Please help me identify this guitar.
June 17, 2009 9:30 AM   Subscribe

I need help identifying a guitar. I'm embarrassed to ask, but I'm not even sure if it's a weird nylon string or a weird steel string acoustic. I took some pictures of it to help: one two three four.

My sister picked up this guitar at a yard sale. The nut had fallen off and the saddle was obviously loose, but she knew that I've successfully fixed a few guitars in similar condition so she bought it for about $5. I play guitar but I'm no luthier and I'm stumped by some basic questions about this guitar, most notably if it's supposed to be nylon or steel stringed. I can make a case for either.

Nylon: The guitar doesn't seem to be braced very extensively under the soundboard. I don't see any evidence of a truss rod. There is no pick guard. There are only 19 frets. Slam dunk case, right? But...

Steel: The neck is narrow, much narrower than the nylon that I occasionally play and have compared it to. Also, the neck joins the body at the 14th fret, unlike the nylon, which joins at the 12th. This seems to be common according to google and this page.

Basically I feel pretty sure that it's a nylon, but I'm confused by the shape and size/orientation of the neck. Perhaps it's a nylon string that's meant to be played as a "folk" guitar instead of "classical"? Perhaps the truss rod is hidden/unecessary and it's a little steel string that's supposed to be strung with very light gauge strings?

Additional photos here. I am willing to take additional pics if that will help anyone.

Bonus question: There is not a single marking on the guitar to indicate a manufacturer or model. The bridge and nut seem to be real bone, which says "expensive/old" to me, while the body seems to be cheap softwood and the trim seems to be plastic, which screams "cheap/new". Can you give me any clues as to the age/manufacturer/origin of this guitar?
posted by no1hatchling to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total)
It's nylon. I have a nylon-string guitar with a think neck just like that, except with branding.
posted by ignignokt at 9:34 AM on June 17, 2009

No real expertise here, but I think nylon. The two holes on the tuning posts seem like a way to make nylon strings work better with a vertical post, and with your other observations I think it seals the deal. I think it is just an oddball nylon string guitar. A lot of weird stuff was made over the years. Is that an adjustable bridge? I have an old Conrad guitar from the early '70's that has a bridge that is adjustable with a couple of knurled screws.

Is there anything that would indicate extreme age? It might be old enough to be intended to be strung with gut strings. Nylon wasn't invented until (I think) around 1940 or so.
posted by lordrunningclam at 9:45 AM on June 17, 2009

Could it be some weirdo model that was meant to accept nylon OR steel strings?
posted by gnutron at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2009

Almost certainly nylon strung. A close up of the bridge area would confirm this 100%. Which is not to say that some idiot may have, at some time, strung it with steel strings. I can't see any holes for "bridge pegs" (I don't think) and 99% of steel-strung guitars always have these.
posted by JtJ at 10:14 AM on June 17, 2009

Response by poster: The bridge is not adjustable. I have another "rescue" guitar, a Carlos, which has an adjustable bridge, but this guitar just has bolts that help secure the saddle to the body. Actually they were quite helpful since I didn't have to use clamps when I was gluing it back together.
posted by no1hatchling at 10:15 AM on June 17, 2009

Response by poster: What do you mean by "bridge pegs"? It has holes for pins to hold the strings in the saddle, if that's what you mean.
posted by no1hatchling at 10:17 AM on June 17, 2009

Response by poster: ignignokt, what brand/model is your guitar, if you don't mind telling?
posted by no1hatchling at 10:20 AM on June 17, 2009

Is it possible this is a classic guitar? (as opposed to acoustic)
posted by alon at 10:29 AM on June 17, 2009

Could it be a home-made with salvaged parts from a nicer piece? That would explain the bone details with the cheap wood
posted by Think_Long at 12:21 PM on June 17, 2009

Best answer: Nothing on this guitar says to me nylon. It has bridge pegs? Then it's steel, most likely. It's crappy, definitely.

Generally nylon string guitars have classical headstocks, not mechanical tuners. Could be nylon. But if it's made for ball end strings, then it's almost definitely a steel string guitar.
posted by sully75 at 12:22 PM on June 17, 2009

Best answer: I've never seen a nylon string guitar with bridge pins. I'd say it was meant for steal strings. However I'd first try and get some ball end nylon strings and string it that way... If it works it works, if not you're only out the couple bucks for strings. Nylon would be the safer bet with an older lightly braced guitar.
posted by magikker at 1:01 PM on June 17, 2009

Best answer: Exactly. The tuners seem to suggest this guitar is meant to be strung with steel strings. So does the neck width.
posted by nicolin at 1:05 PM on June 17, 2009

Best answer: By looking at the wear on the fingerboard in the lower positions, I'd guess that it had been strung with steel strings in the past. This guitar may not be properly engineered for steel strings, though. If an instrument doesn't have a truss rod or a thicker neck and solid bracing, it probably won't last long - but then again, it could be a cost optimized instrument, rather than a long playing one. It's the instrument that was given as a Christmas present to a kid which gets played for a few months then, if it doesn't get stepped on or treated to a Pete Townsend smash, it sits quietly in a corner or a closet until the neck bows and the top deforms. Then it goes into a landfill.

The huge parting line on the tuners is a pretty clear indication that it was meant to be a craptacularly cheap instrument.
posted by plinth at 1:40 PM on June 17, 2009

Gibson and Martin tenor ukuleles have bridge pins, so I'd go with nylon.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:11 PM on June 17, 2009

My guitar is an Oscar Schmidt classical. The tuners are different, though.
posted by ignignokt at 7:41 PM on June 17, 2009

Looks like a really crappy steel-string guitar to me.

You might be better off stringing it with nylon, since it might not pull it to shreds. I'd personally probably get a really light set of steel strings (10s) and string it up and see what happens.
posted by mmoncur at 7:44 PM on June 17, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who weighed in! Since the purpose of this guitar was to invest $5 and about 1hr of time and have a working guitar I could just have laying around in alternate tunings, I'm going to string it with really light gauge steel strings, see how long it takes to be pulled to shreds. When/if it bites the dust, I'm going to keep the bone details and throw it out.
posted by no1hatchling at 10:17 AM on June 18, 2009

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