1898 Vega Rosewood Parlor Guitar

This is the second Brazilian rosewood-bodied Vega guitar from the 1890s that I've worked on, and the builds on them both remind me of also-Boston-made period Bay State/Haynes guitars with their tenon neck joints, orange-stained tops, gorgeous rosewood, and quality construction. These Vegas feel a "cut above," though, and certainly sound unbelievably-good for small-body instruments. This one is roughly "Martin size 2" in specs with a 12 1/2" lower bout.

I worked on this one for a customer and it came to me in quite good shape. It needed some seams and minor cracks repaired, a fret level/dress, and the owner decided to have the bridge shaved to address slightly-high action. It's turned-out wonderfully and has a sweet, silky sound to it without the dry spank that many period gut/nylon-stringers tend to have.

I set action at "easy classical" 3/32" at the 12th fret and it's strung with Thomastik KR116s which are a "classical" string that intonate  the same as and have nylon-style tension, but are actually steel rope-core strings with flatwound outer layers. They're a perfect choice if you want a bit more steel-string sparkle (or flatpicking-friendly tone) out of a nylon/gut-strung guitar but don't want to ramp-up the tension and modify the saddle area to suit steel.

The spruce top only has one tiny little crack on it, at the lower bout.

The headstock veneer is Brazilian rosewood and the fretboard is, too. The nut is ebony and has a 1 3/4" width. The back of the mahogany neck on this is like a period Martin with a shallow, soft-V shape. It's very easy to play.

There's a very light radius to the rosewood board and it's inlaid with pearl dots. The frets are all in good order and only needed a light level/dress job.

The scale length is 24 1/2" which gives it a "Gibson" feel to the fret spacing.

I think guitars of this period that lack binding are terribly elegant -- especially nice ones like this with "rolled-over" edges. The red-colored rosette is a nice touch, too.

The rosewood bridge is healthy, as is the original saddle.

The back is excellent, isn't it? It's hard to beat the aesthetics of Brazilian rosewood.

As you can see, the back and sides are polished to a high gloss.

The original tuners are still going strong.

There's a Vega stamp on the inside, too.

The serial dates it to, apparently, 1898 -- which makes sense as I'd guesstimated it at around 1895 per its hardware and build style. This was definitely intended as a gut-strung guitar when it was made.


Anonymous said…
I have a similar one, serial 21610, in more worn condition, not as beautifully figured BZ on back, but it sounds incredible. Mine has rope-twist binding and back strip.
Unknown said…
Hi there, I have what I believe is a late 1800's or early 1900's vega. Has a star on headstock but no serial numbers on headstock. Rope rossetta and perfling. Looks like BZ rosewood and spruce top. Maybe you can email me and then I can send some pics. Thanks, Mark