1920's Harmony
Roy Smeck
 'Vita' Plectrum Guitar Work page


Check this link for more Vita history

This is the first example I have seen in Plectrum configuration.

Guitar is very dry, with top and back cracks, loose braces, hole in the side, fingerboard cracking and loose.
Binding is gone, etc.
Neck set is tight, and neck plane is flat, workable.
Bridge is tight to the body
With make an access hole where breakage is to effect all inside repairs.
Then make it a decorative sound port.


Stabilizing wood , I'll do inside repairs later

All sealed from outside

Port hole cut.

This is the best method to work inside on these, they do not come apart well.
I have seen misery trying to get a back off to do the work, so the break in the side was a blessing.

Now I can get to all the top and bottom braces, get glue inside and will shoot a coat of clear to make it even more stable.

Magnets and wax paper to keep top flat while glue and cleats set.

All sealed and flat, a fresh coat of sealer for now

Fingerboard came right off

only that sliver of wood held it.
This is what happens to instruments that live in arid climates

removing old frets from degraded Pear wood
I have a method that's taken awhile to perfect.

The tape gives a memory if there is a chip, I can lay it back in with glue and press it right back down.

Sealing the small break outs, it is a tedious process.
This is no longer wood, it is wood powder in the shape of a fingerboard.
This is Conservation, not Restoration in this procedure

Sealing all the cracks in the middle as I go

Coming down the board...
Wax paper for glue going thru board.

All sealed, slots re-cut to depth

Adding new binding

Front piece in, ready to level

Adding a few extra inlays

Now the 3/32 side dots

Fretting with 147

Bernard pliers, they have a flat pinch, good for fretting just a fingerboard off a neck

Other pliers hold one end and that's that

Stress cracks from compression frets are common in this old wood.
I just fix them and keep going.
Many times, many fixes, you must go slow and plan on many obstacles.

You can see the board bending, that is from fret compression.
Normally cannot see this when you fret on a neck

Just a look at the progress with a little oil on the top half.

Will finish that procedure then install the board.

With all the frets in, board is fully compressed

Adding a laminate first, since I reduced the board thickness with all of the leveling.

Trimmed, ready to score and glue the board on

Someone made it a 5 string a long time ago, I will hide that repair in the blacking phase

Scored and ready for assembly


Clamped up for 12.

Cut to the chase...Installed, frets leveled, ready for neck refin and sides /back.
Will be a dark shade of mahog, with slight burst on neck

Top finish
Vintage Ivory
Since top is profuse with cracks I want to give a different look.
Many old guitar's and mando's used such a finish, so here we go

Good tape off of all but topside

White base lacquer
Now for a very light vintage maple lacquer wash, to "Ivory it up"

Color coats with a clear coat, pulling tape

After binding scraping, ready for a final cleaning inside and then I will form the "Sound cone" port hole with deco facia plate.
It will screw to the body so that the interior will always be easily accessible

After 2 more clear coats I will clean all the finish from the bridge and leave it satin polished and oiled.

I am just going to make a quick little speaker cone to fill the gap and give it a "look" and a "Function" other than just being a hole in a guitar.

Some old hard chip board from Charlie Chamberlain's"Charlie Horse" stand templates.
He would be happy to see them being re-purposed.

I am painting it all black lacquer as I go forth

Facia plate from Ivoroid scraps
Heat bent to profile.
Will be black as well

Old Dale Small laminates still being used.
Backing plate this time.

Good enough for this project.
All will be hidden inside

Not prfect, moved around in my jig.
Oh, I did'nt use one.
Rest assured I worked twice as hard to do it wrong as I would have right.

Will get it all scuffed and ahoot a few more final clear coats on it all

The finish is now "Adequate"
I made an effort to do a good job but not spectacular.
All attempts at keeping the price down, perfection is expensive and best left to more important pieces.
I want a good player first, and a decent looker second on old warhorse like this.

Setup 28-18 W-14-10 S GHS
Bone saddle
Rosewood pins, Faux Rosewood endpins
Action is good, plays very well up and down
Good intonation
Sound coming from speaker is blowing me away
Well, I maybe just be optimistic :)
The axe sounds good, nice and full, warm tone and will open back up over time.
I do not like a heavy finish on these thin walled wonders.

Guess I am on some long neck guitar kick.
It comes and goes.
Electric's on the way in from Mike on the Archtop Proto.

The tuning machines on it work well enough but are mounted real close to peghead on the top ones.
I oiled them up, would change them to whatever anyone wanted but they work just fine

That's all for now, I was thinking about some catchy pick guard to trap those seals in.
My wish would be thin, and white as the driven snow.