5/17/2018

1940s Gretsch Mahogany Soprano Ukulele




Gretsch soprano ukes are great little objects but they sure are curious. While the intent is clearly to clone a Martin Style 0, the truth of the matter is that they're really quite a different instrument. Their tops are a lot thinner (almost paper thin), they have no kerfing at the corners inside, the bracing is simplified, and if you look at them closely you notice that they're almost never built square. On this uke, the string path down the neck is to the bass side of the soundhole and the bridge was originally (and still is) glued a little closer to the bass side of the lower bout. In addition the body shape itself is slightly out-of-symmetry.

These are all things you'd expect on a 1910s or 1920s Hawaiian-made koa uke (those old "peanut" ukes are never built "square" and can be Dali-esque in some ways), but it's kinda refreshing in a hilarious way to see it on a mainland-made production uke that barely changed from the late 1930s through the 1960s. This one dates from probably the mid to late '40s but most likely isn't as late as the '50s -- the decade you see most Gretsch ukes from. After work, just like all the other Gretsch ukes, it turns into a formidable little fella with a sweet, decently-loud, clean tone. It also plays perfect and the mahogany looks great, too.

Work included cleating and regluing hairline cracks on the top and back (one to the bass side of the bridge and one at the treble side of the back -- both half the length of the top), a fret level/dress, two brace reglues, a bridge reglue, side dots install, and a good setup. It's strung with Martin fluorocarbon strings.

Sepcs are: 13 5/8" scale length, 1 11/32" nut width, 1 3/32" string spacing at the nut, 1 1/2" spacing at the bridge, 6 1/8" lower bout, and 4 7/8" upper bout. The neck has a slim, D-shaped profile -- it feels like many fancier modern ukes in its quick shape. The top, back, sides, and neck are all solid mahogany and the fretboard is ebonized maple with larger (for a uke) nickel-silver frets. It's all-original, too, and the friction pegs work just fine. Action is spot-on 1/16" at the 12th fret and the neck is straight.









I added finish washers below the knobs of the tuners for even smoother operation and less wear and tear to the headstock.





No comments: