Retrofret Stock # 7658. Wm. Stahl Solo Style # 7 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar, made by Larson Brothers, c. 1915, made in Chicago, natural varnish finish, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, black hard shell case. Any discussion of the finest flat-top guitars ever made will soon enough come around to the work of Carl and August Larson in Chicago between 1900 and 1940. Here is a spectacular (and fairly early) example of their work, in this case labeled for teacher/retailer Willian Stahl, but absolutely a Larson product. Larson instruments have become recognized as both uniquely desirable and historically important in recent years, and the better-grade flat-top guitars like this one are among the most sought-after piecesThis guitar features medium deluxe appointments as offered by the Larsons. The back and sides are of very high-grade Brazilian rosewood with a pronounced figured grain to the sides while the back is more of a straight-grained variety. The top is very tight-grained spruce. The neck is one-piece mahogany with a soft "V" profile-more so than many Larsons that usually have a rounder neck. The ebony fingerboard is bound and inlaid with dainty shaped pearl designs. The headstock is overlaid with Brazilian rosewood which is bound and inlaid with a couple of delicate pearl doodads. The tuners are the same Waverly strips used by Gibson and Martin at the time.The back and sides are triple bound with a side binding strip and the top edge, soundhole and fingerboard border are inlaid with lighter wood trim with a center line of abalone. The bridge features inlaid pearl clovers on the ends. The soundhole edge is also celluloid bound with an abalone ring and there is a multi-laminate cap on the heel. The finish is a very thin varnish typical of the brothers' earlier instruments.The Larson Brothers distinctive construction and design elements are very evident in this guitar. Unlike contemporary C. F. Martin instruments, this Concert sized guitar was intended from the beginning to carry steel strings. The top and back are noticeably slightly arched, "Built under Tension" was the brothers' descriptive phrase. The X bracing is spruce without the brothers' patented laminated strip of ebony in the center, which is typical of most Stahl-branded guitars; the 1904 patent stamp is not used in this case. Despite probably passing its centennial this guitar feels entirely comfortable to the modern player and makes a fair case for the Larsons being the most advanced luthiers of their day and true pioneers of the American steel-string flat top guitar. While the overall workmanship on this and other Larson guitars is not as neat in detail as what is usually seen on period Martin instruments, the design elements and creativity involved are certainly on a similarly high level.Playing a Larson instrument is a unique and rewarding experience; the tone is distinctive and has a 'singing' quality unlike any other flat top guitar. This is a very fine example of the brothers' work and a lovely guitar to play.Overall length is 38 1/4 in. (97.2 cm.), 13 11/16 in. (34.8 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 15/16 in. (10 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.). Width of nut is 1 7/8 in. (48 mm.). This beautiful Larson-made guitar shows some light wear overall but remains an excellent playing and spectacular sounding instrument. There are small dings and nicks to the finish overall, with a bit of picking wear on the treble side of the soundboard and a number of small dings scattered about. The neck has been very cleanly reset, the frets appear to be original but remain in fine playing shape with just a very small amount of wear. The bridge appears to be a very skillfully crafted replica of the original. There are several old and well repaired grain cracks on the upper side on the lower bass bout, still visible but solidly sealed up. There is one repaired crack on the top just below the center seam, and another just along the treble side of the fingerboard. All of these are solid with just minimal touchup to the surrounding finish. As with many Larson-made instruments the sound is spectacular, more powerful than most similar sized guitars with the clarity and authority that is a Larson hallmark. An excellent all-around fingerpicking guitar, and no slouch with a plectrum either, this Stahl-branded small wonder is a tribute to the Larson's art and a joy to play. Overall Excellent - Condition.
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