Thursday, July 4, 2013

Incognito! A 1936 Carson J. Robison

Here's an interesting guitar ready for some care and attention.  The headstock bears the name of Carson J. Robison, a cowboy crooner who got his start working as a whistler on WDAF in Kansas City, in the mid-1920's. That's right. The man was a professional whistler...

He later appeared on The Grand Ol' Opry and penned the lyrics to Barnacle Bill the Sailor and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame.  In the 30's he also gave his endorsement to a line of guitars sold through the Montgomery Ward catalog.  As it happens, they were produced by the Gibson guitar company. Gibson made a number of low[-cost models during the depression, most prominently under the Kalamazoo badge.  This instrument is essentially a budget L-00, being 14-5/8"  across the lower bout. 

Gibson dispensed with the expensive and time-consuming truss rod.  The neck is a pleasing hard-V shape and it's in good shape. The head shape and markings tell us this instrument is from 1936.
Some odd chipping has occurred at the end of the fretboard adjacent to the nut. Nut width is 1-3/4" (44mm). The scale length is 24-3/4" and it joins the body at the 14th fret.
The bridge is quite delicate, being only 15/16" (23.5mm) wide and 5-7/8" long. It's only 1/4"(6mm) tall. The string spacing at the saddle is a robust 2-3/8" (59mm).
Here's the issue.  The pickguard has shrunk a little, being cellulose. It's pulled a crack into the top between soundhole and bridge. The owner and I discussed removing the pickguard and regluing it. In the end I deemed it unnecessary. This guard is very thin, and it hasn't created a serious deformation in the top surface. By luck a portion came unstuck on the side opposite the crack, thereby relieving much of the stress. This guard was adhered to the bare wood prior to finishing, and that gorgeous sunburst was sprayed right over it. We can re-adhere the loose portion and maintain the originality.
So, where did Gibson skimp?  They saved 25 cents on the truss rod, and another nickel on the back binding. The bracing is stout and simple, transverse bars above and below the sound hole, and two bars that run fore and aft of the bridge. Decent mahogany was used throughout. The application of glue on the interior was not particularly fastidious. The side depth is quite generous, tapering from 3-9/16" at the heel to about 4-7/16" at the tail.  I can't wait to hear how this thing sounds.
The other piece of structural work to be undertaken lies inside. The ball-ends of the strings have eaten through a portion of the bridge patch and I'll make a small overlay. Isn't it amazing that after 70-odd years the fuzzies from drilling for the pin holes still remain?