SN: 1898. Friends, this wonderful little guitar has served as a friendly reminder to me that not all the cool prewar guitars were made in Nazareth and Kalamazoo. As proof, here is a Washburn Model 5238 circa 1934 made in Chicago. Washburn was known for innovation is the late 19th and early 20th century but unlike some of its predecessors (such as the “bell” guitar), the 5238 followed guitar making conventions of its day. Its rosewood back and sides, spruce top, mahogany neck and 14” body seemed to have the Martin 00-28 and 00-42 squarely in its sights. It is X-braced with two tone bars that are tapered rather than scalloped and a tiny maple bridge plate. The fretboard is bound and inlays are wonderful snowflakes, diamonds and dots. Rather than herringbone or pearl, the adornments consist of a gold leaf pattern of vines, leaves and flowers stenciled on the top. The original “smile” bridge is decorated with two inlays in the wings. “Washburn” is inlayed with some very nicely figured abalone with some inlaid flourishes underneath. The whole package could be in a Maxfield Parrish painting or in repose in a Green & Green bungalow in Petaluma.
This was an attic find I bought from an eBay auction years ago. Not much was required to bring it back to original playing condition but it did require a careful cleaning and thorough setup. One tightly repaired 5” crack in the top is glued and cleated. Everything about the guitar is delightfully original – the case (worn), the pins, the finish and the charming diamond-shaped wood “plaque” inside that says “Genuine Washburn Tonk Bros. Co. Sole Distributors”. The tuners are magnificent three-on-a-plate etched gold with pearl buttons that look like they belong on a 00-45. There is light pick wear, a few handling scratches and a case bite. Much of the finish has been worn down on the back of the neck. Overall it has the patina of a well-made, well-loved and well played guitar.
Over the years, I’ve been playing it here and there and it’s been on artist loan, most notably with multi-instrumentalist Eli West. As much as I love the way it looks, it’s not a wall hanger by any means. It has a very robust tone with a lot of sustain and chordal “bloom”. The nut is just shy of 1-7/8” and the string spacing is 2-5/16ths making it the veritable fingerpicker's delight. The neck is C-shaped with some heft and very comfortable in the hand. Overall, a great player and great sounding little guitar that doesn’t sound like a little guitar.
The case is original made of black tolex with green felt interior. All hinges and latches work. It’s taped up in a couple of places probably by my eBay seller. It looks like the tape could be removed and the bottom glued up a bit. It’s one of those hardshell cases that feel a little soft. The string box, which still operates fine, has a single diamond on the top. Worthy of restoration.
Band & Sides: Rosewood (likely a 3-ply)
Bridge & Fretboard: Ebony
Appointments: Fancy fretboard inlays and gold leaf filigree
Nut width: ~1-7/8”
String spacing: 2-5/16”
Body width: 14-3/8”
Scale length: 24.75”
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We represent the instruments as accurately as we can. All instruments are shipped on 48-hour approval. If there is damage as a result of the shipping, please contact us immediately and we will deal with the insurance company. If the instrument is damaged in transit from you to me, then you are responsible for dealing with the damage and insurance. For refunds, all instruments must be returned in the same condition as we shipped them in.
All instruments are shipped on 48-hour approval. If there is damage as a result of the shipping, please contact us immediately and we will deal with the insurance company. If the instrument is damaged in transit from you to me, then you are responsible for dealing with the damage and insurance. For refunds, all instruments must be returned in the same condition as we shipped them in.