1932 National Duolian Resonator Guitar

This guitar comes my way via a consignor of mine. He'd recently bought it from a fancy shop in southern Vermont but is keeping his hands squeezed-around the 14-fret National Triolian I sold him back in 2016 instead. One can never tell whether a 12-fret will work for you until you've been playing it a while.

For what it's worth, I think that these 12-fret Duolians from the early '30s are probably my favorite Nationals tone-wise. They have lightweight, steel bodies and flat-cut f-holes. This gives the body a little flex and that, combined with extra airspace, gives these the breathier, warmer, and fuller voice you expect from a 12-fret National. They've got a little more "guts" and a little less "jab." I have to admit, though, that the reason I sold mine years ago was because I'm a player that needs a 14-fret neck because there are certain barred chords I just reach for instinctively. For a player solidly in the traditional camp, however, the 12-fret body and wide nut will give you immediate access to fingerpicking (and cross-picking) bliss.

As a bonus, this instrument was also originally owned by Mr. Halton "Dick" Richardson, a locally-famous New Hampshire/Vermont fiddler and bandleader who kept the Contra tradition alive from the 1910s through the 1950s. His name is cut into the back of the heel (where the heel cap would be).

When this came in, it was playing on-spec, but the saddle was low, the fretboard extension ski-jumped just a hair (and thus it fretted-out at the extension), and the neck reset it'd supposedly had was only evident by a bit of glue near the fretboard extension/heel area. When I opened it up and removed the cone, I saw no evidence of a traditional dowel-shift neck-angle reset. So...

Work included: a neck reset plus my usual extra soundpost/mushroom located near the heel (this firms the joint up so the neck doesn't rotate or move around -- which gives a "spongy" feel and inaccurate setup over time), fret level/dress, new maple saddle with full compensation, extra padding/shimming of the original soundposts/mushrooms, side dots install, cleaning, and setup. It's strung with 54w, 42w, 32w, 24w, 16, 12 gauges and setup with spot-on 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret -- ready to fingerpick. I can adjust the saddle height to taste for a higher-action slide player, however. The neck itself is nice and straight and the frets have good life left to them.

Specs are: 25" scale length, 1 13/16" nut width, 1 9/16" string spacing at the nut, 2 3/16" spacing at the bridge, 14" lower bout, 10" upper bout, and 3 1/4" side depth. The neck has a flat board and medium, C/V rear shape.

Materials are: steel body, mahogany neck, ebonized maple fretboard, ebonized maple biscuit, maple saddle, original ribbed cone, all-original equipment save replaced tuners.

Condition notes: overall, it's a nice example of a Duolian and has the usual expected wear -- rubbing-out of the finish on the edges of the body and especially where the right arm comes across the lower bout, minor pitting and rust spots here and there with pick-whacking on the coverplate and body in the expected spot, and medium buckle-wear to the back. Dents and nicks are tiny where present, though there's plenty of finish-flaking (in small flecks) and scratches around the sides and portions of the top and back. It has replacement tuners (National Reso-Phonic repros) on it, but the originals (which work fine but are a little loosey-goosey) are stowed in the case. The nut is also a newer, ebony replacement.

It comes with: a decent, black, hard case and Dick Richardson album and biographical/history book.

I love that grey/green duco finish, don't you?

It's hard to see, but "Halton Richardson" is scratched into the heel.


Rob Gardner said…
Oh, this looks like a beauty. I love the crystalline paint, with just the proper amount of wear.