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Antique Trapezoid Guitar with Wood Frets & Elephant Inlay

This trapezoid shaped guitar was discovered in Maryland several years ago by an antique dealer, but not much else is known about it. I have a suspicion this was some sort of kit from the 1940's or 1950's because many parts seem too well made to be hand whittled. The body appears to be made of cedar or redwood and the top & back are attached with small nails and glue. There is no internal bracing except for a small strip of wood directly on the underside of the bridge area.

The neck attaches to the body with a heel that wraps around both top and bottom of the body. The glue has dried out after many years, allowing us to see the joint above.

The uniform look of the violin style tuning pegs is the first clue that this may be a kit. Each fits snugly into the tuner holes. One tuner is broken, as shown here.

The nut is made from a 3/32" wooden dowel rod. The headstock has a perfectly rounded crown, adding to my theory that this is a kit instrument.

If this was a kit, who was producing it? Did they have other instruments? Was this similar to the campfire ukulele kits of the 30's and 40's?

The frets are made of wood, possibly made from toothpicks. They were glued along the fretboard incorrectly up the fretboard. The octave hits at the 11th fret on this instrument and most other frets are positioned in the wrong places. If this was a kit, then the frets were not originally glued, leaving the task to the kit builder.

The sound hole is a 3" diameter circle. The bridge is reminiscent of ukulele style bridges and the slots hold ball-end guitar strings. It's held in place with two screws and glue. Only two strings remain.

The builder added an inlay of an elephant made from various shades of wood veneer. A slight chip at the top of the ear reveals that this is a thin veneer.

Here are the specs of the Trapezoid Guitar with Wooden Frets & Elephant Inlay

Scale length: 19"

Materials used:

  • Wood

  • Violin style tuning pegs

  • Slotted screws

  • Nails & glue

  • Wooden dowel nut

  • Wooden frets (toothpicks?)

Dimensions: 26 x 9 x 2" (60 x 23 x 5cm)

Body dimensions: 9" wide at butt end, 5.5" wide at the neck joint. 9.5" long and 2" deep.

Cigar Box Guitar Museum Catalog # ACB.2020.005

Currently in curation and slated to be shown at the Cigar Box Guitar Museum in New Alexandria PA at a future date.

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