Washburn Bell Model # 5325 Soprano Ukulele, made by Lyon & Healy (1926)

 Washburn Bell Model # 5325 Soprano Ukulele, made by Lyon & Healy  (1926)
$750.00 + shipping
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Item # 11174
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Washburn Bell Model # 5325 Model Soprano Ukulele, made by Lyon & Healy (1926), made in Chicago, serial # 2475, dark mahogany finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, original black chipboard case.

This is a somewhat battered but still very playable example of one of the oddest and most distinctive ideas to come out of Chicago's Lyon & Healy factory, the 1920's "Bell" ukulele. The unique futuristic sweeping body design was applied to a number of instruments sold under the Washburn brand including Spanish and Hawaiian Guitars, Ukuleles and Tiples. The Bell guitar is probably the best remembered; it and this ukulele was the only ones produced in any quantity and even so are very rare.

The instrument's features include nicely grained mahogany throughout, and of course that distinctive bell-shaped body. There are pointed ends on the headstock and fingerboard, a carved pin bridge and ivoroid body binding and soundhole ring. A Washburn stamp adorns the back of the headstock, below a stamped set of numbers designating the style. There is a small Lyon & Healy stamp on the inner back and a serial number ink-stamped on the interior heelblock.

This was a $25 list price piece in 1925-6, which was not cheap for a ukulele at the time and $5 more than the similarly eccentric "Shrine' uke Lyon & Healy also offered at the time. Unfortunately this quite rare instrument has suffered some noticeable damage and repair over the last 95+ years but it remains a good playing and sounding uke. It remains a super distinctive instrument and a cool piece of fretted history, still fun to play over 90 years along.
Overall length is 21 in. (53.3 cm.), 8 in. (20.3 cm.) width, and 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 13 1/2 in. (343 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/8 in. (35 mm.).

This rare uke sounds great but visibly suffered some serious damage mostly to the top, probably many decades ago. It has been solidly repaired but the affected areas remain fairly conspicuous. Visible damage/repair is centered mostly around the bridge, which must have torn off dramatically long ago. That area of the top has been rebuilt and shows a lot of finish disturbance, with patching, old (probably) steel wool marks and some obviously filled-in spots. It is not the prettiest repair, but is solid. There are several repaired cracks in this area, and also around the extremities of the back, the lower corners of which were noticeably cracked. The bridge is still the original, with larger pins than it once had and a small maple bridgeplate added underneath to stabilize the area.

The finish overall shows general checking and numerous dings and dents, but overall except for the top the original lacquer remains fairly well preserved. The strip of binding on the lower curve of the back is replaced, and there are some binding cracks on the lower side under the neck heel. The neck ironically is in very clean shape, with the original tuners intact.

This Bell Uke still plays very nicely and sounds quite pleasant, not the loudest but smooth and even toned. These really are a very high-grade instrument with a distinctive tone. This is not a clean example but still represents one of the rarest and coolest higher-grade ukuleles of the 1920's. It includes an original Lyon & Healy heavy-duty chipboard case, looking original to the instrument but shaped for the Shrine model. Overall Very Good Condition.