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The old expression says, 'simplicity is only the absence of clutter', it's not a substance. That's all, right?... The timing's harder. The less notes you play, the harder the timing. When you're playing quick it's just eighth notes so they're all even. Syncopation is created from the space - Jerry Ricks, Port Townsend 97

Author Topic: Tonk American  (Read 9281 times)

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Offline natterjack

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Tonk American
« on: May 22, 2008, 01:44:08 AM »
Just got this one back from repair, Rick Sellens in St Leonards did a fantatsic job.

Prof Scratchy brought his almost identical one to Euroweenie last year which sounded so good, I thought, 'I've got to get me one of those'. Six months later one turned up on ebay and here it is. Sounds really good, very loud and with a bit more bass than other ladder braced guitars I've played.

Not sure who made it, but my first guess is Regal, due to the body shape. If anyone else has any ideas, let me know.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2008, 02:04:32 AM by natterjack »

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2008, 01:55:32 AM »
Natterjack - Rick Sellens (rick218) is in St. Leonards/Hastings (I'm in Rye).

It seems that whatever guitar (mainly acoustic but occasionally electric as well) Rick gets his hands on, the improvement is breathtaking.  He's worked wonders on both new and old models, but he has a particular affinity for the pre-war guitars. I've introduced many players to him and they invariably are amazed at the apparent miracles he achieves.

He's also a great guitar maker, with impeccable workmanship, but like many craftsmen has to do other work to earn a living.  This means the guitars often have to go on the back burner while he makes a window for someone or suchlike.  He's currently close to finishing a couple of OMs (one in walnut and one in rosewood) with a rosewood 00 following behind.  They've been in progress for several years now, but hopefully will be finished soon.

To cap it all, he's a good country blues picker himself as well.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline natterjack

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2008, 02:04:06 AM »
Natterjack - Rick Sellens (rick218) is in St. Leonards/Hastings (I'm in Rye).

Of course he is! Thanks, edited accordingly.


Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2008, 10:50:27 AM »
Nice to see the Tonk brought back to life! I think they were fine guitars with loads of volume, lots of presence in the bass (which I like) and lots of volume from that oval soundhole (which puts off the day when I have to invest in digital hearing aids)! Next Euroweenie we'll have to have a Tonk reunion! Yes, I think they were made by Regal - but Cambio might know for sure?

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2008, 11:09:42 AM »
THAT is one beautiful guitar! Picasso would have approved.
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Offline onewent

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2008, 07:20:28 PM »
Here's another .. never thought I'd see another one!  ..just goes to show.. one of several things that make them unusual is that they are 14-fret slot heads..pretty rare combo..and I think the back and sides are ash..? At first I thought birch, then possibly maple, but I'm sort of thinking ash .. How 'bout yours, natterjack?  ..Tom
« Last Edit: May 22, 2008, 07:29:14 PM by onewent »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2008, 06:38:05 AM »
There was one at Bernunzio (I think) that I kept eyeing, but it's gone now. Nice gitfiddles, guys!

Offline natterjack

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2008, 08:03:22 AM »
I think the back and sides are ash..? At first I thought birch, then possibly maple, but I'm sort of thinking ash .. How 'bout yours, natterjack?  ..Tom

Mine has a lot of finish on the back and sides, it matches the edges of the sunburst, almost black, so you can't see a lot of wood through it. Looking through the soundhole the back wood looks pretty birchy to me, although I'm not 100% sure.

Offline Pan

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2008, 04:22:53 PM »
Hi Natterjack and Prof Scratchy.

You wouldn't happen to have any tiniest audio sample of this guitar, would you?  :P

I'm wondering how does this guitar sound, when recorded. Usually the smaller body sized guitars sound better than big guitars, when recorded fingerpicking, I believe.

But, on the other hand, you say that the instrument has more bass response, than the usual ladder braced little guitars.

Also, may I ask what restoration work was needed to get your instruments playable, and how costly it may have been?

I thank you on any information you might be able to share.

Yours truly

Pan

Offline Richard

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2008, 12:27:30 AM »
Having heard Prof S thundering away on his Tonk in a darkened room take it from me you don't not need no sound samples.. just go get one !

On another note (pun) I see a mention of a latent Euroweenie - very encouraging, so shall I start sounding out the hotel again? 
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline natterjack

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2008, 04:21:14 AM »
There are a few samples of scratchy's in this topic

http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=128&topic=3405.0

Mine just needed a neck reset (as do pretty much all old guitars) and the bridge re-glued. Rick Sellens (a weenie) did a great job for ?140. The guitar only cost $275 on ebay, so definitely the best value for money guitar I own (or am ever likely to).


Offline Pan

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2008, 04:35:42 AM »
There are a few samples of scratchy's in this topic

http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=128&topic=3405.0

Mine just needed a neck reset (as do pretty much all old guitars) and the bridge re-glued. Rick Sellens (a weenie) did a great job for ?140. The guitar only cost $275 on ebay, so definitely the best value for money guitar I own (or am ever likely to).



Thanks for the info, Natterjack!

Cheers

Pan

Edit: I agree that the guitar sounds great, and so do you, Prof Scratchy, and Natterjack!  :)

« Last Edit: August 21, 2008, 05:05:46 AM by Pan »

roundarch

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2008, 07:21:10 AM »
I recently bought a guitar that I think may be a Tonk, although it differs some from the photos posted so far:




To me it looks just like this Tonk American posted on littlebrotherblues.com:


Can anyone shed any light on this guitar?  Thanks.

Offline natterjack

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2008, 07:36:34 AM »
Apart from the soundhole and the pickguard, it looks pretty identical to mine. Same tight-grained spruce on the top.

roundarch

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2008, 07:53:43 AM »
That's what I thouught looking at your pictures.  I didn't mention that it's light as a feather (3 lbs. 2 oz.) and plays and sounds fantastic!

Offline Richard

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2008, 10:27:46 AM »
Michael Roach was selling a Kalamazoo that looked rather similiar at the EBA meet last week, I did'nt take that much notice except to say it looked rather similar but sound nice.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

roundarch

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2008, 10:59:56 AM »
Yes, the Kalamazoo KG-12 and KG-14 both looked very similar to this guitar.  They were ever so slightly larger (14 3/4" lower bout vs. 14 1/4") and did not have slotted headstocks.  I used to have a KG-12 and it was a very nice guitar.  The Kalamzoo was not a heavy guitar by any means, but this Tonk is even lighter, which makes it very responsive.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2012, 07:30:37 PM »
I just joined the Tonk club, purchasing the Tonk American 14 fret slothead w/oval soundhole advertised on Garage Sale recently. I'll post some pics later.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #18 on: September 17, 2012, 04:20:53 AM »
Great guitar, the Tonk!

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #19 on: September 17, 2012, 06:52:16 PM »
My Tonk, purchased from a totally fun senior guitar picking gentleman near Fort Worth TX on Sunday:



Needs a neck reset but it's generally such a gorgeous instrument I'm totally motivated to get it back to its full potential, cost be damned.

Offline Pan

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #20 on: September 18, 2012, 02:27:22 AM »
Lovely! 
I want one too! 

Cheers

Pan

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #21 on: September 18, 2012, 02:36:21 AM »
Lovely - although I'm not sure about the clumpy scratch plate, which I might be tempted to remove.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #22 on: September 18, 2012, 03:56:00 AM »
I like the scratchplate. Wish mine hadn't lost its pickguard along the way...

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #23 on: September 18, 2012, 05:03:36 PM »
Tonk on the examination table at Erlewine Guitars this morning. Neck reset: Check. Top crack under the pickguard repair: Check. Bridge crack, minor: Check. Undiscovered issues when the neck comes off: Probably. It's gonna cost but it'll be worth it!

PP, the pickguard is pristine bakelite, much as I like the look with it off (see below) there's no way I'd ever remove it.



Offline Pan

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #24 on: September 18, 2012, 05:43:17 PM »
I'm so happy to know, it has found it's way in a good home!  8)

Again, lovely pictures.

Do treat us with a sound sample, when the moment is right!

Cheers

Pan

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #25 on: September 18, 2012, 05:56:21 PM »
Pan, approximately 30 days from now, when it gets out of the guitar hospital, I will subject you to the growl of the Tonk restored to its full glory.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #26 on: September 18, 2012, 08:43:45 PM »
Beautiful Guitar! Oval soundhole...mmmmmmmmmm ;)
The Pick guard is great btw.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #27 on: September 19, 2012, 01:17:16 AM »
Want one...


Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #28 on: September 19, 2012, 02:58:57 AM »
I think I could be easily persuaded to love the pickguard - I didn't feel that strongly about it, but my initial reaction was that it was a bit bulky and might impede the sound a bit.

Whatever, I reiterate: a nice guitar!
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #29 on: September 20, 2012, 05:39:45 PM »
PP, the good thing about the pick guard is it's floating off the top for the most part. There's a bracket on the bottom end raising it off the top, and a felt washer under where it's screwed into the top near the neck.

However I know what you're saying and you could well be right. I will definitely A-B it with the guard on- and off when I get it back.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2012, 05:42:18 PM by Rivers »

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #30 on: September 21, 2012, 10:38:40 PM »
Definately leave it on. If you rest your pinky on the pick guard instead of the face, when the pick guard is raised like it it on the Tonk, better tone.

Alex

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #31 on: September 22, 2012, 10:28:02 AM »
That had occurred to me. I don't anchor very often these days, used to. I'm more set on maintaining the instrument as it is.

This waiting is intolerable!

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #32 on: September 22, 2012, 11:53:46 AM »
Took my Tonk to the repair guy yesterday as it had developed a buzz. He announced there was a loose brace, but then examined it with various lights and mirrors and said all the braces were tight. After about half an hour he traced the problem to the pick up (which I'd installed...badly). A couple of tweaks and it was fixed. It's a very fine sounding guitar and I'm sure yours will be too!

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #33 on: September 22, 2012, 05:25:10 PM »
Hey Professor, do you have any pics of your Tonk? This is becoming the hottest spot on the web for Tonk American shots.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #34 on: September 22, 2012, 07:04:03 PM »
Some research into Tonk Brothers gathered from around the web:

From Bob DeVellis at http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?3483-Tonk-Brothers ?

Quote
There is some information in John Teagle's book "Washburn: Over One Hundred Years of FIne Stringed Instruments." Tonk was one of several interconnected Chicago-based music houses in the early 1900s. In a nutshell, they set up operation around 1893. Twenty years later, the last Tonk left the business, which was taken over by Paul Moenning, who continued to run the Tonk Bros. firm.

In 1928, Lyon & Healy decided to concentrate on pianos and harps. They sold their Washburn name to J. R. Stewart and their wholesaling operation to Tonk Bros. The arrangement had Stewart building Washburns for exclusive distribution by Tonk Bros. (A slightly different version of the story has Tonk buying the Washburn name from Lyon & Healy and then hiring Stewart to do their manufacturing.) Stewart, expecting big things, geared up production and opened a new factory. Then the Depression hit when the market crashed in '29. Stewart was left overextended with Tonk not ordering any Washburns for fear of not being able to sell them. He went bankrupt in 1930.

Tonk Bros. then bought the Stewart factory for a fraction of its value when it was auctioned off as a result of Stewart's bankruptcy. It also acquired the Washburn, Stewart and LeDomino brand names from the Stewart Co. Tonk sold the Stewart and LeDomino names to the Regal Co. When Tonk geared up Washburn production again, Regal was their builder, using the same factory that Stewart had built before the crash. Tonk continued to wholesale instruments from a variety of sources, including Kay and Stella. Many of these companies had interconnections that are difficult to sort out. Chicago was the center of instrument sales and manufacture by the 1930s and there are many incestuous linkages among the various firms it housed, including Tonk.

Other snippets: Tonk Bros disappeared in 1947 for unknown reasons.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2012, 08:27:09 PM by Rivers »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #35 on: September 23, 2012, 08:27:55 PM »
This is interesting, from 1928, trade mag, wholesaler Tonk Bros acquires big chunks of Lyon & Healy: http://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1928-87-4/MTR-1928-87-4-17.pdf

From the same source, Tonk snaps up another jobber in 1929: http://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1929-88-9/MTR-1929-88-9-14.pdf

From 1927, before the economy tanked: http://mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1927-84-22/MTR-1927-84-22-89.pdf

jobber = wholesaler, according to Webster. What intrigues me is, since Tonk was a wholesaler, and they were putting their logo on Regals, Washburns and so on, guitars, mandos, banjos and ukes, what was their connection to the retail outlets? So far I've found no evidence of a direct sales mail order catalogs like Sears & Roebuck's. So I'm assuming the retail sales were made through independent music stores, who would order through the Tonk wholesale catalogs.

So I'm also assuming the individual stores would write a no doubt beautifully-penned letter subscribing to the Tonk catalog, and then order, via an equally beautifully-penned letter, which no doubt took a couple of weeks to arrive, to stock.

Just tryin' to understand the supply chain here, how our Tonk Americans ended up on sales floors around the US

BTW if you liked those MTR PDFs, check out the full list: http://mtr.arcade-museum.com/
« Last Edit: September 23, 2012, 09:17:43 PM by Rivers »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #36 on: October 01, 2012, 06:07:46 PM »
I am informed the Tonk will be out of the guitar hospital this week and will post some more stuff. I have no idea at this point how it turned out but fingers are very much crossed.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #37 on: October 30, 2012, 05:29:31 PM »
I realized I hadn't provided an update on the Tonk. I brought it home about 3 weeks ago. It's currently strung with lights and tuned to standard. I absolutely love it and haven't picked up another guitar since. Been working on Blind Blake tunes.

Mark Erlewine did a literally amazing job on the setup. I've always had trouble with thumb brushes and index finger brushes in the past, tending to get tangled-up in the strings sometimes making for a lot of inconsistency and flubs. What a difference a great setup across the strings makes to your confidence, those brushes are important if you want to get the right feel. The pickguard is a great aid in this also, it level-sets your hand generally a bit higher so you don't tend to miss the brush strokes.

Unexpected pleasant surprise after several hours playing, pinched false harmonics are extremely easy to produce on the top 2 strings and quite startling. This opens up new possibilities for expression, though you can overdo it of course. I've been trying to nail those things for years.

Offline Pan

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #38 on: October 30, 2012, 06:19:11 PM »
Great news, Rivers! I'm happy for you.

When you have time, record a little something for us, please.

Cheers

Pan

Offline Rivers

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #39 on: November 01, 2012, 08:48:38 PM »
I'm working up a little sampler for you Pan.

Offline Pan

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Re: Tonk American
« Reply #40 on: November 02, 2012, 02:51:59 PM »
I'm working up a little sampler for you Pan.

 8)

 


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