The Amateur Luthier

Cataloging my experiences and encounters repairing and restoring guitars

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Image Credit:  Reverb - Rock n Roll Vintage Masterson guitars were built by Ernest Leroy Masterson (1915-2006) out of Nappanee, Indiana...

Image Credit: Reverb - Rock n Roll Vintage
Masterson guitars were built by Ernest Leroy Masterson (1915-2006) out of Nappanee, Indiana in the 70s [2]. His main job was as a spray painter for kitchen cabinets while employed at Coppes Inc but he also taught guitar and built instruments for extra income [1][3]. 

Image Credit: Reverb - Rock n Roll Vintage

Estate Auction Finds

I stumbled across a 2017 auction in Nappanee, Indiana from the estate of a Mr Robert R Hall through Schrader Real Estate Auctions. These instruments were in his collection and were auctioned off for unknown prices. I found a pdf of a flier advertising this auction where they list the instruments that are for sale in no particular order. 

Masterson (Nappanee) Indian 6 string electric guitar 
• Electric Wood guitar 6 string
• Encore 6 string child’s Acoustic guitar
• Wood 6 string Acoustic guitar, no brand
• Blueridge 6 string guitar with case
• Electric wood guitar with case
• Rival Hondo Electric 6 string guitar with case
Standard Masterson (Nappanee) 6 string Electric guitar 
• Hondo 2 Electric guitar with case
Masterson (Nappanee) Base guitar with case (Blue) 

Schrader Auction Flier [4]

  • The light blue Fender P-bass copy is the only bass guitar in the flier and is mentioned by color so we can confirm it is a Masterson build.
  • The middle instrument is a Hondo II semi-hollow Gibson copy which can be distinguished by the headstock and tailpiece and matches the flier's mention of a Hondo II.
  • The naturally finished Gibson Les Paul copy has a brand but is unreadable. Possibly a Masterson build

Image Credit: Schrader Real Estate Auctions

There are now two more instruments:

  • A Fender Stratocaster copy in natural. It has a brand but it is unreadable.
  • A homebuilt body with a Stratocaster-styled neck.
The Stratocaster copy looks most like something that Ernest Masterson would build since his body designs closely followed contemporary instruments.

Image Credit: Schrader Real Estate Auctions

Next we have three acoustics and an electric guitar.

  • The leftmost instrument is the Blueridge acoustic as it looks professionally built and like a typical generic acoustic.
  • The second from left appears to be a homebuilt instrument but looks too sloppy to have been built by Masterson. 
  • The second from the right is a Japanese guitar which I can identify by the "steel reinforced neck" sticker where the truss rod cover should be and matches the flier for an "Encore childs guitar"
  • The guitar on the far right is an Electra which were made for St Louis Music out of Japan. I can recognize the headstock logo and the body shape.
  • Image Credit: Schrader Real Estate Auctions

Finally the flier mentioned a "Rival Hondo" and there was a picture of a Gibson ES-335 copy, I dug and discovered the Hondo "Revival" line of instruments including that instrument so I won't include the photo here. Not a Masterson build.

Other Examples

On the internet, I've seen a few references to his instruments and that he used to teach guitar lessons [3]. All the information has been from locals of the town which implies that he didn't ship his instruments out across the US but that he kept them local.


Sources


First I started with a blank of Indian Rosewood which had came from a beam that I bought, ripped into bridge blanks, and waxed the ends t...

First I started with a blank of Indian Rosewood which had came from a beam that I bought, ripped into bridge blanks, and waxed the ends to prevent splitting. I took the original, fragile, ebonized wood bridge and traced an outline onto the block with a pencil. Then I used a knife to score along the lines to help make them more visible. 

I took the bridge to my bandsaw to rough cut along the marked lines and start on removing the material for the gap underneath the bridge. I also cut and sanded the bridge to the desired thickness of just a hair under 1/4". At this point I also marked the points on the bottom of the bridge where my screw posts are to be located. Then I placed the bridge upside down on my drill press and drilled both holes through the bridge stopping just short of going through the bridge as I don't want them to be visible through the top

Then I began to round off some of the corners, remove most of the wood for the bottom gap, and start to shape the bottom of the bridge to the top of my guitar. I shape the bridge to the guitar by placing a sheet of 80 or 120 grit sandpaper on the top, holding it in place, and running the bridge back and forth across it lengthwise. That removes just the right amount of material so the bridge fits perfectly on the top which helps transfer energy and resists side to side moving. I also run the bridge on my belt sander to start tapering the long edges towards the top like an isosceles trapezoid. 

Then I separated the pieces of the bridge by running it through my bandsaw. Notice the screw holes are perfectly aligned because I drilled before cutting the bridge. I've also begun to rough out the compensation for the strings and tapering the bridge even stronger towards the top to form a point

I've oiled the wood and begun to polish it to a shine starting with 220 grit and ending with 3000 grit dry sandpaper. While still in the rough grits, I lightly dampen the wood with water to raise the grain and sand it off to help achieve a super smooth finish. Then I begin adding oil by rubbing it on then off while continuing to sand. Rosewood takes oil very well and can be polished to a point where it looks shiny.

I use Dr Ducks Axe Wax for this purpose and general maintenance of my guitar fretboards

Here is the bridge sat atop my Harmony Rocket. I used the thumb wheels from the old bridge and some screw posts that I had lying around. Harmony anchored their posts into the top half of the bridge which I don't much like so I reversed it and anchored my posts into the base of the bridge, as is more common. This Indian Rosewood is pretty dark so I think it will match the Brazilian Rosewood fretboard quite well while also being a large structural improvement over the brittle, ebonized bridge.


1953 Advertisement from the St Louis Post Dispatch Newspapers.com Hugo Music Center Hugo Music Center was situated at 5889 Easton Av...

1953 Advertisement from the St Louis Post Dispatch
Newspapers.com

Hugo Music Center

Hugo Music Center was situated at 5889 Easton Avenue at the intersection of Hamilton Boulevard. You cannot find Easton Avenue today because in 1972 it was renamed to Dr Martin Luther King Jr Drive [1]. The building no longer stands as of 2019, likely from a fire in 2016 [5].

Image Credit: Google Maps
I was only able to find legal documents for Hugo Music Inc which was created in 1959 by a Mr Victor E Hugo Jr. Advertisements and other documents point to the business existing for around 10 years prior so this online document might not be the most accurate representation. The business was dissolved in 1971 due to a failure to register the business again so we can assume it had folded no later than that date [2]. 

Image Credit: Missouri Online Business Search [2]
According to public records, Mr Hugo passed away in 2002 at the age of 74 [4].

Fulltone

They sold instruments under the "Fulltone" brand like this 1949 Supro-built lap steel.
1949 Lap Steel. Image Credit: Craigslist

Notable Instruments

According to a forum post on MyLesPaul.com, a 1959 Burst was sold through Hugo Music Center and was attributed by the badge on the original case [3].

Image Credit: [3]

Sources

What was Sunny Shields Music Studio? Charles "Sunny" Dwight Shields (1917-2001) led an orchestra during the late 1930s an...



What was Sunny Shields Music Studio?

Charles "Sunny" Dwight Shields (1917-2001) led an orchestra during the late 1930s and up until he served in the Army during World War II [5][11]. He then founded his business, Sunny Shields Music Inc (commonly misspelled as Sonny) in East St Louis, Illinois during the 40s [1]. His business first appears in the papers in 1948 [13].

NEW YEAR'S EVE DANCE Sho•Boat, Dec. 31 DrenenOn< Sunny SI.leldn and HIn Nninue Dreher.. EIZtii:nrieM,:;2517:11naljuit= ge=1; Adm.: Advance Sale $1 Per Cone].  HOWARD TULEY AND HIS ORCHESTRA Saturday, Jan. 1st Aden..Ion. 75c Den Couple
Moberly Monitor-Index issue from 1937 [11]

[12]


In order to facilitate the teaching of students on guitar, he ordered custom branded instruments to be used by and eventually sold to his students.

St Louis Post Dispatch 1953 [8]
The main office appeared to be located at 1409 State St. East St Louis, Illinois until 1967 when they moved to 402 Missouri Ave. East St Louis, Illinois [9]. The building on State Street still stands but the building on Missouri Avenue has since been demolished.

 Win a  FREE  Music Scholarship  nun SUNNY SHIELDS MUSIC, INC. • Guitar • Drums • Piano • Accordion • Organ  Take Lessons in a Shields Studio Near Your Home  BOYS AND GIRLS ENTER NOW!  Straub  ed Names Contest  A Total of  35 Scholarships  will be awarded S FIRST PRIZES Eight weeks lessons. Use of instrument, lesson ma-terial. 10 SECOND PRIZES Six weeks lessons. Use of In-strument, lesson material. 20 THIRD PRIZES Five weeks lessons. Use of Instrument, lesson material.  FILL OUT OUT ENTRY BLANK AND UNSCRAMBLE NAMES AT RIGHT Listed in the panel at right are the scram-bled names of ten well-known musicians and entertainers. Correctly unscramble the names. For example Eadn Tinmar un-scrambled is Dean Martin. Write unscram-bled name in space provided at right. Fill out entry blank and mail to: Sunny Shields Music, Inc., 402 Missouri Ave., East St. Louis, Ill.  CONTEST OPEN AGES 6 to 18 WITH NO PREVIOUS MUSIC TRAINING  Letters must be postmarked before mid-night, March 8, 1968. Awards will be made on the basis of correctness of solution of the unscrambled names. Frills and fancies will not be considered in judging winners. Names of winners will be announced through the mail. Decision of judges will be final. No en-tries returned.  Take Lessons Near Your Home  Sunny Shields Music Studios  • Belleville • Cahokia • Collinsville • Columbia • East St. Louis • Prairie du Rocher • Waterloo  located at • EDWARDS-VILLE • Granite City • Highland • Mlllstadt • New Athens • Red Bud  Here's All You Have To Do  Unscramble These Names SCRAMBLED NAME CORRECT NAME  Boybb Ardin Honj Lonnen Nycan tranias Veda Larkc  Aulp Rereve Dnay Liliwmas Brndae Ele  La Tirh  Berh Terpal  Jonnyh Thisma  ENTRY BUNK  Sunny Shields Music, Inc. Scrambled Name Contest 402 Missouri Ave., East St. Louis, III. Name   Address  City Age  I would like to play:  vol•• I■ W./  0 Spanish Guitar El Organ ❑ Drums  Hawaiian Guitar 0 Piano ❑ Accordion  Parents signature__----   Sunny Shields Musk, Inc.  Gen. Offices: 402 Missouri Ave. East St. Louis, III.
[7]

In 1956 they boasted 18 years of experience, fifty-thousand lessons in the previous year, 50 instructors, and thousands of students each year as they expanded into Alton, Illinois

 Win a  FREE  Music Scholarship  nun SUNNY SHIELDS MUSIC, INC. • Guitar • Drums • Piano • Accordion • Organ  Take Lessons in a Shields Studio Near Your Home  BOYS AND GIRLS ENTER NOW!  Straub  ed Names Contest  A Total of  35 Scholarships  will be awarded S FIRST PRIZES Eight weeks lessons. Use of instrument, lesson ma-terial. 10 SECOND PRIZES Six weeks lessons. Use of In-strument, lesson material. 20 THIRD PRIZES Five weeks lessons. Use of Instrument, lesson material.  FILL OUT OUT ENTRY BLANK AND UNSCRAMBLE NAMES AT RIGHT Listed in the panel at right are the scram-bled names of ten well-known musicians and entertainers. Correctly unscramble the names. For example Eadn Tinmar un-scrambled is Dean Martin. Write unscram-bled name in space provided at right. Fill out entry blank and mail to: Sunny Shields Music, Inc., 402 Missouri Ave., East St. Louis, Ill.  CONTEST OPEN AGES 6 to 18 WITH NO PREVIOUS MUSIC TRAINING  Letters must be postmarked before mid-night, March 8, 1968. Awards will be made on the basis of correctness of solution of the unscrambled names. Frills and fancies will not be considered in judging winners. Names of winners will be announced through the mail. Decision of judges will be final. No en-tries returned.  Take Lessons Near Your Home  Sunny Shields Music Studios  • Belleville • Cahokia • Collinsville • Columbia • East St. Louis • Prairie du Rocher • Waterloo  located at • EDWARDS-VILLE • Granite City • Highland • Mlllstadt • New Athens • Red Bud  Here's All You Have To Do  Unscramble These Names SCRAMBLED NAME CORRECT NAME  Boybb Ardin Honj Lonnen Nycan tranias Veda Larkc  Aulp Rereve Dnay Liliwmas Brndae Ele  La Tirh  Berh Terpal  Jonnyh Thisma  ENTRY BUNK  Sunny Shields Music, Inc. Scrambled Name Contest 402 Missouri Ave., East St. Louis, III. Name   Address  City Age  I would like to play:  vol•• I■ W./  0 Spanish Guitar El Organ ❑ Drums  Hawaiian Guitar 0 Piano ❑ Accordion  Parents signature__----   Sunny Shields Musk, Inc.  Gen. Offic3s: 402 Missouri Ave. East St. Louis, III.

The above 1968 advertisement from The Edwardsville Intelligencer on March 4th shows that he had locations in Belleville, Cahokia, Collinsville, Columbia, East St. Louis, Prairie du Rocher, Waterloo, Edwardsville, Granite City, Highland, Millstadt, New Athens, and Red Bud. He offered lessons in Spanish guitar, organ, drums, Hawaiian guitar, piano, and accordion [6]. 

Media

A gentleman from Russia named Emir Shabashvili (username: emirko) purchased an old Kodak Bullseye Brownie camera and found undeveloped film which he had developed and scanned [2]. These rare pictures appear to be the only surviving media showing the Sunny Shields Music Studio and the kids who were enrolled. What confirms the photo's origins are the multiple Epiphone guitars visible in the photo with "Dwight" written on the headstock.

Other visible instruments include a Gibson Melody Maker, Kay Value Leader, Gibson ES-125, two Gibson ES-335's, and a Rickenbacker bass.
Photo #1 [2]

Photo #2 [2]

Photo #3 [2]

Photo #4 [2]
A store counter with a Schaum and a Gibson string display

Who made Dwight instruments?

There is a contemporary manufacturer, Clive Brown, who builds Gibson replicas in England and currently owns the rights to the name "Dwight" [14]. His instruments are not related in any way to these Dwight instruments and so they must not be confused.

Epiphone

According to The Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide 2010, Epiphone built solid body Coronet models, labelled them "Dwight", and shipped them to Mr Shields. There were 75 built in 1963 and 36 built in 1967 for a grand total of 111 Epiphone guitars [3].

Supro

Valco-built instruments, aka Supro, were also purchased by Mr Shields. He acquired an unknown quantity lap steels during the 50s and 60s [3]. They come up more frequently than their guitar counterparts so we can assume that he purchased more lap steels than guitars.

left: 1959 Supro Belmont branded Dwight on the guard

right: Supro Belmont that I believe is the same instrument
Notice the placement of the Dwight logo on the guard and the pearloid body
Image Credit: Photo #3 (from above)
According to PulseBeatGuitars.com, only 18 Supro-built guitars were ever branded "Dwight" for sale by Shields. They all appear to be the Belmont models and were built from 1959-1960. They can have the branding on the headstock, the pickguard, or the upper bass side bout. 

1960 Supro Belmont (T29479) branded Dwight
Image Credit: Myself

1960 Supro Belmont branded Dwight on the upper bout
Image Credit: Myself


Existing Examples

These are all the Supro-built Dwight guitars that I can find with their serial numbers, color scheme, and last known sightings. 
  1. T18984 - Red Pearloid - Reverb - Southside Guitars
  2. T29479 - Red Pearloid - Driftwood Music
  3. T32770 - Red Pearloid - Private Collection 
  4. T48739 - Red - Ebay - Rocket City Guitars
  5. T57745 - Red - Guitar Database Wiki
  6. ? - Red - Pulse Beat Guitars
  7. ? - Red - Youtube - Billy Barnett
  8. ? - Red - Commenter on above video claims to have one
  9. ? - Red - Private Collection (FB-JK)
PulseBeatGuitars.com claims that Keith Richards owns a white Supro Dwight and is pictured with it but I researched the photo and the original website claims it is a "Supro Dual Tone" with no mention of "Dwight" [15]. I can find no evidence to support the claim that his model is branded Dwight or that the Dual Tone model ever bore such branding.

Accordions

Dwight accordions were imported from Italy for his students.

Ebay [10]

Amplifiers

Dwight branded amplifiers were built by Epiphone and are branded versions of typical Epiphone products.
Image Credit: Reverb - Acme Guitars

Sources:

This is a Harmony H-1422 which was branded as an S.S. Stewart model 7004 for distribution by Buegeleisen & Jacobson. As of the authoring...

This is a Harmony H-1422 which was branded as an S.S. Stewart model 7004 for distribution by Buegeleisen & Jacobson. As of the authoring of this article, H-1422 does not exist in the DeMont Harmony Database and only a few examples appear on the internet.




This particular instrument has a floral decal applied to the upper bass bout which I inspected closely and determined to be quite old. Whoever placed it there did so a very long time ago and must've lacquered over it because it exhibits checking. Was it a special order from the factory? Can't really know but its definitely not a recent addition. Unfortunately the instrument was oversprayed and polished so its glossy but there are some visible drips on the sides and the original nitro lacquer is hiding beneath. It was done adequately so I have no intention of trying to remove it.


Age

This instrument does not have a visible date stamp within the body so any dating will have to be done through what I can observe and what I can compare against.

Image Credit: VintAxe

This is a scan from a 1940 B&J catalog showing this model of instrument and the description states "natural color mahogany throughout". No Harmony catalog scans exist from the 1930s unfortunately.



The tuning machines are Waverly and I have the exact set on a 1936 Harmony I own (confirmed via date stamp). All my post-1940 Harmony guitars have had Kluson tuners or the generic bell-end tuners. I've done some research on Reverb listings and as far as I can tell, Harmony started moving away from Waverly in the 1930s and then went entirely to Kluson in the 1940s.

The fretboard has two slots cut in it which are visible from the dovetail and the nut which I believe are to accommodate two steel reinforcing rods running parallel down the neck. The neck is also extremely responsive to magnets, more so than my other guitars that I know have a single bar. My theory is also supported by a 193(6 or 8) Harmony Supertone, which I owned, that had two parallel steel reinforcing rods.

Construction


The neck is very light colored mahogany, steel reinforced, and with grafted headstock wings. The fretboard is a slab of gorgeous Brazilian Rosewood with the typical 1-2-1-2 inlay dot pattern. The frets were small, vintage-style and terribly worn so I replaced them for my restoration.



The back and sides are solid Mahogany and the top is also solid Mahogany. A typical, winning combination for a pre-war archtop from Harmony.



The top has the typical parallel tone bar bracing that you'd expect to find on an archtop from this era but the back has ladder bracing like a flat top. I've seen that back bracing on a 1930s Kay-built Old Kraftsman and believe it indicates a solid wood back.

Markings

Model No 7004
Serial No 2633
4187H1422





What Is It? The Lindell Wild Cat III is an electric guitar built by the Hoshino-Gakki/Tama factory which also built brands like Ibanez ...


What Is It?

The Lindell Wild Cat III is an electric guitar built by the Hoshino-Gakki/Tama factory which also built brands like Ibanez (during the 1960s), Hy-Lo, Cimar, and more according to a SpinDitty article. Its actually one of the better built and playing Japanese instruments that I've owned and it doesn't sacrifice usability for uniqueness.

Here are images from a 1960s Ibanez catalog showing this model of guitar. It was known as an Ibanez no.1803 "Professional" guitar.

Construction

Like many Japanese guitars of the era, it is primarily built of Philippine mahogany (which isn't a true mahogany). The neck is Philippine mahogany with a maple center strip and, believe it or not, a beautiful, dark, Brazilian Rosewood fretboard. I've never seen Brazilian Rosewood on a MIJ guitar like this so it was an incredible surprise and it polished beautifully. The neck has a thick 70s Gibson-esque volute. The truss rod does work and is heel adjusted.


The body is incredibly cool to look at with the chrome and glitter pickups, tortoise pickguards, ivory colored rocker switches, and two-tone sunburst. The rocker switches act as individual pickup on-off toggles and the switch closest to the bridge is a treble cut. A rhythm/solo switch, which is common on Japanese guitars, is another treble cut which can be added. Treble cut switches were one of those ideas that seemed good in the 60s but never really took off among players, they just make the instrument sound bland.

It has a Jaguar-esque bridge with the original cover as well. Its got individual pickup volume knobs as well but no tone knobs. Your only tone options are the volume knobs and the tone switches. The tremolo is a more creative design and actually works pretty well for surf-y tones. Its one of the better tremolo designs I've seen on a Japanese guitar.

What Repairs Were Done?

Nearly every Japanese guitar needs a refret with planing of the fingerboard to get everything level again and this guitar was no different.

I planed the board and refretted it with standard sized fretwire and also cut a new bone nut. I removed the metal logo and applied double sided tape to the bottom to help prevent it from rattling. Then I lubricated the tuners, sprayed out the electronics, cleaned it up, and set the instrument up.

This instrument is dated to 1966 by the date stamp inside the body cavity which has the original tape covering. The date stamp is 41.1.27 which in the traditional Japanese calendar is January 27th of the 41st year in the Showa era. That places it at the year 1966 in the Gregorian calendar.

Image Credit:  Reverb - Hippie Holidaze Pinless guitar bridges are the designed so that the strings loop through the bridge and then ove...

Image Credit: Reverb - Hippie Holidaze
Pinless guitar bridges are the designed so that the strings loop through the bridge and then over the saddle eliminating the need for plastic pins and holes drilled into the guitar top. Kay started using them more in the early 1960s on their flat top guitars.

This design has the strings come in through the front of the bridge (saddle-side) and out through the back where they wrap over the bridge and onto the saddle. I consider these bridges to be less stable for the high tension of steel-stringed instruments and with subpar sound. The strings are held in place solely by the bridge and so the pulling tension is counteracted only by the strength of the rosewood bridge and the top is merely glued to this bridge. The top doesn't contact the strings nor offer any direct support but instead holds the bridge which is trying to be pulled away from it.

I set out to convert this bridge to a pinned one.


 My first step was to cut some Indian Rosewood to fit in the rectangular channel cut into the bridge. I rounded the corners to match the corners of the bridge and got a snug fit after trial and error. I used a plastic circle tracing sheet to get a good radius and then sanded to it using my belt sander. I glued the piece into the bridge using thick Cyanoacrylate, because this patch is permanent, and filled any small gaps with thin CA and rosewood dust which form a surface that is very similar to real wood after sanding.

 The other side of the bridge includes a similar rounded, rectangular channel cut into the side with 6 string holes drilled through it. I filled the holes with maple dowels (thin Rosewood dowels aren't something you can easily find and this is structural, nobody will see it) and cut another piece of Indian Rosewood to fit in that channel and filled using the same methods as above.


 Then I took the bridge to my belt sander to sand the grafted wood flush with the bridge. I had to be careful to not hit the base of the bridge and change the footprint because that would be very difficult to hide on the top of the guitar. This picture was taken after I sanded the patch and oiled the wood.


I used LMII's bridge drilling jig to place 6 perfectly spaced holes through the bridge for the strings about where the old strings came through. You can see the grooves that the strings left in the bridge which were filled with rosewood dust and thin CA. 

Then I hand sanded the bridge from 220 to 2000 grit to expose fresh wood which slightly alters the color of the wood because of the removal of the oxidized layer. Now the bridge should age and color uniformly which will help disguise my patch work

This guitar did have a spruce bridge plate so I drilled my holes, capped it with a piece of maple, and drilled through again. The maple cap helps protect the bridge plate from the ball ends of the strings hitting it and causing it to chip which compromises the integrity of it and leads to warped tops and lifting bridges.

The bridge area was properly prepped and the bridge is glued using fish collagen glue.


This is the front part of the bridge showing the other side that was filled, its barely noticeable but you can see the darker rosewood if you look close enough.


I ramped the saddle slots using a Dremel and a set of diamond bead reamer bits. Then I used an old bone saddle and some white plastic pins to complete the look of the instrument. The bridge is stable and should hopefully stick together for another 50 years!