5/09/2018

1930 National Triolian Resonator Guitar




A friend of mine owns this beat-up-beaut in "walnut sunburst" and he's considering putting it on the block. He bought it down in New York via Lark Street Music and it came to him with a bunch of signatures on it -- Dave Alvin, Elvin Bishop, and Chris Smither to name a few. It also came with a lot of previous work done to it -- a neck refinish, refret, replacement (Chinese? Continental/Eastern European?) cone and biscuit, replacement tailpiece, replacement StewMac repro-style tuners, and a fair attempt at a neck reset.

My own work was to get this puppy playing on-the-dot. To that end I replaced the sunken unbranded cone with a new NRP "Hot Rod" cone and biscuit, relocated the saddle slot in the biscuit about 1/8" to the rear to get intonation and compensation correct, gave the jumbo-ish replacement frets a level/dress, reset the neck and added my usual "third foot" support below the dowel near the neck block (this makes the joint a lot more rigid and so the neck stays where you put it), and set it up. The resulting box is a pleasure to play and rings-out and pounds-out just like you'd expect a healthy old National to do. It's a lot more authentic in tone, too. The cheaper cones tend to sound woofy and indistinct with no clear bite.

Specs are: 25" scale, 1 3/4" nut width, 1 9/16" string spacing at the nut, 2 1/16" spacing at the bridge, 14" lower bout width, 10 1/8" upper bout, and 3 1/4" side depth. The (straight) neck has a flat fretboard and a medium-big C-shaped rear profile, the frets are jumbo in size but leveled down a bit, and the action is spot-on at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret, strung with 54w-12 gauges. I made the saddle slot drop-in and deeper than usual so if the next player wants to do slide, he/she just needs to pop the coverplate, pull the saddle out, and drop a shim in to raise the action. I like easy adjustments.

Condition-wise, this has a 2" dent in the side of the body that was hard to photo (but not anything to really note), lots of wear-and tear, and overspray on many of the areas where there are signatures that's clouded-up a bit. This has a lot of love-bites! The neck, as stated, is refinished to a more "natural" color and shows-off its maple on the back. The fretboard on this would've originally been "ebonized" black, but during the refret the last fella to work on this chose to leave it "natural" like a Tele fretboard. I appreciate that because I've done the same on a Style O in the past and the owner of that guitar gets compliments on it all the time.


This guy is a steel-bodied guitar and has the airy zap and thunder that I've come to expect of a 12-fret Nat of these years.



The pearl dots in the fretboard seem to be replacements or are at least mismatched.






A few of the coverplate screws are from my parts-bins as two were missing and one was worn-out.














The 15:1 relic-style StewMac tuners are an upgrade compared to the original, fussy tuners that would've been on this in the past.




This guitar comes with an '80s Martin 00-sized hard case that suits it just fine.

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