Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cleaning and Restringing the Tenor Guitar

I got this tenor guitar off of the dump a few months ago.  I've wanted a tenor guitar for awhile now and to get one that's vintage for free, well, that's a pretty big score.  Tenor guitars became popular when tenor banjos became unpopular.  Tenor guitars were made so that a banjo player could still play in bands that were decreasingly interested in having a banjo in their group.  It is tuned the same as a tenor banjo.  While you can tune it to lots of alternate tunings, the most popular for this instrument are CDGA and, like a mandolin and fiddle, GDAE.  I decided to restring it and clean it up a bit.

The strings go into the tailpiece, pictured below.  I hadn't seen one like it before.

Loop end strings.  That's another new one to me.  From what I understand, very similar to the tenor banjo.  My wife and I had to search a bit to find loop end guitar strings.  Ultimately, we had to special order them from England.

 As you can see below, it has a cover piece that slides over the loop ends.  Took me a minute to figure that out.

Whenever I change the strings, I also scrub the fretboard - especially if I don't know who has been playing the instrument.

The picture below is a good representation of why I always scrub the fretboard.  

I noticed a few cracks.  Nothing horrible, but I'll have to keep an eye on it.

A bit of cleaner.  I used to oil the fretboards of my guitar with bore oil for brass instruments.  I need to get more, especially in the dry climate of Colorado.

I usually leave this much play when winding the strings.  You want a bit wrapped around the stem of the tuners.

There were lots of options for spacing.  It took me a few tries to see what worked best for the guitar and my fingers.

The bridge is a floating bridge.  The intonation is a bit out and I'm wondering if the floating bridge is set up incorrectly.

Slight separation where the neck meets the body.

If I want to keep this guitar (I think I do, it plays and sounds great), I'm going to have to sink some money into it.  The intonation is out, the tuners need work (falls out of tune) and it has a few separations.  I want to find a good luthier in the Denver area and have it fixed right.  It's a beautiful guitar.  My estimate is that it was made somewhere between 1920 and 1950.  There are no markings on or in the guitar.  

I'll keep you posted.



  1. Neat find, can't help you on it though, I am number than a pounded thumb when it comes to music. Couldn't carry a tune if I had a bucket.

  2. Ha. Most of my family is like that. Me, my uncle and my cousin all have rhythm. None of us are awesome, but we're all pretty good. ;)