6/03/2018

1920s Martin Taropatch 8-String Concert Ukulele




Heart be still! Taropatch ukes are hard to find. It's even harder to find an old Martin one. It's even harder to find one that's worth salvaging, as many succumb to evil fates the older they get. This one is here via a consignor and it came to me in a beat, but mostly-whole condition. The bridge was missing and it was a bit worn where it had been, sections of the fretboard were lifting, the bar-frets were pretty askew, and many of the seams had come un-done. The silver lining was that the two hairline cracks on the top had been cleated and sealed before my time, though.

Work included regluing the seams, gluing-down the bits of fretboard that'd come up, seating the frets and wicking glue into the slots to keep them in place, a fret level/dress, a lot of cleaning, 8 new Golden Gate/Saga good-quality friction pegs, and a new bridge install. Said bridge had to be roughly 1/8" high with 1/32" or so extra height on top of that for a saddle. Considering that most taropatch bridges fly off the instruments at some point in a manner that may/may not damage the top, I decided to make mine smarter.

My bridge is a simple, slightly-oversized rectangle of dense rosewood with beveled edges. In this I cut a slot and set a fret saddle (which can be replaced with taller or lower fret material for adjusting height to taste) and then drilled 8 through-top mounting holes for the strings. Because of the slightly-larger bridge footproint and the mounting method, the bridge should stay put on the top doing its job for many more years than a conventional 8-string bridge. It also looks sleek.

Finally, I strung the instrument with a set of Worth, all-plain, clear fluorocarbon strings for 8-string uke. That means that rather than the traditional all-unison (double-normal-uke-set) tuning for taropatch, the G course has a low octave and the C course has a high octave. You can hear how pretty the shimmery sound of that is in the video clip! The instrument now also plays on-the-dot with a straight neck and 1/16" action at the 12th fret.

Specs are: 14 7/8" scale length, 1 1/2" nut width, 1 5/16" string spacing at the nut, 2 3/16" spacing at the bridge, 7 5/8" lower bout, 5 3/4" upper bout, and 2 3/4" side depth. It's a concert-sized instrument. The neck is a mild-to-medium D-shape and the board is flat. Woods are solid mahogany for the body and neck and rosewood for the board and bridge. It's trimmed in a "style 1 uke" format with rosewood binding on the top edge.



The ebony nut is an oversize replacement.




To string this bridge, one passes the string into the body from the top until it can be pulled-up through the soundhole and knotted-off into a ball-end which gets snugged-up under the top at the bridge plate.


Here are the two hairline cracks on the top that were repaired in the past.



Aside from the two top cracks, the only other crack on the instrument is a tiny hairline on the back (1") that is fixed and impossible to even photo.



This uke came with a mix-match set of violin-style friction pegs. These new mechanical friction pegs are a lot nicer and work just fine. Dropping $130-140 for a double-set of Gotoh UPTs would be superb on this guy, however.





There's average wear and tear to the finish, but overall this taropatch looks pretty darn good for its age.


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