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Author Topic:  National Hawaiian Steel
Mel Bergman


From:
Camarillo, California, USA
Post Posted 25 Jan 2017 3:27 pm     Reply with quote

Friends,

I did some horse trading and ended up with this great early electric guitar. When it arrived, it was tuned to open E with ancient strings, so that told me that it passed through some hands that did not exactly know what this was.

When I received it, I heard an ominous rattle in the body. Sure enough, the Horseshoe magnet was completely loose, and had apparently broken the positive lead to the harness. Also, there were two mystery pieces of black wood, and some brown felt. I was able to put one of those pieces of wood under the magnet and get it all screwed back together. I was not able to get any sound out at the jack, but I was able to run some jumpers and determined that the coil is good, and I did get sound out of the pickup. It looks like the harness has not been soldered since new, so Ill try to figure why no sound is getting through to the jack.

That being said, I would like to know if any of you can provide info on how these parts are supposed to go back together. Where do the two pieces of wood go, and is the brown felt supposed to go over the coil as indicated in the pic?

I looked online, and found only one pic of the inside of one of these, and it did not clarify everything. I need some assistance in getting this guitar put back together correctly. It is in remarkably good condition for an 80 year old instrument. It weighs a ton, and could be used for a home defense weapon. And it came with two Stevens bars, some tweaked metal picks and some Dobro branded plastic picks.

One of these days I'll quit it with the "cool old guitar that needs work" paradigm....well, maybe that is too much to hope for.

Thanks in advance to you all!

Mel Bergman


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Noah Miller


From:
Rocky Hill, CT
Post Posted 25 Jan 2017 5:22 pm     Reply with quote

I've had several of these and never seen wooden spacers inside them. The magnet always sat up against the inside of the casting. Of course, the rule with Nationals (acoustics or electrics) is that you never quite know what you'll find when you open them up, so they could easily have come from the factory.

The felt, on the other hand, is always there. It acts like a spacer that holds the bobbin up against the casting.
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Eric Dahlhoff


From:
Point Arena, California
Post Posted 25 Jan 2017 9:23 pm     Nat Hawaiian Reply with quote

Mine doesn't have the adjustable pickup like yours, but here's a couple picks anyway. Hope they help. You can see the felt and the wooden blocks under the magnet.
Mine had a dead pot when I got it, so had to replace it.




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Mel Bergman


From:
Camarillo, California, USA
Post Posted 25 Jan 2017 10:01 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks gents for the swift and helpful replys. It really is amazing if you think about it: it took less than six hours to get a detailed answer on a rather obscure 80 plus year old instrument. This place is wonderful!

Mel
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Ralph Czitrom


From:
Ringwood, New Jersey
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 9:06 am     National Hawaiian lap steel Reply with quote

Mel - Just adding my two cents: I have a 1935 version of the same guitar (volume control only), which I refinished and had Jason Lollar rebuild the pickup. Here are a couple of photos of the inside of mine. Good luck!





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Noah Miller


From:
Rocky Hill, CT
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 9:14 am     Reply with quote

Interesting to note that the more of these pickups I see, the more variation I see in them. In this thread alone we have: pickups with and without spacers, different style plates holding down the magnet, and castings with and without a lip holding the magnet in place. Considering that these were only produced for about two years, they must have changed the design specs every few minutes.
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Mel Bergman


From:
Camarillo, California, USA
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 9:41 am     Reply with quote

Thanks fellas.

I really appreciate the responses, and I will report back when I get it all together. I fiddled with it this A.M. before work, and I have a clear idea of how it should all go back together.

Noah, I think you are correct about the frequent changes. It looks like the casting was the easy part, as foundries and patten makers were abundant in LA in the 1930s. I assume so anyways, given the types of industries present then.

But the electronic side of things was still clearly "figure it out as you go". The whole blade adjustment assembly looks like an engineer and a marketer had a baby.

It's cool to think that five years later, this foundry was probably cranking out aerospace parts for the war effort.

Sometimes I wish I was satisfied with new instruments/cars/houses/etc. vs vintage things, but I've accepted the hassle that comes with old things as the cost of doing business. As a good friend likes to frequently remind me, "It hurts to be cool". Haha.

Mel
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Eric Dahlhoff


From:
Point Arena, California
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 10:31 am     ser numbers? Reply with quote

Ralph & Mel,
What are the serial numbers on yours?
Mine is N126. (It looks just like yours Ralph)
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Mel Bergman


From:
Camarillo, California, USA
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 10:50 am     Reply with quote

I'll check tonight and get back to you.
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Ralph Czitrom


From:
Ringwood, New Jersey
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 10:59 am     1935 National cast aluminum Reply with quote

Eric - Mine is #N363.
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Michael Greer


From:
Ontario, Canada
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 12:03 pm     Reply with quote



These are two of my favourite lap steels....love the styling.

On the left 1935..........on the right 1936...

The best resource material for National , Supro, Dobro has to be a book by Mark Makin called " Palm Trees,Senoritas....and Rocket Ships ""
It has detailed information and drawings of all the models......423 pages.

He lists serial number N 133 as the earliest known 1935 cast National
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Ralph Czitrom


From:
Ringwood, New Jersey
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 3:03 pm     National Hawaiian Reply with quote

I'm looking at all of these guitars and still don't understand why they had fret markers (two!) at the first fret...
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Brad Bechtel


From:
San Francisco, CA
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 3:11 pm     Re: National Hawaiian Reply with quote

Ralph Czitrom wrote:
I'm looking at all of these guitars and still don't understand why they had fret markers (two!) at the first fret...


It looks like a zero fret to me.
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Marc Bell


From:
Surat Thani, TH
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 4:44 pm     Reply with quote



Here is a near identical National pickup I have laying around. You can see how the felt is placed underneath. These are really great sounding pickups.
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Mel Bergman


From:
Camarillo, California, USA
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 6:03 pm     Reply with quote

Mine is N 163
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Eric Dahlhoff


From:
Point Arena, California
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 6:51 pm     Re: National Hawaiian Reply with quote

Ralph Czitrom wrote:
I'm looking at all of these guitars and still don't understand why they had fret markers (two!) at the first fret...


I read somewhere that the fret boards are attached with screws under the double-dot frets.

Michael Greer: Interesting also that the two of yours have different body contours below the fret boards.
What are those serial numbers, if you care to share?

I wish mine had the longer fret board Smile
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Bill Creller


From:
Saginaw, Michigan, USA
Post Posted 26 Jan 2017 7:29 pm     Reply with quote

Very interesting ! I have never seen one up close, or what the guts looked like. Bobby Ingano has one I believe, but never showed it to me.
From what I've read, they are cast from zinc (?)
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Noah Miller


From:
Rocky Hill, CT
Post Posted 27 Jan 2017 4:26 am     Re: National Hawaiian Reply with quote

Eric Dahlhoff wrote:
I read somewhere that the fret boards are attached with screws under the double-dot frets.


As logical as that is, the prototype I'm working on doesn't have screws under those dots. The board is secured by just two screws centered on the board, 3 frets in from each end. I don't know if they changed this at some point, but you can figure it out by running a strong magnet over the board to locate the screws.

Bill Creller wrote:
From what I've read, they are cast from zinc (?)


I'm not sure where this originated (I keep seeing it, too), but they're definitely aluminum.
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Richard Thomas


From:
United Kingdom
Post Posted 31 Jan 2017 11:21 am     Reply with quote

I have one of these cast aluminium gems and took some pics when I first got it, so attached if of any use are a couple and I suggest if you want more send me a pm with an email and I'll send them over.

I can't pretend that my particular example is totally original, but it works so, as the old saying goes "if it ain't broke don't fix it!"

Do get in touch if you require anything other info.



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Michael Lee Allen


From:
Des Plaines Illinois just NW of ChIraq
Post Posted 31 Jan 2017 11:36 am     Reply with quote

From a Nick Manoloff folio...



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Mel Bergman


From:
Camarillo, California, USA
Post Posted 4 Feb 2017 6:40 pm     Reply with quote

Thanks again everyone for all the offers of assistance and info. Much appreciated!
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C. E. Jackson


From:
Mississippi, USA
Post Posted 5 Feb 2017 3:45 pm     My 1935 7 string National Steel Reply with quote

My 1935 7 string National Steel purchased from the late, great Charlie Norris, a Member of the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. The back felt and cover have never been removed, so I cannot give any inside details. I do love to play this steel.








Video of my last visit with Charlie Norris and his wife, Shirley, showing Charlie with the 7 string National Steel
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Mel Bergman


From:
Camarillo, California, USA
Post Posted 17 Feb 2017 5:38 pm     Reply with quote

Friends,

Thanks again for all the info. The good news is is that I was able to save the original harness. The sorta good news is is that I have sound. The bad/ odd/ news is is that strings 3and 4 sound normal, volume wise, but the strings get quieter as you move out. Strings one and six are barely audible. Any ideas. Right about now is when I long to be free of my love of old, cool, and frequently broken down things. Lemme know what you think?
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Eric Dahlhoff


From:
Point Arena, California
Post Posted 17 Feb 2017 6:50 pm     Reply with quote

Are the blades in the pickup the same distance from the strings? Are the blades under all the strings? On mine they can me slid back and forth to center each blade under 3 strings.
It's only got one coil, so it must have to do with the blades?
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Ralph Czitrom


From:
Ringwood, New Jersey
Post Posted 18 Feb 2017 1:51 pm     Reply with quote

Mel - An 80 year old pickup might be in need of some work. I was fortunate to have the pup on mine rebuilt by Jason Lollar. If all else fails, perhaps Jason could help you out.
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