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View Full Version : Vintage Supertone : Restore or Wall Hanger?



Lanark
05-24-2008, 10:12 AM
http://img357.imageshack.us/img357/7351/supertone01lg2.jpg

Ok, here's the deal. I recently got this vintage ukulele off Ebay. It's got some problems (including a few not in the listing...), but I only have about seventy bucks into it all told. I maybe should have sent it back, but my job was crazy this week and I think I'm past that window of opportunity.

The question now is whether or not it's worth my time, effort and cash to restore this beast to playability.

The good stuff is that it seems to be Koa.
It's super light and could be punchy maybe. when it plays.
It seems to be very vintage 20's with a narrow waist and a three piece neck and inlaid rosette that appeal to my aesthetic sense.
It was also pretty cheap considering and it would be so sweet to be able to rescue a nice instrument from the junk pile.

Now the bad stuff.
Numerous cracks that seem pretty tight, but worry me a bit as far as someone having to take the soundboard off if required.
The fifth fret is a cruddy thin replacement.
The nut is a replacement & too wide.
And biggest of all, the action gets higher and higher along the neck which sets the intonation off by half by the fifth fret. It's about an eighth of an inch at 12th fret. (Reset the neck? a lower bridge? Voodoo sacrifice with a live chicken? I'm not sure how that works. Can someone more uke repair knowledgeable explain?)

It's definitely not even remotely playable right now. It's like every string playing at the wrong warped speed all the time.

I've got a few options as far as local luthiers go, but I have no clue as to how much it would take to get it up and running again. I think in some ways restoration depends on what the value of the instrument might be restored versus the cost of getting it there. I mean, it just doesn't make sense to put a couple hundred bucks into restoring a $150 ukulele but I might be more inclined at a break even situation though.

Or I can just and hang it on the wall and consider it a lesson learned.

Anybody up on vintage ukuleles and repair techniques?

deach
05-24-2008, 03:38 PM
Sorry that I can't help you but is this from that 'moreukes' guy on ebay?

Lanark
05-24-2008, 04:25 PM
No. An entirely different random Ebay guy (who couldn't even spell soprano.) I took a chance and came up a bit short.

But as far as I've seen moreukes' been auctioning off some quality stuff. He seems to have been pretty savvy about what he bought and his feedback's been good.

I just wish I had the folding money to spend on a few choice items he's offered.

tad
05-24-2008, 07:12 PM
No. An entirely different random Ebay guy (who couldn't even spell soprano.) I took a chance and came up a bit short.

But as far as I've seen moreukes' been auctioning off some quality stuff. He seems to have been pretty savvy about what he bought and his feedback's been good.

I just wish I had the folding money to spend on a few choice items he's offered.

If you look at the most recent feedback, he seems to be getting more and more negatives. Maybe he ran out of the best of his collection, and is trying to clear out the dregs now?

Lanark
05-25-2008, 03:34 AM
that's too bad about moreukes.

But more about this Ukulele. (he says to gently nudge the conversation back on topic...)

Neck is straight. Action and intonation are waaaay off.

Anybody deal with older instruments around here?

Jimmy
05-25-2008, 04:17 AM
I don't know too much about old ukuleles, but I've had problems with my violin going a semi tone sharp up the neck. I think my bridge had taken a knock somehow, so I righted it. But my E string had problems where it'd go flat anywhere above a perfect fifth. Problem was fixed with a new string. Dunno how that fixed it, but apparently did. :3

PM Nukedoc I think he knows stuff about this.

seeso
05-25-2008, 05:09 AM
I say, go for it. Do it yourself. You don't have to fix it all in one fell swoop. Take your time. If you put in $200 bucks or so, so what? Over a long period of time, it doesn't impact your wallet so much.

Besides, everything that you learn from fixing it is money well spent.

northern uke
05-25-2008, 10:19 AM
Lanark you've got a beauty there. Will it be worth what you put into it come re-sale time? Probably not. But as far as having a sweet vintage plunker it can't be beat. I restored an old no-name mahogony thats absolutley priceless to me. The necks on those are simply plugged on with a centered dowel. Give it a good yank to pull the kneck away from the body. If it gives or wiggles, (and it very likley will) theres your intonation problem. A good re-attachment with new fret wire and nut and saddle, and she's a gem! :o:nana:

Lanark
05-26-2008, 05:10 AM
I have to be kind of practical about this.

Extra money spent on fixing this ukulele is money that I could be putting towards a really nice vintage Kumalae or Martin (or even a brand new ukulele) that's going to play sweetly from the get go. So really putting any more into it beyond it's actual value seems kind of dumb to me like tricking out a Yugo or something. It seems like it's only worth a $100 or so anyway..

Plus I really don't have the skills or tools to do repair work myself. I'm a bit ham fisted (There's tab of the back that extends over the heel so yanking the neck isn't going to work.) and I'd be afraid I'd end up doing more damage than good. If I just hang it on the wall it's only going to get dusty.

My lovely wife's Boss has a neighbor who builds ukuleles so the current plan is to see if he'd want to have a look at it. (I'm also curious to see what he's been building) So really its fate as yet remains to be seen.

Craig
05-27-2008, 03:47 PM
I have to be kind of practical about this.

Plus I really don't have the skills or tools to do repair work myself. I'm a bit ham fisted (There's tab of the back that extends over the heel so yanking the neck isn't going to work.) and I'd be afraid I'd end up doing more damage than good. If I just hang it on the wall it's only going to get dusty.

My lovely wife's Boss has a neighbor who builds ukuleles so the current plan is to see if he'd want to have a look at it. (I'm also curious to see what he's been building) So really its fate as yet remains to be seen.

No skills? For me, I'd save my money.

salukulady
05-27-2008, 07:54 PM
Let us know what the expert says and what you decide. Even if you don't spend the $ now to restore, you can hang it on the wall 'til later when you have the extra $. Old instruments should be cared for and played. Think of the history it has been through.

NewbieUkie
05-29-2008, 03:29 AM
Just wanted to throw my two cents in....
I've been collecting guitars for about 40 years, and ukes about 4 weeks, :rolleyes:, but I think the principles are the same with regards to repairs.
If I buy a vintage (or even a newer) guitar and it needs repairs I do the same "Cost/Benefit Analysis" each time:

1. How much did the instrument cost vs it's actual worth with NO reconditioning?
For example, last year I bought a guitar on eBay that, like many other things, had "slipped through the cracks" because the description was about 2 sentences when it should have been at least two paragraphs and it had 2 pics when it should have had at least a dozen. So, bidders skipped past it and/or didn't want to take the risk of buying a pig in a poke, as they say. In a sense, they were RIGHT, because the guitar turned out to have a LOT of undisclosed issues, but the issues were all relatively minor, just a lot of them. SO......I decided to re-sell it immediately. I fixed a couple REALLY minor issues myself, (I have ZERO skill to do anything at all beyond the most simple repairs), cleaned it up really well, then took LOTS of pics to show the remaining issues but also show the potential, and wrote a lengthy description of not only the negatives, (I talked about ALL of them openly), but also the many positives. (The tone these were legendary for, the beauty of this well crafted guitar, the great tone-woods used, the ease of the repairs by someone more qualified than me, and the value of the instrument once restored, which was much higher than what I paid and higher still then my "Buy It Now" price I offered.)
The guitar sold within ONE HOUR of my auction launch, and I knew I had actually listed it too low! But I got my money back, made a small profit even factoring in my fees and my time invested, and got a wonderful positive from the person who bought it from me.
The point is, I didn't want to spend a lot of time or money on that guitar, but the fact it was worth more even in it's current state then I paid made it possible to bail out easily. So....that's the first decision to consider. If it's NOT worth more, and maybe even LESS, than what you paid, then you either bite the bullet by selling it at a loss and sucking it up or taking a loss by hanging it on the wall, which I would NEVER do, because I don't like constant reminders of my mistakes. I like them GONE, but that's just me.

2. The second thing to consider is the instruments value AFTER restoration not only monetarily but EMOTIONALLY.
Another example.....I bought, (knowingly this time), a Vox Super Beatle amp a couple years ago that needed extensive repairs that I could ill afford at the time. Why did I buy it? Well, I'm a middle aged guy who grew up idolizing The Beatles (still do!), and the Fab Four , like many of us Baby Boomers, was the motivation behind my desire to play guitar as a kid, and of course we all wanted the same guitar and amps THEY played! Years later I was fortunate enough to be able to fulfill the dream by buying "reissues" of many of those famous guitars, (not the vintage actual years, they are just CRAZY over-priced because of The Beatles connection), but the amp I always wanted, the Vox "Super Beatle", (yes, Vox actually named their big half-stack that!), wasn't available in a reissue, (well, actually, North Coast Music makes something close in looks, but I digress), so I "had to have" the REAL DEAL.
Unfortunately, those amps were prone to overheating and complete failure, so few have survived and the surviving examples are usually in BAD shape, like the one I bought.
I paid about 10X what it was worth without the Beatles "connection", (if it was another vintage Vox, without "Super Beatle" on the name plate), and it was in a horrible state of disrepair. It cost almost a THOUSAND DOLLARS in PARTS alone and another $1,000 in labor to get it working and looking "good", NOT perfect! (It can be seen in some of the pics In have posted here...I actually own TWO now, another long story!).
Was it worth it??
To most of you guys, this amp that I now have about 5K invested in wouldn't be worth $500. But to ME, it is worth EVERY DIME, because it represented the fulfillment of a dream I had head onto for over 40 years...to have the same amp from the same year the guys who influenced my life and so many others played through. I know it sounds silly, but the point is, I made the CONSCIOUS decision to "throw good money after bad", so to speak, because the item was important to ME. If you found a similar item, maybe it would be worth spending "too much money" to restore, but is THIS one it?? That's the question to ask. (By the way, I realize that this isn't it for you, but I am writing all this because the same advice might be helpful in another situation to you or one of the other guys.)


3. Replacement value. Can you get another, just like this, for less then what you'll have in this one, and would you want another, if you could? Similar to my first two points, consider whether you like this enough to put the time and money into it, and if you do, will it be worth the time and money? Bottom line...do you even LIKE it enough to be bothered with all the hassle?
Last real life example, I promise!
I bought a guitar on eBay that needed some work, and while it looked nice in the auction, once I got it I realized that even repaired, it wasn't going to be that cool after all. In other words, I knew that even if I made it right, it wasn't for me. I put it back up for sale, took a little loss, and considered it a lesson learned about impulse buying, because I bid on it without really considering if it was even right for me, and when I got it, the work needed notwithstanding, it WASN'T! So the repairs weren't even a factor at that point, and this is something you really ought to consider...do you LIKE it a lot? If not, don't waste any more time or money on it!


Hope all this drivel helped a little somehow!!!! :D

Lanark
05-29-2008, 04:48 AM
It's more like option 3.

It's not really that I couldn't necessarily afford major restoration, it's more a matter of whether or not it's worth the effort in the end. I don't have all that much into the uke as it stands and it's got zero sentimental value. (If it were an old Martin or Kumalae or something like that there'd be no question, but for a lower end instrument it's kind of a gray area.)
So unless the fixes are super cheap it just seems to make more sense to me to save that restoration money and put it towards a better instrument.

We'll see though.
At some point soon we're going to have lunch with the Lovely Wife's boss and his ukulele making friend and I can see what he thinks about it. (and see the instruments he's been making....)

GX9901
05-29-2008, 06:26 AM
The uke seem to have too many issues to be worth restoring. But if the ukulele making guy could get it done for a low cost, it might be worth having it restored. Otherwise I'd say hang it on a wall and use the money saved to treat yourself to something better.

By the way, is the ukulele making friend a hobbist builder or does he actually sell his stuff?

Lanark
05-29-2008, 07:15 AM
From what I've been led to believe via the Lovely Wife, he's a neighbor of her boss who's made a few ukuleles for fun and is now contemplating making them for sale. (He apparently brought back some nice wood on a trip to Hawaii, so I'm thinking he might be doing something koa.)

The last thing I'd heard about it was that he'd just finished his first "production model".

Beyond that. I know nothing. Not sizes or his luthier skills or anything. Just a guy bitten by the bug. But I assume that if he thinks he can make them to sell, he must have some ability.
I suppose it won't be until we finally meet that I'll get the chance to see and play firsthand. I'll be sure to post about it. Be very cool to get in on the early part of a new maker...
(especially local)