1899 Vega 00-Size Flattop Guitar

Now that's a guitar, right? Compatriots of mine basically rescued this (via a luthier friend of theirs) from a dumpster, essentially. I mean, really? I know tons of people who would be tickled to their demise to have a 00-size, Brazilian-rosewood-backed, Boston-made Vega from the turn of the century. And let's be frank: it's a lovely guitar.

It needed some work (the neck joint was damaged and the top under the bridge was damaged, among other things), but now that the work is done it's just lovely. The sound is lush, full, warm, and pretty deep for its size and time. It was made for gut strings and so classical strings are what a guitar like this needs to stay healthy. Luckily, Thomastik makes the hybrid KR116 set which is rope-core-steel but classical-string tension/intonation -- so you can get a fingerpicking steel-string sound/practicality without killing an old gut-strung guitar. That set is what's on it right now.

While Vega guitar serial numbers are often a little vague timeline-wise in the '20s, I believe that the serial on this matches their banjo serial numbers charts -- placing it at 1899 or perhaps 1900. It has the non-screwed-in gears for the tuners and the build style, trim, details, and gold/silver-black/shiny label all correlate to bowlback mandolins of theirs I've dated to the same time. So, yes, I think the timeframe is accurate to the serial on this guy.

What more to say? Despite finish flaws and the mentioned needed repairs from a century-plus of use, it's really otherwise in pretty good shape. I only had to cleat a couple of small hairline cracks below the bridge and all the bracing was tight and good to go -- something very surprising for a guitar of this age. These were not cheap guitars when they were built, either -- it would've been in the price range of a Martin, Washburn, Weymann, or the like. They're professional instruments.

Repairs included: a neck reset and bolt reinforcement (it's a tenon joint), fret level/dress, bridge reglue and patch-up of damaged top under bridge, new ebony bridge pins, cleats for two hairline cracks, cleaning, side dots install, and setup.

Made by: Vega

Made in: Boston, MA, USA

Serial number: 18805

Top wood: solid spruce

Back & sides wood: solid Brazilian rosewood

Bracing type: ladder (light, sculpted)

Bridge: ebony

Fretboard: ebony

Neck wood: mahogany

Tone: rich, clean, sweet, warm, full, articulate

Action height at 12th fret: 3/32” bass to hair-over 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: Thomastik KR116 classical hybrids (or use normal nylon)

Neck shape: medium C/soft V

Board radius: 12" or so

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: small/low

Scale length: 25"

Nut width: 1 13/16"

Body length: 19 1/2"

Body width: 14 1/2"

Body depth: 4 1/2"

Condition notes: two repaired hairline cracks on the top below the bridge, average usewear throughout and lots of finish checking/aging (but still pretty glossy/pretty), old 1910s-era tailpiece shadow, repaired top under the bridge, replacement bridge pins, new side dots, minor finish blem around heel (where I knocked the neck-angle back and exposed the previously-glued side of the tenon), etc...


Unknown said…
Beautiful Brazilian!
Thanks for the video. I'd like to hear your thoughts on installing those KR116s on a kid-sized classical guitar.
The guitar is unused, and I want to make it a travel guitar.