is the case, I would feel a little less reluctant about modifyiing it to the proper height. You could even consider compensating the saddle, or even substituting a compensating bone saddle.
I tend to be a purist, and would like to keep everything as original as possible. In this case I would lean toward expedient rather than pure.
OK Roger .. I’m familiar with case hardening screw holes with water thin SG.. and will definitely use hot H glue.. the screw itself will be tricky as the soundhole is so small I can’t get my hand through…. I know I know, I shouldn’t be working on this guitar…!!! :) but with a long drill bit through the hole it should be doable. It's been busy here and I haven’t had time to even look at the thing.. and yes George it may not even be an Ebony bridge… I plan to get back to it on Tuesday.
Will keep you posted.