1890s Joseph Bohmann "Tone Tines" Parlor Guitar

This is the second Bohmann I've worked on and, like the first, is owned by the same collector. I wrote a bit on Bohmann history in that post, so I'll focus on the guitar itself in this one. It's roughly Martin size 1 at 12 1/4" across the lower bout and 8 1/2" across the upper. It's fairly deep with 4" sides and has unusual, quadruple-x bracing which makes the top stable as heck and allows for steel stringing (which is rare for a pin-bridge design at the time). Here's the bracing style:

The next clever innovation is a Bohmann must-have -- internal resonating rods (6 on this guitar) which I'm going to call "tone tines" as they ring sympathetically with the strings but can be tuned to your preference. I've got these tuned BEDGAC to work as root notes with popular guitar keys.

Anyhow, back to basics -- the guitar is quite plain in some ways (no binding), but quite well-built. The top wood is solid spruce and the back and sides are faux-grained solid something-or-other (that something-or-other being birch or maple, most likely, but it's hard to tell). The neck is solid mahogany. The bridge and fretboard, however, are "ebonized" maple.

It came to me in fairly good shape but needed a neck reset, fret level/dress, and much finessing of the setup. It's currently wearing a set of 45w, 35w, 24w, 18w, 14, 10 strings to keep the unreinforced neck happy (it's straight) and action is spot-on at 3/32" E and 1/16" ADGBE at the 12th fret. It sounds really nice fingerpicked and pretty decent (for its size) flatpicked. I think the top could probably take gauges that are somewhat heavier, but the neck doesn't seem up to it.

The "tone tines" don't do all that much for the sound, but do give a nice "reverb fullness" when you're playing single note work and are certainly a curiosity. If you're paying attention you can hear them engage as you play. On such a small body their overtones sort of stack-up on chords so they don't bloom as much as they might, say, on a larger-bodied guitar. It's a response that reminds me of the overtone-reverb sound found on some archtop and flattop tailpiece guitars from the tailpiece afterlength of the strings.

The headstock features Bohmann-style, hand-cut brass tuners with those cool pearl-circle "ferrules." The not is a medium-softness bone.

The frets are smaller nickel-silver stock but do have a lot of height for their size. The board has cool pearl inlay and a pretty steep 10" radius.

The rosette is quite pretty and you can see it wouldve been pretty colorful when first-made. The "tone tines" are easily visible in this shot.

The bridge is a Bohmann innovation as well and allows for back-angle adjustment on the saddle. I guess it also helps to keep the bridge secure as those screws are mounted right through a bridge plate!

Because I'd settled on using steel strings to drive the top (as opposed to gut/nylon or some composite nylon-tension string), I modified the saddle just slightly. Bohmann seems to have compensated it almost correctly for steel strings from its inception, but the line of compensation was a little off, so I filled and then recut the saddle (simply some fretwire) slot for better intonation. I filed the B and high E string slots back and forth for better compensation, too. The result keeps the original appearance but plays up the neck a lot better. Proper intonation is actually limited somewhat by the uneven fret spacing on the neck more than the bridge.

This has a 24 11/16" scale length which gives it a roughly "Gibson" feel.

The bridge was split in the front and repaired at some point in time. I cleaned the break up a little when I modified the saddle area.

The top edge is rounded-over into the sides and that was done after the orangey coloration was applied to the top. When the finish was applied, this gave a "faux binding" look as the edges are golden and the top itself is pumpkin.

The back and sides have a crazy, cherry-red-orange faux-woodgrain paintjob. If you look carefully, you can see the normal grain of the wood in the lighter areas of the finish treatment.

The enclosed tuners' backplate even has lubrication holes! Good thinking.

The back center-seam looked like it was separated, but in actuality the center-strip reinforcement on the back was glued-pat to the two sides of the back itself. It was only the purfling-strip trim in the center that'd shrunk, so I filled its shrunken edge in.

The finish is all mucked-up from moisture on this side and, in fact, the finish itself is highly responsive to moisture. It was a bit of a bear to remove "blush" from the finish during the neck reset.

These little nuts allow for tuning of the "tone tines." The endpin looks like a replacement to me.

This label has awards all in the 1880s and 1890s which suggests late 1890s manufacture.


Brad Smith said…
Great job on this one Jake and nice work adjusting those tone tines! The end pin was something I added with shell inlay to more or less match that on the neck. Looking forward to seeing the next (and last Bohmann) I sent your way that should prove a bit more challenging. And then there is the Bauer......