Curtis Rogers National Part III
Now that major work on the neck is done Tom can fit the neck angel and reattach it to the body. Using a straight edge the neck angle is determined. The dowel stick gets trimmed and shims are used along with the original wood jacks to get the angle correct.
With the fingerboard glued on but before fretting Tom added the white star inlay at the first fret and the ivoroid dots like the original. The maple board is relatively soft so the frets are hammered in and glued to make sure they remain solid. Next they are leveled, crowned and polished.
Notice the generous amount of wood putty filling in divots in the old fingerboard, one of the reasons it had to be replaced.
Here the fingerboard has been fretted and the dye applied. The original fingerboards were made from a light colored very crumbly wood that was pressure dyed. The dye goes all the way though the wood and over the years turns dark brown. The old fingerboard smells like creosote and is very crispy. We find that black leather dye works well to recreate the look. At this point the neck is attached for the last time. The dirt and dust was cleaned from the cone. Tom then assembles it without the coverplate to check the action.
In this case the original saddle had not been messed with and is usable. Often they have been cut down and require replacement. In fact the coverplate had never been removed from this guitar prior to the restoration, amazing!. Once the guitar is strung to tension with .013 gauge strings Tom checks the action and playability. Once satisfied the coverplate is installed and it's on to the next step. Although often used for slide it is a common misnomer that Nationals can't be set-up to play effortlessly for fretted styles.
One of the most striking features of the guitar is Curtis Roger's name in silver paint on the fingerboard. We decided that retaining this was an important part of the story and just plain cool. The 1930s were the hey-day for singing cowboys and many played guitars adorned with their names in fancy pearl and abalone. The first Martin D-45s and Gibson SJ-200s were made for the flashy western performers. I guess Curtis couldn't afford the $200-$250 for a guitar with his name in pearl. He did have about $30 and some paint and rhinestones though. To match the hand painted lettering we photocopied the original fingerboard. Using a pin the design was transferred to the fingerboard and drawn out with colored pencil. We chose One-Shot sign paint since it has been around since the 30s and the silver color matches perfectly.
Notice the fingerboard end now wears a pyramid of rhinestones to match the original.
The name will get another coat of paint and a final clean-up. It should be done in the next few days. Check back for more pictures of the finished product.
Note the Leadbelly model Stella 12-String in the back. That will be the subject of the next restoration feature.