Vintage Gretsch Guitars

How did they do this (in the 1930s)?

1

This is from a late 30's Synchromatic tailpiece... and I'm just curious if these were all hand-etched? It's obviously pre-dremmel, so any ideas on the tools used to do these engravings?

3

Looks hand-stamped...not overly sophisticated...but, accurate based on these photos.

There would need to be several similar pieces to judge if a machine press had been used...just seems too random seeing these...most likely hammered with engraving punches.

4

Looks hand-stamped...not overly sophisticated...but, accurate based on these photos.

There would need to be several similar pieces to judge if a machine press had been used...just seems too random seeing these...most likely hammered with engraving punches.

– Twangmeisternyc

Yup. I've got an early post-war Synchro 100 with one of these hand-engraved tailpieces. Later ones seem to machine-engraved. It's been too long ago for me to remember what a pre-war version looked like. Not to be a jerk, but the technical term is "engraved" -- not etched -- which is what you do with acids. Both are printmaking terms for making marks on a metal plate. Don't even get me started on mezzotint rockers....

5

Yup. I've got an early post-war Synchro 100 with one of these hand-engraved tailpieces. Later ones seem to machine-engraved. It's been too long ago for me to remember what a pre-war version looked like. Not to be a jerk, but the technical term is "engraved" -- not etched -- which is what you do with acids. Both are printmaking terms for making marks on a metal plate. Don't even get me started on mezzotint rockers....

– lx

"Mezzotint Rockers" would be a great band name.

6

'Wabi-sabi' - a Japanese idiom referring to an intended imperfection in craftsmanship. (also great band name?)

Rug-weavers and ceramicists will traditionally add subtle 'mistakes' to their work, embracing the notion that nothing is perfect.

It has long been a fascination of mine, especially in an age of ever-increasing automation.

The fine line, or 'art', seems to be in becoming enough of a craftsman that those imperfections are almost surgical in nature, a measured dash of chaos to contrast the orderly, or breaking symmetry for effect.

As if to say; Obviously this could have been perfect, I'm just showing you it was made by hand.
There's something exquisite about that.

Regarding guitars specifically, I like seeing detail photos of vintage headstock inlays. It's clear they were done by hand, even though it's usually great work.

7

'Wabi-sabi' - a Japanese idiom referring to an intended imperfection in craftsmanship. (also great band name?)

Rug-weavers and ceramicists will traditionally add subtle 'mistakes' to their work, embracing the notion that nothing is perfect.

It has long been a fascination of mine, especially in an age of ever-increasing automation.

The fine line, or 'art', seems to be in becoming enough of a craftsman that those imperfections are almost surgical in nature, a measured dash of chaos to contrast the orderly, or breaking symmetry for effect.

As if to say; Obviously this could have been perfect, I'm just showing you it was made by hand.
There's something exquisite about that.

Regarding guitars specifically, I like seeing detail photos of vintage headstock inlays. It's clear they were done by hand, even though it's usually great work.

– Edison

My 1964 6117 Double Annie. Logo not centered and headstock hump asymmetrical. Not as bad as the "Gertsch" tho. None of the red fingerboard side dots on any vintage Gretsch I've ever owned or even seen are perfectly centered between frets and the double dots at 12 usually aren't in the same plane.

It's part of what I love about old guitars. I'm a tech and have a few customers who get their calipers and slide rules out any time they get a new guitar and get upset if the most mundane thing is not "correct." "The G sting magnet on the center pickup of this Strat is .07mm higher then the one on the bridge."

8

I have an old tribal Persian rug in my Music Room. Purposeful, hard to find, little mistakes have been woven in to remind one that only "Allah" is perfect.

It's a perfect reminder for my guitar playing!

9

I love imperfections.

This is the “popsicle stick” used to help give support to the f-holes when buffing and finishing the guitar on my ‘59 6119....accidentally not removed before the guitar was shipped.

11

I enjoy watching traditional engravers work, I would never have the patience to do it. I have a bridgeport and a lathe for that

But semi related

12

Fistpicker and Ed, thanks for reminding me about engraved tailpieces. If you do a blow-up of this picture of Harry Volpe and his Synchro 400, you can just barely make out some engraving on the struts of the tailpiece. A circle with some lines on either side -- very Art Deco. I have seen at least one other Synchro 400 with these. And you can see that the Gretsch logo is like one of Ed's above.

13

This is from a late 30's Synchromatic tailpiece... and I'm just curious if these were all hand-etched? It's obviously pre-dremmel, so any ideas on the tools used to do these engravings?

– kc_eddie_b

It would be hand drawn with a metal punch similar to these. The artist would draw a pattern on the metal, or use a template, and mark the outlines and then fill in by hand.

It's similar to the metalwork technique known as "chasing", and is one of the oldest known methods of decorating metal goods.

14

Fistpicker and Ed, thanks for reminding me about engraved tailpieces. If you do a blow-up of this picture of Harry Volpe and his Synchro 400, you can just barely make out some engraving on the struts of the tailpiece. A circle with some lines on either side -- very Art Deco. I have seen at least one other Synchro 400 with these. And you can see that the Gretsch logo is like one of Ed's above.

– lx

Here's a close-up of what I think you're talking about... (look closely).

15

FWIW, the engraved Gretsch name on the harp tailpiece hinge plate on my '41 Synchro was most definitely done by hand.

16

Here's a close-up of what I think you're talking about... (look closely).

– kc_eddie_b

That's it!

17

Here's an amazing example of craftsmanship that a friend of mine owns (and that I've tried to buy from him repeatedly).

18

Here's an amazing example of craftsmanship that a friend of mine owns (and that I've tried to buy from him repeatedly).

– kc_eddie_b

Was the standard “Bigsby” and patent # removed or was it blank to begin with? Just curious.

19

This is from a late 30's Synchromatic tailpiece... and I'm just curious if these were all hand-etched? It's obviously pre-dremmel, so any ideas on the tools used to do these engravings?

– kc_eddie_b

I do custom leather tooling, Ed. The technique is very similar to hand metal tooling. Both use tools that are basically a small steel rod, with different shaped tips. The pattern is built up bit by bit, by striking the tip of the tool into the substrate, with a small mallet.

20

I make all sorts of things out of leather, here's one of my guitar straps, with a rose vine embossed onto it.

21

The end straps. I use this rose vine strap on my 5422 now.

22

I make all sorts of things out of leather, here's one of my guitar straps, with a rose vine embossed onto it.

– Wade H

That's just beautiful, Wade!

23

Here's an amazing example of craftsmanship that a friend of mine owns (and that I've tried to buy from him repeatedly).

– kc_eddie_b

This reminds me of the filigree work on Merle's Super 400.

24

Was the standard “Bigsby” and patent # removed or was it blank to begin with? Just curious.

– 66gent

I have no idea.

25

Looks hand-stamped...not overly sophisticated...but, accurate based on these photos.

There would need to be several similar pieces to judge if a machine press had been used...just seems too random seeing these...most likely hammered with engraving punches.

– Twangmeisternyc

So if these prewar tailpieces were "hand" engraved... how long might it take to do one??? Hard to imagine some dude doing that all day.


Register Sign in to join the conversation