4/30/2018

1930s Dobro Spider-Bridge Resonator Ukulele




Two Dobro ukes in a few weeks? What the heck? Well, I finished the last one (which I've kept for myself as it's so funky) and several customers were really interested in it but didn't want to shell-out for such a rust-bucket, so to speak. I entirely understand. I bought that last one just because I can't help but fix down-on-their-luck rarities if I can afford to.

All that aside, just a few days after posting that one I got an email with pictures of this very clean Dobro uke in its original case with its neck quite off its body. I told a good customer of mine that if he wanted to have it at cost and pay for the labor and bits, I would be happy to buy it for him and then sell it to him when it was done -- and thus the deal was born and I got to work on another cute little Dobro uke.

This one has the nice f-holes and is super-de-duper clean for one of these. It's all-original save a new set of Gotoh UPTs at the headstock (this had a mix-matched set of old pegs on it when it came in) provided by the new owner, a K&K Twin Spot pickup installed under the hood (I glue these to the underside of the spider bridge below the saddle which gives the most natural amplified tone vs. cone-mounted pups), and a strap button below the tailpiece. The black finish is neat-as-heck and the rosewood fretboard feels nice. Its body is made from ply birch for the top and back and solid birch for the sides. The neck is mahogany.

Work included a neck reset (plus hidden bolt-reinforcement as it's a doweled joint from the Regal factory), fret level/dress, a lot of effort seating and stabilizing the cone (it's very clean but needed a lot of finessing to remove rattle at various frequencies using uke strings because of the reduced tension), the pickup install, tuner install, cleaning, and setup. It plays like an absolute champ and has a full, breathy, warm tone with good volume.

Specs are: 13 7/8" scale, 1 5/16" nut width, 1 5/32" string spacing at the nut, 1 5/8" spacing at the bridge, 7 1/4" lower bout width, 5 3/4" upper bout, and 2 9/16" side depth at the endblock. The neck has a medium C-shape and a flat-profile fretboard. Action is 1/16" at the 12th fret and the neck is straight.


It's a looker, no? If you look closely at said looker, you'll notice that the factory installed the coverplate slightly off-center (rotated, I mean). I left it that way because I love quirks.


The original bone nut is still going strong.


I added side dots, of course.

The strings are heavier-gauge nylon vs. my usual Martin M600 fluorocarbon choice as I was trying to get some extra tension on it. I just put a set of clear fluoro Worths with really heavy gauges on my own Dobro uke this afternoon (I'd finished this uke on Saturday) and I really like the way it's setup, now. Food for thought!




The original maple saddles are still extant.




I like how the customer-supplied Gotoh UPTs have "one gold tooth."







There's the original tailpiece, my new relic-style strap button (so no one is tempted to hang one from the tailpiece!), and the jack for the K&K pickup. I'll tell ya what -- it was, as usual, a pain to get that K&K wrestled in there. It's worth it, though, as I've found a number of alternative mounting methods to get resonators sounding like resonators when amplified with these.


How about that good-condition chip case?


Here's what the soundwell looks like in this fella. It's a lot simpler than the one in my own.

2 comments:

Tony Wilson said...

Those Dobro wood bodied resos ukes are fabulous. Your customer is very lucky. FWIW, I have a Beard spider-reso concert uke, and after a lot of experimenting, I've found that D'Addarrio EJ65C clear nylon strings bring out the best tone and volume. But, of course, every reso is different .

Jake Wildwood said...

Tony: That's exactly what I put on this one because it sounded better to my ears than the fluoros. I did put some Worths on my other one and am happy with those -- they're a little fatter-sounding than the normal fluoros.