I got into vintage guitars not so many years ago because I liked the blues sound of the old Oscar Schmidt Stella guitars. I ended up with about 30 vintage guitars from all different makers, plus others I bought and sold on. I’ll feature some of these guitars and others I’ve come across. It’s usually the case that the history of their makers is just as interesting as the guitars.
Some of the guitars that will be featured in individual posts in this section:
A hundred and twenty-year-old guitar that is an impressive survivor of an era before electricity.
The vintage Bay State guitars were made from about 1887 to 1904 by the John C. Haynes Company in Boston. If you want to know more about the history of Bay State Guitars and the different models and dating of the serial numbers, check out the links to the two pages I have made in conjunction with luthier Sylvan Wells, who owns the Bay State Guitar name:
While I am merely a hobbyist when it comes to working with wood, it is something I have done my whole life. I don’t have a lot of specialized tools, but I do like precision, so I try to work out methods of doing things that work for me.
Cutting the ‘valleys’ accurately into the guitar bridge blank goes a long way in determining how well a finished bridge will look. I’ve made probably 30-40 guitar bridges, and when I first started I was not comfortable using a drill or a small sanding drum to make these valleys. I didn’t give me enough control.
So, I made a simple jig to sand the valleys by hand, as will be explained a bit further on in this Post. I’m sure there are many other ways to make these pyramid bridges, so take from these posts what you will. I hope someone finds it useful.
There are many styles of pyramid bridges, and it makes sense to individually craft them for a particular guitar.
In the next 3 Posts (Parts 2, 3 and 4) I’ll demonstrate how I make each of these different pyramid bridges.
I believe this style came into use about 1910 but I am open for correction. I really like this style of pyramid bridge. It was used by many manufacturers including Oscar Schmidt. By the 1930’s most manufacturers had phased out using this style (most likely to save on costs) replacing it with a simpler made bridge.
Part 3. Truncated Pyramid Style (or Chicago) Bridge.
Truncated just means ‘shortened’- by cutting off the top of the pyramid in this case. It’s also called a ‘Chicago’ style bridge because it is the bridge Lyon & Healy (one of the first guitar manufacturers based in Chicago in about 1880’s) first put on their early Washburn guitars. Used by many manufacturers including Martin, Weymann, Regal, and Harmony up until about 1930. Continue reading “HOW TO MAKE PYRAMID GUITAR BRIDGES- Part 3.”→
A pyramid bridge from the 19th Century is characterized by the elongated pyramids on the ends. Used on 1800’s Martin and Bay State guitars plus others.
Keep in mind that pyramid bridges can look very different from maker to maker. You can also buy a ready-made pyramid bridge online from Stewmac.com and others, but I like to tailor-make them. There are other sites online showing how they make a pyramid bridge, but once I’ve made the jig to cut the valleys, the bridge is relatively easy and quick to make, and the results are accurate. Because they are all hand made with minimal electric tools, it gives me more control and I have very few rejects.
This 19th Century style pyramid bridge I am making here will be a stylized version of the 19th century pyramid bridge for a beautiful c.1890’s Bay State Grand Concert guitar I have.
The term decal is the shortened version of the word ‘decalcomania’, which is the English pronunciation of the French word décalcomanie. It entails the transferring of a printed image on paper onto ceramic, wood or any other material. The image is then varnished over to protect it from damage.
OSCAR SCHMIDT and other makers using DECALCOMANIA
“With decals, inlaid marquetry can be closely imitated and various shades of wood and even pearl can be reproduced with exactness.” In the USA, from the end of the 1890’s, this decoration was used on pianos, mandolins, guitars and zithers etc. Music Trade Review 10 Aug 1899 p.16.Continue reading “DECALCOMANIA (DECALS) – Guitar Decoration Pt. 1”→
OSCAR SCHMIDT (1857 – 1929)
W. F. (Frederick) MENZENHAUER (1858 – 1937)
The Oscar Schmidt company was founded in the late 1890’s and incorporated in 1911. They are best known for the Zithers they produced in the early 1900’s, and for their early guitars, particularly the Stella label, and their 12-string guitars, which are still favored and sought after by blues players today (see Footnote 1.).
John Church can thank the generosity of Oliver Ditson for his success in business.
Oliver Ditson set up successful businesses and allowed his managers to take them over. This was the case with John C. Haynes, Boston, who made ‘Tilton Improvement’, Bay State, Excelsior and Hub Guitars. Also with George Lyon and Patrick Healy, Chicago, who under the Lyon & Healy name became the biggest manufacturer of stringed instruments in the early part of the 20th century.
Oliver Ditson also set up a music branch in Cincinnati managed by John Church. Somewhere between 1859 or 1871 (accounts are conflicting) John Church was signed over as the owner and he incorporated The John Church Company in 1885. He had a retail arm of all things musical, specializing in pianos and sheet music, and a small manufacturing arm producing the ‘Imperial’ label of instruments.
SAMUEL C. OSBORN (1875 – 1922) (From information obtained from Music Trade Review and Presto as well as the 1920 Samuel Osborne Mfg. Co. Catalog).
The life of the Samuel C. Osborn Manufacturing Company is a short one, barely 6 years. The company made stringed instruments and specialized in koa wood guitars and ukuleles under the SammO and SammoS labels. They also sold mandolins, ukulele banjos and pianoettes (a form of zither). Different sites on the web will tell you the company started in 1897, but this is not the case as there is a small paragraph in the MUSIC TRADE REVIEW (1916) reporting on the company’s incorporation in 1916. This is backed up from text in the 1920 Osborn catalog).
With a production date of 1920 or earlier this all koa wood guitar would have been one of the early all koa guitars made on the mainland of the US. It was made by The Samuel C. Osborn Manufacturing Company.
There has been conjecture that Osborn guitars were jobbed out to other companies such as The Oscar Schmidt Company or Harmony, however this guitar has very distinctive look, unlike these and other makers at the time.