1890s George Bauer "Presentation" Parlor Guitar

If you thought the last Bauer guitar to grace the blog was the bee's knees, check out this honey-darling! Lucky dog, too, because it's owned by the same fella. It's pearl-encrusted, x-braced, rosewood-bodied, and over-the-top in all the right ways. It even has that bizarre, middle-eastern-flavored inlay on the fretboard that's extremely common to the era's 5-string banjos.

Work progressed slowly on this instrument because I knew that the final effort on it would be to replace a bunch of missing inlay around the top edge. The other work -- a neck reset, fret level/dress, bridge/saddle modification, crack repairs to the sides, and general setup -- was fairly straightforward. Pearl work, however, is one of those things you can't rush. I'm certainly not a "pro" at it, either, but I do have a workmanly way of getting bereft inlay-holes plugged-up.

It's now playing perfectly with 3/32" action at the bass and hair-under 3/32" treble at the 12th fret. While this would've been strung with gut (now nylon) originally, it's wearing a set of Thomastik PJ116 hybrid strings that give classical tension and basses but a more steely-sounding treble vibe.

Let's admit it, folks -- she's a beaut! Its size puts it in Martin's "size 2" realm, as well, with its 12 1/4" lower bout and 4" side depth. Materials are first-rate throughout with a mahogany neck, solid Brazilian rosewood back and sides, ebony fretboard, rosewood bridge, and a tight-grained, solid spruce top.

It's all-original save the new bone saddle and the bridge pins, too.

Check out the headstock "stacking" of veneers -- giving this, again, a banjo-ish decorative style. The thick rosewood veneer has a lovely amount of pearl in it, doesn't it?

The nut is wide at 1 15/16" and the neck has a medium somewhat-hard V-shape to it, so it certainly handles like a period guitar. The extra width makes it an easy fingerpicker, however.

Post neck-reset the fretboard extension dips slightly down from the plane of the rest of the fretboard. It looks like it'd been "reglued" in the past, too, as when I heated it up and removed it, it came apart in three pieces.

This instrument sure gives high-brow Washburns from the time a run for their money on the bling-front!

You can differentiate my replacement pearl bits from the original stuff as mine are shorter and clumsier but get the job done. At a glance, you would not notice. Mine are also thicker front-to-back and better-fit to the inlay channel's bottom (the originals were shimmed up/down to get them level with the top), for what it's worth.

The bridge originally had a fret saddle, but I reconfigured it to a glued-in bone saddle.

This is because during the neck reset I overshot it a little bit as this has a shallow tenon joint that, when you're working on it, is difficult to judge the angle on 100% when it's clamped-up as the clamps are in the way. I wish I'd taken pictures of the joint to illustrate what I'm talking about!

However, because the break angle on the saddle isn't crazy, the tension is low, and the new saddle is glued-in, I think it will hold-up nicely. It certainly gives the top some drive!

Yes -- everything about this guitar is pretty -- from the bling on the top to the deluxe binding to the multicolored backstrip to the carved heel...

Imagine this: under that heel cap is an ancient screw that someone installed to "shore-up" the joint. I didn't dare try to remove it as, well, it was pretty well-stuck, somewhat rusty, and was actually doing its job pretty well. I came across it on a hunch when I couldn't figure-out why the neck would not come off after I'd gotten the joint completely loose.

I took a picture of this but erased it from the memory card (along with a bunch of other interesting shots) by accident when juggling cameras.

The tuners are lovely.

Here's how the inlay looked beforehand.


Nick R said…
Yes, a job well done- and quite a little jewel. I read, somewhere, that those inlays were made in quantity in Germany and shipped over to the USA. I just cannot remember where I read it. I think the Thornward- a Montgomery Ward magnum opus was nearly off the scale, on the blingometer in the early 20th century. When Greg Lake died, there was a photo of him holding his in the obituary I saw. That Washburn owned by Dan Fogelberg had quite extensive inlays on the fingerboard, I seem to recall- while the guitar's body was somewhat unadorned in comparison! My most colourful guitar is a serenade in celluloid from about 1918- made by Lyon & Healy for Montgomery Ward- a Concertone.
Brad Smith said…
Very interesting. Bauer made the Acme Professional line for Sears for a couple of years c. 1902-1903 and they are richly adorned though not as much as this one. And the overall construction was good but simpler (thicker tops, ladder bracing, etc.) to get them at the catalog price point. The German angle is worth following. Another one is that Georeg Bauer was a mason, as one collector told me.