1930s Viola da Terra Hawaiian 12-String Lap Guitar Conversion

This poor viola da terra has been kicking in and out of the shop since 2017 -- at which point I'd done what I could to make it into a "normal" player for its owner. He sent it back here for "figuring-out" (into a Hawaiian lap-steel-style guitar) a year later and then back again last year for "figuring-out-to-pasture."

Since it's been back, now, I yanked-off the falling-off remains of the original mustache bridge, added a new (wider) raised nut, an old '30s tailpiece, made a new rosewood bridge for it, added replacement  (1960s Harmony-style -- the originals were '30s units) tuners and fixed some headstock damage, and set it up as a better "lap-slide 12-string." I had to do something with it as it's been staring at me from the repair racks and crying-out to be loved again for quite some time.

It's currently tuned GBDGBD low to high with octaves on the GBDG strings. It takes a bit to get used to having to hold the bar "just-so" to keep the string pairs in tune with one another, but it's pretty dang fun to play it after you get used to it. It has a dry, zippy, leaping, '20s sort-of voice that's sing-songy and sweet. There's no worry about not being heard in a small jam... and while you're jamming, you're making the whole group sound like an old Mickey Mouse cartoon, too!

Repairs included: a new tailpiece ('30s), new bridge, new wide nut, replacement ('60s Harmony-style) tuners, mild repair to a previously-much-repaired headstock, two old side hairline crack repairs (not mine, but good), minor filling of holes from where the old bridge (screwed to the top!) sat, etc...

Setup notes: it's a Hawaiian-style guitar... action's high, clearly, as the strings are raised for slide play. Gauges are 24w/50w, 16/38w, 13/30w, 10/24w, 16/16, 13/13 low to high for GBDGBD tuning.

Scale length: 21"
String spacing at nut: 2 1/8"
String spacing at bridge: 2 1/2"
Body length: 17 1/4"
Lower bout width: 12"
Waist width: 7 1/2"
Upper bout width: 9 1/2"
Side depth at endpin: 3 3/8"
Top wood: solid (spruce?)
Back/sides wood: mahogany sides, ply birch back
Bracing type: ladder
Fretboard: rosewood-like
Bridge: new rosewood
Neck feel: big C-shape, flat board, raised strings

Condition notes: it has a mess of old headstock repairs (all OK, now), the original mustache bridge is gone, and it looks like the whole thing was refinished sometime in the '80s. It's also... clearly... modified a bunch.


CM said…
I'm thinkin' David Lindley needs this sweet puppy, high on a hilltop lookin' over his native Pomona.....