1920s Lyon & Healy Style 5265 Baritone Ukulele Conversion

I worked on this instrument so long ago that I can't even find the original blog post for it. It's a lovely box and was made by Lyon & Healy as a tenor guitar with a shape that they thought would suit tenor banjo players better. The pear shape was popular among a number of early tenor guitar makes, but it fell out of fashion pretty fast and most tenor guitars these days are guitar-shaped. I'm pretty sure Regal made a lot of these instruments for Lyon & Healy, but I can't confirm it.

When I originally bought it off of eBay or wherever I found it, I noticed immediately that it wasn't going to be useful for steel strings as it was supposedly designed-for. The neck was cut thin and shallow and so the tension would undermine it. The top would probably handle steel just fine, but it's definitely a lightly-cut top. So, when I did-over this instrument I converted it to a baritone ukulele with a glued-on bridge, basically. For a few years it saw use tuned GDAE low to high like an octave mandolin and actually played in a classical mandolin ensemble. Later, I restrung it tuned like a baritone ukulele but with a high D and all-plain strings -- and that's how it sits now.

Tonally, it's a on the bright and clear side but with good depth to each note. It reminds me a lot of the sound of Kamaka baritones, really -- a clean shimmer with good warmth behind it. It's a lot of fun to fingerpick and strum.

There were a number of old repairs done to it before I even received it the first time, but after those and mine the end result is that this is a great-playing, easy-going instrument and it's been stable in service for 10 years, now, as I've seen it on and off through a couple different owners.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress some time ago, replacement dot inlay for the fretboard (the original inlay was all missing), cleats for old hairline cracks on the back and top, install of a vintage (1930s) uke bridge to the top, general cleaning, 4:1 geared banjo pegs install at the headstock (using vintage ivoroid buttons), bone nut, and setup.

Setup notes: action is 3/32" at the 12th fret, the neck is straight, and strings are (as I recall) D'Addario "carbon" uke strings with a thicker 2nd (low) string -- but not one of their newer fluorocarbon sets. I would probably use one of their newer tenor fluorocarbon sets on this now to get this re-entrant dGBE baritone tuning now.

Scale length: 22 3/4"
Nut width: 1 1/8"
String spacing at nut: 15/16"
String spacing at bridge: 1 3/4"
Body length: 15 3/4"
Lower bout width: 11 5/8"
Side depth at deepest: 3 3/8"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: solid mahogany
Neck wood: Spanish cedar or mahogany
Fretboard: ebonized maple
Bridge: '40s or '50s Harmony uke bridge, probably poplar
Neck feel: slim C-shape, flat board

Condition notes: the whole instrument was refinished at some point (or topcoated with a brush) in the distant past. There are plenty of small dings and nicks throughout but they're not too obvious. The top has a cluster of hairline cracks in the bridge area that extend to the lower bout and the back has a big cracked/possibly replaced section. All of these have been dealt with and cleated/sealed either by me or other repairmen in the past. The original inlay in the fretboard is long gone but I replaced it years ago with simple dot inlay to approximate it. The tuners and bridge are non-original and there are filled holes from where this used to have a tailpiece when it was used as a tenor guitar. The headstock has a couple repaired light hairline cracks in it and the headstock veneer has many little dryness cracks that are not structural issues at all.

The back has this section of mahogany that was repaired. I'm not sure if it was replaced or if the discoloration is simply due to refinishing. I'm guessing it's the latter.