1932 National Style O Resonator Guitar

A consignor sent this bucket of bolts in for a spruce-up and resale. Its serial places it at 1932 and it's the usual "palm-trees-n-seas" etched-body Style O from the time. It's 12 frets to the body and while the nickel plating has aged (you can barely see the etched patterns) and is worn all over the place with mild scratching and tons of playwear, it has only a very few pinpoint minor dings along the edges. That's a first for me on an old National -- almost all of them have some sort of hefty ding somewhere.

When this came in, I immediately realized that the original cone that came with it looked good from outside the coverplate, but once the coverplate was off you could see it'd been crushed a number of times, the bottom edge had been bent-over enough times that it was mostly missing, and someone had tried to shore the damage up by stitching a ring of steel along its foot. So -- first order of business was to order a new National RP "Hot Rod" cone and biscuit. The next big problem was that the original (ebonized maple) fretboard was so damaged, neglected, and messed-up that it needed to be replaced. This stuff dries-out like crazy over time and becomes mealy and unstable. So -- an order from LMII of a 25" scale rosewood board was placed.

Now that it's done-up, this thing sounds excellent. It has a direct, very loud, punchy voice. It's so loud that I had to turn down my mic a bunch and I still managed to woof it here and there in the video clip. These Style Os have more of a brrraap attack to them that resolves more on the fundamental than something like a Duolian or Triolian which seem to have more reverby ring to them that can sometimes be distracting. It makes both a great chordal banger or a lead/fill picker. With bare fingers, this thing fingerpicks warm and sweet, but with metal picks it's a hell-raiser.

Work included: neck level/plane, new rosewood fretboard install (with jumbo/pyramid frets, zero fret, and bone "guide" nut), new NRP cone install and compensation/fitting of the new biscuit bridge, general cleaning, and a "Jake-style" neck reset/adjustment to the internal dowel and soundposts. This latter bit has me make the neck-to-body joint a lot more rigid in the same way that I'll make old banjo neck/body joints a lot tighter and firmer. These are essentially constructed like a big banjo, so by adding an extra "island" or "soundpost" near the heel and under the dowel on the inside, the instrument's neck doesn't move-around or twist as much with regular use and abuse. Suffice to say, the neck is dead-straight and it plays spot-on with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret. The neck's original steel internal rod is doing well, too.

Scale length: 25"
Nut width: 1 7/8"
String spacing at nut: 1 5/8"
String spacing at bridge: 2 1/8"
Body length: 19 5/8"
Lower bout width: 14"
Upper bout width:  10 1/8"
Side depth at endpin: 3 1/4"
Fretboard: replacement rosewood
Bridge: all-maple, painted-black, fully-compensated
Neck feel: medium-big C-shape, 10-12" radius board

Condition notes: all of the hardware-mounting small screws are relic'd new ones as most of the old ones were missing or stripped. The only original screw on this is the one for the endpin/tailpiece holder. Much of the etched finish is worn-enough that the etching is hard to see, but you gain a fierce amount of "mojo" in return -- check out how the pickwear wore into the plating of the top abd "brassed"-up! That's good-looking playwear. The cone is a replacement NRP ($80) cone. The tuners are half-original and half-non-original, but period. The treble-side tuners are the "wrong side" but otherwise look right. They turn in the reverse manner but aren't an issue for stability. It's just aesthetic. If I had something better-looking in my parts-bins I would've swapped them out. The fretboard, frets, and pearl-dot board inlay are all non-original. The handstrap/bridge cover was unsoldered when it came in, so I "modernized" it with two non-original sheet metal screws for attachment so it's removable (like on modern Nationals) for setup adjustments. This is a player's guitar so this is a player's choice. I absolutely hate having to remove a whole coverplate just to get at the saddle for fine-tuning or action adjustments. One last bit -- there's a tiny repaired hairline crack in the headstock waaaay at the upper-edge above the treble-side tuners. It's stable and I've countersunk reinforcement in it as well.

It comes with: its original, destroyed cone -- and an old chip case.

While the zero fret and lack of binding are non-original, the new fretboard gives this instrument some modern edges -- a 10" radius on the board, longer length of the frets (and thus more room to bend on the neck), and the zero fret means no need to deal with action adjustments on the nut-side of the instrument (height only needs to be adjusted at the bridge, now).

The neck has what feels like one shot of overspray on it that was done ages ago. It's definitely all "part of the whole" finish, because the back of the neck has some seriously-cool crackle/checking/weirdness to it.

Note that the National decal is damaged at the headstock, but the outline remains.

I love how the pickwear has highlighted the etched palm-leaves pattern near the f-holes.

There's a little airspace right near where the neck joins the body and under the first couple frets of the extension. This is because when I make the joint more rigid with my "island" under the dowel and wedging into the back, it pushes the (often-loosely-fitting) joint with the dowel up and exposes this. There's no worry about this, as inside everything is buttoned-up and stable. These have a monstrous dowel coming out of the neck in this section.

At the moment, I haven't shimmed-up the fretboard extension on top and so it slopes down away from the plane of the strings after the 15th fret. If you're playing that high up the body, I can totally shim it up for you, but for most players I find that having it drop-down is better -- especially if you plan to do slide work up in these regions with a bottleneck.