Museum: Other Acoustic Guitars

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1930 Washburn 5238

Note: Apologies for the long write-up. We hope you find it informative and interesting.

Serial # 2020. Some of the most beguiling vintage flat tops we've encountered through the years weren't built by Gibson or Martin -- and they capture a player's imagination thanks to their completely different sonic flavor. Back in the day, the Chicago area was home to some of the greatest guitar builders the world has seen -- with companies like Regal, Stewart, Lyon & Healy, Stromberg-Voisinette, and Larson creating instruments of their own design and tone recipes. We have long admired these lesser known brands, and are excited to share this particular 12 fret 00-sized Washburn 5238 here.

This instrument was built, best as we can figure, shortly after the manufacturing change to Regal from Stewart. The neck was likely built by Stewart, and the body by Regal. It features a 14" wide lower bout, a lightly built X-braced red spruce top, 19 fret neck with delicate pearl inlays, ivoroid bindings, and a gently fretboard radius. Visible through the soundhole is the Tonk Bros. 'Genuine Washburn' wooden label that was used through the early 1930's. Typical of most Regal (and other mid-west builder's) rosewood guitars, the back and sides are of 3-ply laminated Indian rosewood rather than the Brazilian Rosewood we're used to finding on vintage instruments. The body is bound entirely in ivoroid, with 9 alternating black and white purfling lines around the top and about half as many around the back. Bound soundhole, tasteful style 28-like rosette, "Smile" bridge; and, of course, everyone's favorite part… gold decal filigree beautifully ornamenting the top.

The guitar is esthetically balanced, and so tastefully ornamented. Age has only enhanced the instrument's looks; adding a beautiful fine crackle to the lacquer finish, and an attractive amber patina.

The guitar has just been carefully restored in our shop. We've replaced the worn-out softwood bridgeplate with a much smaller maple version which allows the top to move much more freely. The bridge is a reproduction, with compensation added to ensure that the guitar plays in tune (something an original one of these doesn't do too well). The previous bridge was non-original, and there is some finish marring around our replacement that was left with nothing more than a light French-polish cleanup. There is a clean top crack repair between the bridge and bottom edge, a flat spruce brace added to support the fingerboard extension, and a clean neck reset. We've replaced the first 3 frets, and dressed the rest. The tuners are period correct, but non-original. There are filled screw holes near the endpin from a tailpiece that was at one time installed.

A guitar with a stunning and very unique voice, and one that's actually hard to find words for. The instrument has a pronounced fundamental and solid midrange push much like a mid 1930's Gibson L-00, but thanks to its much more lightly braced top, 12 fret design, and rosewood back and sides, the overtones that flower behind every note are tremendous. It's a loud guitar that likes a gentle but solid right hand attack, and players who are into the tone of well-manicured nails and extra-heavy flatpicks will get the most out of this one. The trebles are very round, almost like those of a good nylon-string, and the bass is both defined and warm. Yes, we like it a lot.

24.9" scale neck with perfectly round carve and a fairly moderate depth. The nut width is 1-13/16". Set up with regular light gauge strings, perfect relief and easy fingerstyle action of 4 to 6 64ths.

This guitar DOES NOT require a CITES permit to ship outside of Canada.

With recent hardshell case

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