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PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2022 2:01 pm 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:09 pm
Posts: 850
Location: Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada
First name: Conor
Last Name: Searl
City: Duncan
State: British Columbia
Zip/Postal Code: V9L 2E5
Country: Canada
Status: Semi-pro
A client brought me two of his Nationals to take a look at. I'd consider myself out of my depth a little bit in the resonator world, I don't really know what normal is. So I will likely decline the work as I'm busy enough with things I know a thing or two about. But this is a great opportunity to educate myself a little more.

This first National is a Duolian from the 30s that had a neck replacement at some point. In my opinion it would seem the neck wasn't installed ideally. The fret board extension kicks up quite a bit. The straightedge in the picture is with the relief between frets 1-12 set flat. Am I right in assuming setting the neck on these guitars involves getting the angle right, where the heel buts up to the body, just like any other acoustic guitar, but in the case of a resonator the neck continues through the body and as the neck angle is adjusted, the stick inside needs to be equally supported with shims etc.?

My second question is more a general what can you expect kind of question. It seems things do come in 3's. This client brought me two Nationals, and another fellow brought me an inexpensive recording king wooden resonator all in the same week. My first resonators! Anyway, all three guitars had similar break angles over the saddle, which is to say almost non existent. In the case of the Nationals, the action was too high. With the Recording King, the action was almost perfect, if anything a little low. So is it normal to have very little downward pressure on the saddle in these guitars? And so if my action is high, and it seems impractical to lower the saddle any more, must the adjustments be made at the neck angle?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2022 5:15 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 12:04 am
Posts: 5275
First name: Chris
Last Name: Pile
City: Wichita
State: Kansas
Country: Good old US of A
Focus: Repair
Status: Professional
Conor, I've only worked on a few National dobros in my career and I wish I'd never seen then. They are without a doubt the weirdest design for a stringed musical instrument ever made - and the most frustrating to service. They seem to have been conceived by body shop workers who decided to build a guitar, but only after looking at a banjo. There is no room for any traditional adjustments on them - and the resonator cover is the real problem. Let's put a tiny slot for the strings to fit through and make all the other geometry fit THAT. Even the neck stick (dowel) is adjustable on a banjo - not so on a dobro. You couldn't get inside the body anyway to do it if it was. And the dot inlays on the fingerboard hide screws that secure the fingerboard to the body. YE GODS what a nightmare!

There are dobro specialists in Nashville, some have written a bit about repairing them. I pored over all of them, and still couldn't grasp all the subtleties. My advice is RUN AWAY.

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These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post: Conor_Searl (Sat Apr 16, 2022 11:43 am)
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2022 6:21 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
Posts: 2074
First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
I commented in your other thread - there should be a neck stick extension that goes all the way to the butt block on the guitar. Adjust is just like a banjo. On many dobros the neck stick ends at the cone well and is shimmed there, but same principal.

The neck was poorly installed on the guitar in your picture.

As far as the break angle over the bridge - resonators are fairly sensitive to this. You are frequently running fairly heavy strings with a fair amount of tension and the down force on the bridge varies with the sine of the break angle, it is somewhat easy to damage the cone with too much. That said, you can thread the tailpiece two different ways to change the break angle and the tailpiece should have a piece of leather or foam glue to the bottom to keep from rattling on the top

Not a great picture but it might help

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2022 9:13 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:46 pm
Posts: 2074
First name: Freeman
Last Name: Keller
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
I'm going to add one more thing to both of your threads. You say that the owner of these guitars does not play slide, that is unusual. You can set up any resonator with light gauge strings, low action (and attempt to intonate them) but that is not how they are usually played. As with any guitar it is important to sit down with the player and watcha and listen and try to understand exactly how they play and what they want from the instrument.

The method of setting up a resonator is different from the method of setting up other guitars but the goal is still the same - to have a guitar that is playable and sounds good for the style of music to be played on it and the person who will play it.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2022 9:25 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 12:04 am
Posts: 5275
First name: Chris
Last Name: Pile
City: Wichita
State: Kansas
Country: Good old US of A
Focus: Repair
Status: Professional
Quote:
As with any guitar it is important to sit down with the player and watcha and listen and try to understand exactly how they play and what they want from the instrument.


^^^ THIS! ^^^

Took me awhile to learn this. Watch your client play so you know if they play aggressively, passively, and so on.

I had a guy who was a white-knuckle fretter. He played out of tune all the time. I finally told him to lighten up on the left hand, or I could refret with lower frets. He wanted jumbos for ease of bending. There was no pleasing this guy.

I've had a couple guys who barely touched the strings when plucking or fretting. We are talking clean tones, no buzzing, very legato. I can set up their guitars with stupid low action.

Make them play for you, and make them understand that you need to know this info for best results. No one wants to be told they are generic. Make them feel special.

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