How I became the proud owner of a 1920's Oscar Schmidt Parlour Guitar
I received a phone call from my mate Tony a few weeks ago. He was pretty happy with a cheapy guitar he had just purchased (for the grand sum of $20) at a shed that a guy was clearing junk out of.
He said he thought it was maybe 70's but wondered what I thought? I had stopped playing guitar and really wasn't that interested at the time as I was busy with something else and only had a quick look.
He rang a bit later and was getting a bit more excited about it as he thought that the MOP was real. I asked him about the machine heads and the level of finish inside and thought it was a bit older, maybe 40's... cool!... interest raised.
He was deciding what to do with it when he did a little research and came back with it being 1920's... Holy shit you gotta fix it!
He told me it was going to take a fair bit of work and stuff we haven't done before. We have been modifying, rebuilding and setting up guitars for years and between us have some pretty good skills.
Neither of us had done a neck reset on an acoustic guitar before and by the pics it definitely was going to need one.
Once it's rarity had been discovered we talked about what was best to do, maybe sell it.
My vote was.. Fix it!, I gotta hear it.
By the time I got off the phone I realized that bastard got me back into guitars again!..He sealed the deal when he said I can have it if I come up river and we can get it fixed.
I was up there ASAP...
Once I got there and we went over it a bit, it was obvious that it was genuine and was really pretty solid. Tony had been giving it a dose of moisture and the crack had begun to tighten up already.
It had been left in it's tomb for god knows how long with the strings wound up real tight.
This had caused all the damage, the bridge was lifting, the sound hole was noticeably sunken and the neck angle was miles out.
On the plus side, it was amazingly original and had very little signs of wear. The fret board had virtually no grooves and the machine heads and even the screws were like new.
We made a plan of attack and started stripping it...
Everything went as perfectly as it could with this guitar, the neck and bridge steamed off with a little resistance, and no damage. There was a recurring theme which soon became clear during this restoration ...
"This guitar really wanted to be heard again"
One of the first things that became obvious was that removing the neck seemed to take a lot of tension off the body and made aligning the crack easier. We had one loose brace to re-glue, a bit of purfling to repair, and the lions share of the work being stabilizing the crack with some cleats and making the neck pocket tight again by shaving down some wooden shims and lots and lots and I mean LOTS of fiddling. The bridge had some nasty cuts from the strings that were filled. The bridge and neck were then fixed and glued back on. It was all lining up great and starting to feel solid..
Now with the glue well set, the guitar was feeling really solid and all the angles and heights were ideal. Time for some fret work... I spent a full day on the fret board. I did a basic level of a few high frets and the rest was layers and layers of sanding and polishing. Although the MOP was intact it had a few loose pieces and a few high spots. These were glued down and the board and inlay were leveled with a very light oil stone. 600, 800, 1000 and 1200 grade wet n dry were then used in turn followed by medium and fine wire wool and Brasso to finish. They came up like glass and the MOP looks amazing.
The paintwork was polished up with Brasso which is something I have found works great on old guitar paint. I should mention that the large crack in the body never disappeared completely. I spent hours with super glue and a razor blade getting it nice and flat but I did go through the paint a little while blocking it level. We tried getting a color matched stain but it just didn't look right so the next day I sanded it back and left the worn paint look and just polished it up... I like it much better as it's all part of it's story.
Well we came to the big moment.. put some strings on and hold your breath.
How does it sound?...
Unbelievable... huge for a little bodied guitar! And most importantly for me, so bluesy..real authentic! I love it
The action is fairly low and the whole thing just feels solid and really well setup.
It is by far my favorite guitar and I've owned some nice ones.. better than my De'Gruchy, (ended up in the bin) better than my 37 L50 Gibson (Sitting on some old guys shelf) Better than my 41 Kalamazoo, (sold to the same collector) Even tops my old favorite "Lucky" 52 Maton (Which Tony owns now) yep its by far my favorite guitar.. it was a great project... a couple of mates in an Aussie shed rescued a cracker Blues guitar from death row...and now she's going to get her chance to be heard playing Blues again!
I knew this was a Blues dream the first time I played it, the tone is just for days. Man she's beautiful!
I was stoked to find a picture of one of my absolute favorite players Son House playing the exact same model!
I'd stopped playing altogether until I got this guitar.. now I can't put it down..
I really feel like fate stepped in on this one... this guitar is rare in the USA and I can't imagine what the chances are of finding one sitting in a shed in rural South Australia covered in pigeon shit... or the chances of my mate asking the guy if he could have a look around seeing as the op shop he was going to look at was shut... It's all crazy.
Anyway that's the story... big thanks to my mate Tony... now I just have to do it some justice..