1950s Vega Arthur Godfrey Solo Lute Tenor Guitar Conversion




These old Solo Lutes are a bit hard to find. Vega only made them for a short while. They were built as baritone ukes at the factory but have a longer scale length (and more fret access) than other Vega baritone ukes -- 21" -- the same as early tenor guitars. With normal baritone uke strings, this 2" of extra scale length pushes the tension on those strings up to in the same range as your average lighter-gauged steel-string tenor guitar set would.

As a result, the Solo Lutes are unusual beasts because their necks are a little tougher and their bracing and tops are a little stiffer, too. This makes for a baritone uke experience that's sort-of punchy and zippy -- ideal for, you know, solo-ing on your Solo Lute.

I've always wanted the chance to convert one over for use as a steel-string tenor guitar and when I saw this very-pickworn guy for sale, recently, I jumped at the chance. It needed a lot of work, but I loved the look and it was entirely worth setting it up this way. Its tone is chimey, rich, sustained, and clean -- and it records easily. It sounds particularly good for fingerpicking.

I have it currently strung like a low-G soprano/concert ukulele with GCEA tuning low to high, but there's no reason this couldn't be used for standard CGDA tuning with a restring or "Chicago" DGBE tuning with a restring and slight adjustment to the saddle.

One other nice bit about these? They look killer. I love the red-burst finish over the mahogany body/top and the fancy, block-pearl inlay in the rosewood fretboard.

Repairs included: a neck reset w/bolt reinforcement interally (these have tenon joints), board plane and refret with jumbo stock (the long jumbo tangs add compression/stiffness to the neck), strap buttons install, side dots install, bridge reglue, saddle compensation/adjustment, cleaning, and setup.

Setup notes: it plays perfectly with a straight neck and 1/16" action at the 12th fret. String gauges are 22w, 16, 12, 9 low to high. It's fun to play this in "uke" tuning (I have a spare set of strings for this already in the case), but for CGDA users, one would just need to restring to 32w, 22w, 13, 9.

Scale length: 21"
Nut width: 1 7/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/4"
String spacing at bridge: 1 11/16"
Body length: 12 7/8"
Lower bout width: 9 5/8"
Waist width: 6 3/8"
Upper bout width: 7 5/8"
Side depth at endpin: 3 1/8"
Top wood: solid mahogany
Back/sides wood: solid mahogany
Neck wood: mahogany
Bracing type: fan + ladder
Fretboard: dark rosewood, synthetic nut
Bridge: rosewood, bone saddle
Neck feel: medium C-shape, flat board

Condition notes: it has lots of weather-checking and finish cracks throughout, but there are no actual cracks in the instrument. There's a ton of pickwear near the soundhole and mild usewear throughout. The bridge has two small filled holes in the wings from where someone tried to reglue it in the past using bolts -- sigh! Everything is original on the instrument but the saddle is modified. Its height can be adjusted to taste up/down with shims if need be.

It comes with: its original chip case in OK condition. It's good enough for storage or very light travel.


















Comments

Ed Gilkison said…
Perfect - I love it! Just what I am looking for !
Claude said…
"Personally designed by Arthur Godfrey"
Truly?