Vintage Gretsch Guitars

How did they do this (in the 1930s)?

26

My guess would be 30 minutes or less, maybe 15...not long.

27

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.

– kc_eddie_b

Wildeman

It was a trade back then, probably the best example is the National Tricone's from the '30s, that is all those guys did, engraving all day.

28

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.

– kc_eddie_b

Sitting at a workbench with a punch, a hammer, a wooden block, and an example of what you're trying to make, the first one would take you hours and probably many failed attempts. The one thousandth, however, would take you minutes.

It would be possible to make a set of dies that would allow the impression to be stamped into the metal, but the variation seen in the examples here argues against that having been the case.

I would imagine that, in the 1930's, they were happy to have the work. The repetitive nature of the work would have been a minor consideration.

29

Here's how it looked in 1953 (from my Synchromatic 6114-5) Less complicated than earlier examples.

31

The wig wag pattern, I believe, was obtained by using a very sharp tool called a graver and rocking it back and forth. As a kid, I did this with a screwdriver on aluminum. On harder metals, you would have to have much sharper tools and be far more skilled.

32

This kind of engraving is still pretty common on Saxophones, so if you're interested, I'd recommend to check out some of the Saxophone engravers:

33

My inquiry on this topic was driven by the original pre-war chromatic tailpiece depicted in the opening post. It just appeared to be some kind of machine process, and I was expecting someone to say that something along the lines of a pedal driven sewing machine apparatus was employed to drive a stylus that could then produce this kind of engraved pattern in an efficient manner. I'm still having trouble imagining a person engraving these by hand, over and over, and achieving the kind of consistency I've observed on the multiple examples I've encountered. But... I have zero actual knowledge, which is why I asked, and will take the submissions above on potential techniques as plausible.

34

Ed - I have no idea what the production numbers were for Gretsch in this era, or how many examples of the tailpiece engraving you've been able to document, but this does raise some interesting possibilities for comparison.

Much like other forms of art, the work of individuals in this case could be identified by their technique. We would likely never know who the individuals were, but correlation of their work by model year would show not only the evolution of their individual style but also the evolution of the overall style at Gretsch.

Just within your first two posts, I see three distinct styles but also similarities between that in post #1 and the one on the right in post #2. Meanwhile, the one on the left in post #2 has more in common with Andreas' (possibly) machine stamped version from post #29.

35

my 1938 Synchro 100

38

We'll save inlays for another thread...

39

How do these engravings compare to Gretsch brass instruments of the same era?

40

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

Great strap Wade, is that a Martin D17M?

41

my 1938 Synchro 100

– 57Chet

Thanks for posting that. The point adjacent to the bottom of the letter G where the perimeter border meets and the shape and size of the letter H are distinctive.

42

Great strap Wade, is that a Martin D17M?

– Daniel Weldon

Thanks Daniel, that's an old Kalamazoo Epiphone, and it's a real gem. It's been my #1 acoustic for close to 50 years. It's solid mahogany back and sides, solid spruce top. It just kept getting better and better over the years. That guitar and I grew up together.

I put an LR Baggs Anthem True Mic Pickup System in it, about 4 years ago, and love the amplified sound of it, through that pickup. The Anthem has both a microphone and an under bridge saddle piezoelectric pickup. The sound can be blended between the mic and piezo, via a small wheel located underneath the top of the sound hole.

43

I dug my war-time Synchro 100 out of storage this weekend... and took a photo of it's chromatic tailpiece engraving.

44

Is this one of the 5 fret-block "Home From The Wars" Synchro 100s? Or the later 6 fret-block ones? The 4-digit blue serial # on mine is blurred almost beyond recognition (there is a 3 there), but it's a 5 block with a tp almost like yours, but the "e" is rounded.

45

Is this one of the 5 fret-block "Home From The Wars" Synchro 100s? Or the later 6 fret-block ones? The 4-digit blue serial # on mine is blurred almost beyond recognition (there is a 3 there), but it's a 5 block with a tp almost like yours, but the "e" is rounded.

– lx

Mine is a "Home from the Wars" style... serial #7xx hand penciled in the body. (I'm not hiding the number, I just can't remember it exactly).

46

I dug my war-time Synchro 100 out of storage this weekend... and took a photo of it's chromatic tailpiece engraving.

– kc_eddie_b

Wow, that one sure has some stories to tell. The wear pattern is interesting.

I like how the tops of the letters seem to be 'double struck', incising them deeper. That and the top of the "R" makes it look like the person started with the tops of the letters when making it.


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