c.1920 Oscar Schmidt Koa Taropatch Ukulele Part One

Here's something you see once in a blue moon: an Oscar Schmidt 8-string taropatch ukulele from c.1920. These photos are in its unrestored condition: how it came to me. While it looks rough around the edges I think it'll shape up nicely. This uke (click here for link) came to me in much the same manner... paint specks, damage, and all.

If you don't know about taropatch ukes, they're basically a large concert-size (or rather, closer to a tenor size) body with a 15" or so scale length and 8 gut/nylon/fluorocarbon strings -- tuned in GCEA -- basically a doubled-up uke. Some folks have them octave stringed in the lower two courses, like a 12-string guitar, while others have them strung in unison, like a mandolin.

This uke is particularly awesome because taropatches from the period are rather rare as they weren't as popular as regular ukes. They do have a pretty big, lush sound, and if the big, lightly-built all-koa body of this one has anything to say, this one's going to have an incredible sound. You can see on the headstock here that the holes were probably drilled for wood pegs, and at some point someone may have had some modern-style friction tuners on it.

I'm not sure whether these are nickel-silver frets or brass, but I'll know when they're shined up.

And here's the worst part of this uke: a big old side crack. I already have it clamped and gluing as I write this, but due to weird settling in over time there may be just a touch of relief when it's all done on the lower bout.

Back view: with the gleam of the light you can really see some of the finish wear and tear this uke has gone through. The finish still has some shine but it's age-crackled all over. I may rub in a very light coat or two of some varnish to spruce it back up and seal some of the scratched areas.

Nice inlaid back strip, though!