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Fliss 03-04-2010 11:13 AM

Parlour project - beginner DIY!
I should say from the start that I have next to no woodworking skills, and my luthiery knowledge is about the same (I did resurrect a dead mandolin a couple of years ago, with help from some kind folks on Mandolin Cafe!) But I wanted to get a vintage parlour, and thought it might be fun to buy one that needs some work, and use it as a learning experience. On the plus side, I'm aware of my ignorance and I am good at listening and taking advice, so I'll be grateful for any guidance and support anyone would care to offer :)

My project parlour is a little beauty that I picked up via e-bay for around the price of a fairly average/cheap hard case. It needs quite a lot of work, but it is very pretty! I love the shape of the fretboard end and the purfling rosette:

From that pic, you might spot something significant that's missing - frets! I'm told that taking the frets out is a horrible job, so the good news is that I don't have to do that.

Here's a pic of the stunning flame maple back:

The more observant viewers may have noticed something else that's missing - tuners! The seller did provide them, but with the recommendation that it will need new ones. The old ones are lovely, but they just look a bit worn, so I can see why I might be better replacing them. Here they are:

A couple of other things that are missing: bridge and tailpiece. The seller reckoned the top is cedar - what do you folks think?

More pics to follow!


Fliss 03-04-2010 11:25 AM

Another thing that's missing is a section of binding on the back:

But the body is basically pretty solid (though very light!) and the neck join looks good:

I'm not totally sure about the neck angle yet, but as far as I can tell, the fretboard is dead flat. Here's a side view:

So, all in all, a nice looking little parlour, possibly made in Germany around 1950 (?) beautiful wood, and it looks well-made. The real questions are: is it too big a job for a beginner to tackle? (I'm hoping not, with a little help!) and - will it need a neck re-set, because if it does, I think that might make it too big a job.

It definitely needs:
- new tuners
- frets
- a patch repair to the edging
- bridge
- tailpiece
- a new nut (the nut is missing)
- strings (possibly stating the obvious but I need to enumerate these things!)
- and it would benefit from a polish to remove some scratches from the finish. I don't know what kind of varnish it would have been, but as you can see in the photos, there's quite a high gloss finish on the back and sides, and apparantly no finish at all on the top.

I think I've located a tailpiece and possibly bridge. I'll welcome any comments and advice, particularly on things like where to find guidance on how to do the jobs that needs doing, and what sequence I should approach them in.


J.R. Rogers 03-04-2010 12:34 PM

That's a beautiful little guitar to try to restore. I really like the fretboard end. The neck and fretboard looks nice and flat. I'll be watching this one. :up:


arie 03-04-2010 02:35 PM

Were it mine, I would start like this:

fretboard, frets, and nut
bridge and tailpiece
final setup

1. Assuming that all the bracing and kerfing is intact and not loose, I'd dress the fretboard up, check and re-size all the fret slots, install suitable frets, and dress them.

2. Fit up a suitable nut -rough it into shape but don't cut the slots just yet.

3. Locate suitable tuners, (lmi has some vintage style things that look old but really aren't) and install.

4. Get an adjustable bridge and a trapeze tail piece and install.

5. Clean up that area of missing binding and graft something suitable in. Cut the seams of the donor piece at an angle and glue up with ca.

6. Deal with the finish. Seal up the raw wood with something like diluted shellac or equivalent. Buff, polish or do whatever but I would probably keep the original finish on it. It most likely is laquer.

7. String it up and cut the nut slots.

8. Make all final adjustments and enjoy.

The above assumes that you want a playing guitar with a reasonable amount of work and are not going for a fully restored museum piece.

Fliss 03-04-2010 03:47 PM

J.R. - thanks for your nice comments :) I can't promise that this will be a quick project, as I'm going to be learning pretty much from scratch, but I will update as I go along.

Arie, thank you so much for setting out a programme for me, that makes a lot of sense. The bracing etc all seems very solid, so it ooks like the next thing I need to do is find out about frets.


martinedwards 03-05-2010 04:03 AM

I'm in work and can't see the pics (shouldn't be looking at all, but still!!) but from your descriptions it sounds doable.

the SCARY bits of this lark are bending sides and cutting fret solts, neither of which you need to do.

things to beware of?

support when you are fitting the frets.

support under the neck or you could snap off the headstock.

the awkward ones are the frets on the fingerboard on the top. hammer these in, with the guitar sitting on a table top and you are likely to smash right through the top!

either get a bent bar that toy can clamp to the bench so that it fits through the soundhole and supports directly under fretboard, or else hold the whole thing up in the air and support it with your fingers inside the top. each tap with the hammer will make the whole thing recoil downwards against your hand, but as it's up in the air it wont collapse the top. it'll take ten times as many taps with the hammer, but it's safer......

of course you could invest in a a Jaws fret tool, but its $130 plus post from stewmac

martinedwards 03-05-2010 10:29 AM

Now I see the pics....

PM me your addy & I'll send you an offcut of rosewood binding.

I MIGHT even put a bit of a curve on it for you............

Wolf 03-05-2010 11:37 AM

To tell if it's cedar in the top, smell it. Cedar smells like old pensils, wich's made of it. My seagull smells gooood!

Fliss 03-05-2010 11:57 AM


Originally Posted by martinedwards (Post 2149942)
...PM me your addy & I'll send you an offcut of rosewood binding.

I MIGHT even put a bit of a curve on it for you............

Thanks Martin, that's very kind! PM sent :) Thanks also for the advice about the fretting, that's very useful.

Wolf, it doesn't have a strong smell, but it does have something of that kind of smell, so it might be.

I've been having a look on, which is full of useful advice and instructions, so I now have a much clearer idea of what's involved in putting the frets in. I think that's going to be the most difficult part of the job, so perhaps it's best that it comes first. But I decided it would be sensible to get some professional advice, so I'm going to take it to see locally-based luthier Matthew Bascetta (who made my redwood/walnut parlour) and get a little help/advice from him :)

At the moment, one of my big concerns is that the cost of tools to do the frets might be so high as to make it more sensible for me to simply pay Matthew to do that part of the job, but I'd like to try and do it if I can. Matthew will also help me to source some of the bits and pieces I need such as the tuners - he does use LMI, so he could easily obtain the ones arie mentioned.


martinedwards 03-05-2010 03:45 PM

Don't worry about the fretting tools being expensive.....

a plastic faced hammer (from a GOOD tool store......maybe even B&Q!) will knock the frets in without risking denting them. a small block of wood would do the job too...... but a regular metal faced hammer will do the job fine and it's what most folks who hammer them in use.

to level the tops, go through ALL the flat files in B&Q. many will a SLIGHT curve to 'em. choose the flattest and use it to scuff off the tops of all the frets. once ALL of them have been roughened at the tip of the crown you know that you've got down to any low ones.

then a long (no less than 8") sanding block and fine wet & dry sand paper. buff the tops shiny and get rid of the file marks. the long block stops you filing one fret lower than the others and messing up all that good file work.

Now you SHOULD recrown the frets using a u shaped file. search ebay for a crowning file... about 30 inc post. BUT you can get away without it. buff them along the fret with 0000 grade steel wool and it'll DO. it's BETTER to recrown them but it'll DO.

a recrowning file wouldn't be a bad thing to have anyway, one level of worn frets without replacing them and you've saved the cost of it.

Larry Pattis 03-05-2010 05:17 PM

I'm fascinated by the cut-out section of the upper fingerboard, since this is something I had done (recessed, not completely cut away) on the upper fingerboard of some recent custom guitars:

I did this so I would not hit my thumb/thumbnail on the frets (or wood) if my right hand was way up over the soundhole, playing to get a very sweet sound.

Again, I am fascinated to see this on the very old parlor guitar.


Fliss 03-05-2010 06:09 PM

Martin, thanks very much for the useful info. This is exactly the kind of thing I need!

Larry, I've seen this kind of fretboard cutaway on quite a lot of pictures of old parlours. I've seen something similar on one or two Ovations too! I can't understand why it isn't more common, I think it's a really good idea. I'm looking forward to getting to play this little parlour, as I tend to like playing in that position too, for the same reason, so I think if this little parlour turns out to have a pleasing tone, it may well end up being a very good player for me!


Coke_zero 03-05-2010 06:36 PM

Woo another parlour. Glad you decided to join in Fliss. I would PM some of the guys from here and maybe join (if not a member already) Some of them have brought back guitars 100x worse off than that so you are in with a good job there. Hope you has as much fun as I have making my own guitar.

Just for your info Fliss, there are two guys on eBay who sell woods, tools and things like binding etc. If you search "luthier" or "tonewood" a lot of stuff pings up. Just don't touch the dreadnought mould I'm after ;).

SnoSkiDrew 03-05-2010 09:29 PM


Originally Posted by martinedwards (Post 2149670)

the awkward ones are the frets on the fingerboard on the top. hammer these in, with the guitar sitting on a table top and you are likely to smash right through the top!

One quick question from a no-experience noob--- since it would indeed be risky to hammer in the frets while the fretboard is glued to the guitar, wouldn't it make a lot more sense to cut the slots and insert the frets before gluing on the fretboard?

EDIT: Just saw that her parlor guitar has the fretboard already glued on.. doh! I guess my thinking would generally be correct in a "from-scratch" build?

martinedwards 03-06-2010 01:09 AM

from a scratch build DEFINITELY!!

I've only put the frets in after attaching the neck once.

NEVER again!!

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