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Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:33 am
by Wes Southerland
I always thought it would be nice to have Paul McGill make me a resonator. Nice post to see. Thanks

Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:55 am
by Robertito
I bought a short scale DV from a gentleman on this forum a couple of years ago - thanks again for talking with me about it, Craig! - and it's a wonderful instrument. It's made of solid Brazilian rosewood, with the V screens and a very low action. Quite a delicate sound, and enchanting. I have to get around to making a new biscuit for it one of these days, but I'm on the road and don't get home very often...

Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Tue Apr 02, 2013 10:10 pm
by albertgen
The original tailpiece broke on my DelVecchio, so I talked to Paul McGill about it and he told me how to make one out of a Nickel one that I bought from Stu macs. I had to cut it and thread it and put a downward bend on it to keep pressure on the bridge. It works like a charm. The DelVeccios have a short little trapese. Al

Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:20 pm

I first learned about Del Vecchio resonator (DVR) guitars in the 1960's, when I purchased Mr. Atkins' LP MY FAVORITE GUITARS. I wrote him a letter inquiring about them, and he actually wrote back with information on them. I don't think I appreciated how uncharacteristic and kind, it was for someone in his position, to do something like that. I never became even a good guitar player, but over the years I did accumulate a small collection of guitars. Among this collection are seven DVR guitars (two of which are still basket cases) and one Paul McGill Resonator guitar. Even though I have a variety of guitars, the ones that I play are the DVR's. I have a friend who is a pretty good player, and he told me, that when I die, the only guitar he wants is my favorite DVR. The DVR's I own, range in age from 1947 through 2000. I thought I might be able to add something to the discussion on DVR's, since I have a few. Please be aware that what follows is mostly my opinion, and as such, some of it may be erroneous.

All of the DVR's that I have seen or own, did not come from the factory with a truss rod in the neck. Any neck truss rod was added after market, probably when the fingerboard was replaced. The more modern ones with a wood stripe down the back of the neck, (which extends all the way through the neck to the back of the finger board), probably do not need the truss rod, unless you do something stupid like trying to set one up for use as a slide guitar or plan on using really heavy gauge strings.

All of the DVR's I have come in contact with are made with laminated wood “sound boxes”. I even have a “high end” classical DV, which is made with a solid top and laminated Br. Rosewood back and sides. I would infer from this, that maybe all DV's are made with laminated bodies, at least the back and sides.

If you plan on buying a DVR, assume the intonation is off on it. Everyone I have purchased, except one, which was redone by a luthier in Brazil, needed a new fingerboard. The positioning of the frets on the fingerboard (intonation) is off, and the spacing between at least some of the frets is usually wrong. Even Nato Lima said that one of his main DVR's would not play in tune between the lower part of the fingerboard and the upper part. Mr. Standefer also said that about a DVR he used to have. Replacing the fingerboard usually runs at least $1,000.00.

The really big problem with some of these guitars is that the cone well becomes distorted along with the top of the guitar and the cone well cover plate. It becomes dished in perpendicular to the strings and roughly in line with the bridge. This is serious and it is probably the result of using heavy gauge strings on it. The problem is due to the bracing used in the guitar's design. A solid piece of wood runs just below the cone well (about half way between the top and back of the guitar's sound box) from the heel of the neck to the block that the tail piece attachs to. Most of the pressure that the strings hooked into the tailpiece exert on the top trys to bend it downward in the middle of the top, and the pressure is not canceled completely by this wooden bar due to its placement, since there is a lever arm acting on the top, that the bar can not cancel, unless it is run directly below the top. (Then there would be no place for the cone.) Therefore the upper part of the sound box and the top of the guitar starts to bend/collapse at its weakest point, which is inline with the bridge and perpendicular to the strings. This can get so bad, that the cone well cover actually warps enough to contact the metal cone and render the guitar unplayable. This also distorts/bends the cone well out of round and turns it into an oval, with the long axis inline with the bridge. Then if you try to put in a 9 3/8” diameter cone, it will not fit, without trimming inside the cone well or on the edges of the cones.

By the way you can get DVR cones from Beard Guitar, but they are 9 3/8” in diameter. They are made by Don Young of National guitar, where they are also for sale. I tried to get Mr. Young to cut his cones down just a little bit, but he didn't seem to be very interested in doing it. He was going to try a new alloy, that he thought was going to sound really good, but I have not bought any of his newest cones. By the way, Del Vecchio does not sell any of its guitars or parts, at this point in time, to anyone outside of Brazil. I do not think they are making six string resonators, except maybe as a special order for someone in Brazil. Someone told me (Mr. McGill?), that he thought one of the reasons that DVR's sound the way they do is because the cones are made from pure aluminum. That is also probably why the cones from DV are so soft and fragile.

There are two basic types of cone wells. The older type is constructed from wood, and it is found in all of the older guitars. Mr. Atkins short scale DVR is of this type. Shortly after DV switched over to the metal slotted sound hole covers in the 1970's?, they switched over to an aluminum cone well. The guitar in Mr. Atkins' book ME AND MY GUITARS given to him by Doyle Dykes is one of those. In my humble OPINION and the OPINION of my friend, the metal cone well guitars sound better. They produce a clearer, cleaner, more bell like sound on the higher notes. This is maybe why Mr. Dobbins said that Mr. Atkins used the longer scale metal cone well version on all of his later DVR recordings.

One last item on fingerboards, if you do have to replace a fingerboard or have one refretted, try some really large (jumbo) fret wire. Mr. McGill said that Nato Lima requested that he use it on the resonators, that he built for him, and now he uses it on all of his resonators. I have it installed on all of my new fingerboards. I use stew mac's wide/highest fret wire.

Now for some questions.

Does anyone have any theories on why DVR's sustain so magically? I have some theories, but I would like to hear some other thoughts on the subject. They even sustain longer, than my McGill resonator.

What are the clamps on Mr. Atkins' DVR's for? They are visible in the picture of the DVR's on the stairs in ME AND MY GUITARS. He has them installed on the strings between the bridges and the tailpieces.

The Del Vecchio Resonator Guitar, truly the voice of an angel.

Dan Sage

Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 8:27 pm
by Norm
It's really a shame that the DV manufacturers didn't take the time to get an accurately fretting template for their fingerboards. I've seen three new DV's back in the seventies. I tend to smell guitars when we got them in (music store) and my distinct impression was that the wood they used was 'wet', not seasoned, which, if true, would tend to warp as it dried

Those gadgets behind the bridge "on the stairs" (on page 128) DV's are tuners. They were made for violins and violas so the player could fine tune the strings. He started using those in ernest when he switched to Gibson. Look at his road Gentleman on page 149. One of the DV's has a piece of foam run under the harp by the tailpiece to kill overtones

They sustain like they do because of the "accident of birth" just the way they happen to sound because of the way they are made.

Truly remarkable sounding instruments. More delicate sounding than our Dobros but just such trashily made things...

Too bad.

Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 8:34 pm
by Norm
The clamp by the nut of the bottom guitar on 128 is another gadget attempting to keep the instrument in tune. Paul Yandell use them on a couple of guitars too. They were supposed to work well keeping Bigsby mounted guitars in tune. Chet was obviously trying several different things at once.

Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:29 pm
Thanks for the information. FYI check out this video of Mr. Atkins playing Nato Lima"s BLUE ANGEL, while Nato Lima plays accompaniment. ( Mr. Atkins is playing on a later/latest? model McGill resonator guitar, with the two bevels in the top. This is the version that John Standefer and Jim Stafford use for recording, and the version I own. To Mr Dobbins: Is this the type that you played in the music store?

Dan sage

Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:46 am
Just a few more items/thoughts, and then I will shut up.

1. The few guitars, that I have seen made by Mr. McGill are works of art/perfection. The Norm was correct, when he said the DVR's are poorly made, but they still sound wonderful, if you can keep them playing.

2. The easiest way to tell if a DVR is made of solid wood or a laminate is to look at the edge of the cone well cover. If it is made from laminated wood, the guitar's body is also made from laminated wood, even though the grain pattern on the inside of the guitar seems to match the grain pattern on the outside. The laminated body, in my opinion, helps the guitar sound like a DV and increases the sustain time, since you are not wasting as much energy trying to excite the back and top soundboards. I think the laminated wood body acts more like a speaker enclosure, which reflects the sound off the surface of the top, back and sides and out the sound holes and back at the cone and the biscuit, and therefore, indirectly to the strings to keep the strings' vibrations going.

3. I made a simple tool to help me work on my DVR's. I bought a cheap screwdriver, that wasn't tempered and them flattened the end of the tip with a hammer on a vise. Then I used some needle nose pliers to bend a 90 degree angle in the tip to make a hook. The blade tip was originally about 2.5 mm in width and the blade lenght was about 75 mm (3") long. Working from the inside of the circle, I use it to remove the retaining wire ring, the cone well cover, and the cone itself. Don't try and pry on any of the parts by using the edge of the cone well as a fulcrum, especially, if it is a metal cone well, or you will end up with a bunch of dents in the top edge of it.

4. You can work on your cones if you have a hard flat surface and a piece of rigid plastic rod or thick walled plastic tubing. I use one that is about 3/8" in diameter (a little bigger would probably be better). You remove your cone from the guitar and working on the inside surface, you can iron out small dents and distortions, with your rod or tubing. You can also use it to seat the cone in the cone well, by bending (ironing) the lip downward on the edge of the cone. You need to make the surface the cone normally sits on as flat as possible and then put the cone back in the cone well, replace the cone well cover and retaining wire and string the guitar up and let the downward pressure exerted on the cone by the strings seat the cone lip to any imperfections on the cone well bottom edge. This should remove some of the buzzing and extraneous vibrations, especially, if the cone is one of the soft aluminum ones that DV makes. At least that is the theory.

Dan Sage

Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:53 am
by craigdobbins

It sounds like you have a lot of experience with DVs. The McGill I played in Gruhn's (that belonged to Bill Piburn) had a deep body and a shallow single cutaway. It was made from highly figured Brazilian rosewood "stumpwood." The neck was about 1 7/8", and it may have had the bevel on the lower bout. Also, I think the top may have been spruce. It was 15 years ago, or more, so I'm not sure.

I agree with your assessment about the laminated body. Some classical guitar makers use laminated sides or back and sides for that reason. (We're not talking "plywood", but very high quality laminated woods.)

My experience is the same with the soundwell lip and cone. They need to be "just right." I've found that the most minute change in the placement of the cone can change the sound drastically, so I leave all that alone once it sounds "right." I also have a rig to mute the strings behind the bridge and create more downward pressure. Contrary to what someone wrote (maybe in another thread, I don't recall) it does make a difference, and big- at least on a DV.

Your tool sounds interesting. In the past, I've just used a small flathead screwdriver to carefully spring the rod, and removed/placed the cone by hand. I've had three DVs- "one on, one off, and one in the wash" as Jimmy Stewart said in Bend of the River. My first was the short scale from Chuck Tucker, in the 80's, which I sold in the early 90's. Then, my current guitar, a long scale I bought from Paul Craft, that had already been worked on by Paul McGill. Paul installed a new zero fret for me once, and made a compensated saddle another time. I tinkered with both guitars quite a bit. I have another, kind of medium scale, that needs work. The cone is totally trashed, so I may try one of the Beard

I've really enjoyed reading your posts, Dan.


P.S. I have mine set up with low action at the nut, and pretty high at the bridge. Then I use very light 1st-3rd strings- .010 (or even .009), .012, and .016 plain. This enables me to get some fairly good Chet-style vibrato, even though it's a 25 1/2" scale.

Re: Chet's Paul McGill resonator

PostPosted: Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:53 pm
by guitarchuck
Hi Dan,
I really appreciate your insight and posts on the Del Vecchio resonator guitars here on the Chetboard. I noticed that you said that you have a 2000 model. Does your 2000 model have a nameplate on the headstock? Also, do you think the quality is improved on the 2000 model compared to the earlier versions?
The reason that I'm asking these questions: I have a 2008 model. Mine doesn't have a nameplate on the headstock and it's better quality than any other Del Vecchio that I've seen. I had 3 others. The first 2 that I had were really bad, the 3rd one was playable, but it had a bow in the neck. The one that I have now, I really love. It's fit and finish are really good for a Del Vecchio. The only thing is that you can feel the maple stripe on the back of the neck. I'm guessing that the cedar shrunk a little and the maple didn't. Mine is the electric version. I wish it was just acoustic, that's the only way I play it. Mine has the basic hardshell case with a label under the accessory pocket that says: "AMSESTOJOS ARTESANAIS, Rua Gentil Fabriano No3 A, Itaquera-SP, email:". I also have the TAM Brazilian airline bag tag & FRAGIL tag that was on the case when the seller flew back from Brazil with it.

Here's the story on it from the guy that I bought it from:
He said that the company that he works for has a plant in Brazil. He had his Brazilian plant manager contact the Sao Paulo factory and had this Dinamico especially made for him.
I asked them for a Dinamico he said they had some parts in process and could complete a guitar for me within 6 weeks. He did say that they indicated it wasn't something they had in stock or had ready and they didn't start assembling it until he called and sent the money in advance.

This also leads me to believe that you are correct in your statement:
By the way, Del Vecchio does not sell any of its guitars or parts, at this point in time, to anyone outside of Brazil. I do not think they are making six string resonators, except maybe as a special order for someone in Brazil.

Craig Dobbins and Phil Hunt gave me some tips on how to make it sound better after I first got mine. This helped a lot. I just wanted to thank you also for your insights.