1950s Vega Arthur Godfrey Solo Lute Tenor Guitar Conversion

A customer of mine saw the last Solo Lute I modified from a baritone ukulele into a tenor guitar and said to himself, "hey, I want some-o-that!" -- so sent it here to get modded-up. This was a quick job I could do between other instruments with more serious wounds, so it got turned-around faster than average.

Like the last one, it needed a neck reset, new saddle, and fretwork -- but that was it. Now that it's done-up it's chimey, sounds amazing as a fingerpicker, and has a new lease on life. I find this model of instrument really appealing visually and also appealing neck-u-ally (look at all that fret access... and the 21" scale!), but sonically when strung as a baritone uke they're only so-so. They're kind-of stiff-sounding and the long scale puts a lot of tension on the average bari-uke set with its double-wound low strings. They feel stiffer to play than your average steel set because of it.

I strung it up DGBE (bari-uke-style) for its owner, but that may change.

Vegas were made in Boston, MA at this time.

Repairs included: a neck reset, fret level/dress, new bone saddle, cleaning, and setup.

Setup notes: action is low/fast at 1/16" at the 12th fret. Strings are 30w, 20w, 16, 12 gauges. In the clip you can hear that poor 20w get slapped-around by my super-heavy pick a bit!

Scale length: 21"
Nut width: 1 1/2"
String spacing at nut: 1 3/16"
String spacing at bridge: 1 3/4"
Body length: 13"
Lower bout width: 9 3/4"
Waist width: 6 1/2"
Upper bout width: 7 3/4"
Side depth at endpin: 3 1/4"
Top wood: solid mahogany
Back/sides wood: solid mahogany
Bracing type: fan
Fretboard: rosewood
Bridge: rosewood
Neck feel: medium C-shape, flat board

Condition notes: aside from the saddle, it's all-original and in good order. The finish shows normal heavy weather-check throughout but it's still nice and glossy and relatively unblemished aside from that. It's interesting to note that while the last one of these I worked-on had pearl block-inlay in the fretboard, this one has celluloid blocks. Odd!


Joe Dan Boyd said…
At the last minute, I asked Jake to string it to EAC#F#, the tuning favored by Wendell Hall for the Taraguitar and a tuning I have used for many years on other 4-string instruments. On this Solo Lute, I find the sweet spot with capo on the third fret which gives me a C tuning with great sound and playability. For now it's my go-to instrument. The difference between now and before, with baritone ukulele strings and tuning, is remarkable. BTW, this same tuning works well on my Favilla baritone uke strung with Ken Middleton's Living Water bari uke strings. JOE DAN BOYD