1920s Oscar Schmidt-made First Hawaiian Conservatory of Music Parlor Guitar



Update: I had certain information incorrect about the bracing on this. I've updated that.


These "First Hawaiian" Schmidts have been very popular guitars of late. They're braced a little differently from the average Schmidt and, as a result, have a sound that flits between "normal" ladder-braced voicing and something like a Gibson-ish x-braced voice. They're woody, loud, and direct like your average Schmidt parlor but have more of a kick in the bass and lower-mids and with a slightly-scooped treble rather than the focus being all mids. This makes them vastly more suitable for genres outside of fingerpicked country-blues and the like -- you can hear that my "old-time-backup" picking sounds great in the video above -- and loud/punchy enough that I had to keep lowering the gain on the mic and pushing it back from the guitar. Even so, I still woofed it a bit.

The difference between the bracing, though, is interesting. An average parlor box has three ladder braces on the top below the soundhole -- two "above" the bridge and one "below" it on the lower bout... with a thin spruce bridge plate/strapping brace running across the top in the same width (thin side) as the bridge itself. The bracing on this guitar has two braces below the soundhole -- one directly below the soundhole and one below the bridge. The bridge plate/strapping brace on this is still the same thickness (like a layer of soundboard material) on this, but its size is changed to a large rectangle that fits between the two braces. This alternate version of the bracing is what gives this guitar its more open-sounding voice and a more refined version of this basic idea can be found on some Vega products in the '40s and '50s.

Work included: a fret level/dress, side dots install, minor cleaning, and fill-plus-recut of the saddle slot along with a new, compensated bone saddle. This had some work done on it in the past which included a neck reset (a good job) and a bridge reglue. The saddle slot had been filled in the past, too, but when the repairman put in the new saddle they still kept the slot straight! This time around I refilled it and cut a new, compensated, drop-in slot for easy maintenance. The neck is straight, it plays with bang-on 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action, and it's strung with 54w-12 gauges.

Scale length: 25"
Nut width: 1 13/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 9/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2 1/4"
Body length: 17 3/4"
Lower bout width: 13 1/4"
Upper bout width: 9 3/4"
Side depth at endpin: 3 5/8"
Top wood: solid birch
Back/sides wood: solid birch
Bracing type: ladder
Fretboard: maple, stained?
Bridge: rosewood
Neck feel: big C-shape, flat board

Condition notes: amazingly, there are no cracks, but it does show plenty of wear and tear throughout with scratches and small dings everywhere. The finish is damaged on the back but... that's sort-of the style of these. I've never seen one that was clean and the OS finish type always crackles, alligators, or mugs-up over time. Originally this would've had Hawaiian-tuning learner's stickers all over the fretboard but the last repairman removed them and sealed the board. The fretboard extension drops away from the main board's plane just a teensy bit after the 14th fret. It appears to be all-original save the saddle and side dots. The original brass frets on these are never as smooth as modern frets, so if you're the type of player who presses really hard on fretted slides, you may not appreciate that.








The saddle is plenty-tall which gives room for later adjustments.










Comments

Brandon McCoy said…
Shoot me an email or call me—I want this!
Andrew M said…
Great guitar. Haven’t seen a conservatory with a moustache bridge before. I would loved to have spent a day in the Schmidt factory. I have a rope Stella with spruce top, birch sides and mahogany back. When you’re pile of parts runs low just reach over and grab some off another pile. Just get them built!
Unknown said…
Oh man I'd love this, but international shipping and (Brazilian?) rosewood makes me nervous. Great blog.