National Triolian Resophonic Guitar (1928)

National  Triolian Resophonic Guitar  (1928)
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Item # 7276
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National Triolian Model Resophonic Guitar (1928), made in Los Angeles, California, Polychrome lacquer with decals finish, laminated wood body, basswood neck, hard shell case.

This fascinating guitar is one of the VERY earliest National single-cone guitars made, from the first production batch of the then-new Triolian model. With a screen-hole cover plate and flower bouquet decals on the body, this is the guitar identified as the progenitor of ALL subsequent National single-cone instruments.

The "Triolian" was designed just a year or so before the Great Depression made lower-priced instruments a necessity. The first dozen or so wooden-body Triolian prototypes were set up with a simplified three-cone resonator (hence the name "Triolian") that proved uneconomical for quantity production. This first single-cone version followed immediately after and was built only in very small quantities, making it extremely rare today.

The wood-body Triolian was introduced in late 1928 and discontinued in the last quarter of 1929. The single-cone resonator had proved easier and cheaper to make, but as National was more equipped to work with metal than wood, the stamped steel body was adapted as a more efficient production expediency.

The wood-body Triolian was replaced by the much more common metal-body version, built in the thousands through the 1930s. This floral-decorated version is thought to have been built in a quantity of only several dozen at most according to National historian Bob Brozman.

There are many differences between this very early Triolian and even later wood-body models. This guitar's twelve-fret basswood neck has a medium "V" profile and an unbound, painted wood fingerboard. The laminated wooden body is painted pale yellow with very subtle airbrushed highlights. There is a beautiful full-color stencil of a stand of anemone flowers on the back and a small floral bouquet on front, both unique to this first variant -- it was quickly replaced with the more familiar "Hula Girl" decoration.

The tuners are the same fairly fancy engraved-plate Waverly strips used on the Tricones of the period, and the headstock has the same peaked shape to the upper edge. There was originally a plain stencil "National Triolian" logo on the headstock; it is gone here. Like most wood-body Triolians the words "PAT PEND" are stamped directly on the top just below the fingerboard.

The single-cone guitars that descended from this first model ensured the National company's survival during the Depression, being far less expensive to produce than the elaborate Tricone that had previously been their sole product. This first style Triolian is historically significant, representative of both the earliest commercial single-cone guitar and the first wooden-body resonator instrument. It is also a wonderful-sounding guitar, with a deep and surprisingly sweet tone quite unlike its steel-bodied brothers, unique in both feel and tone.
 
Overall length is 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm.), 14 1/8 in. (35.9 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 3/8 in. (8.6 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.). This is a VERY well-used example of this rare National, but it is quite playable and great sounding guitar. It has recently had a neck set and refret and is now set up for many more years of playing time. The cone is newer, but the biscuit, tuners and tailpiece are original -- the tuners have a couple of mis-matched gears and screws but all work as intended.

The original finish has wear virtually everywhere, with a superbly well used patina. The body edges are all worn down to the wood, with numerous small dings and dents. The deep yellow lacquer has darkened and checked, with a decent amount of scratching and scuffing especially to the back. Some of the enamel on the steel coverplate and handrest has been worn through and a couple of areas have flaked from the metal surface, as is common with these early models. The flower decals on the top and back are still intact but have darkened, and the back florals are somewhat scuffed and scratched.

The painted fingerboard has a lot of wear along much of its length and nearly all the finish is rubbed away from the back of the neck. The feel is actually superb, not unlike an old 1950's maple-board Fender! The finish patching to the dots in the fingerboard over the body is a bit mismatched. The neck is nice and straight and the frets are new so playability is excellent. In an age of ersatz authenticity this ancient-looking Triolian is a genuine relic, and about as blues-approved as it gets. We don't know where it has been for the last 90+ years but there are definitely a lot of stories played into this one! It is also a very fine-playing example of this extremely rare and historic National, and it sounds lovely. Very Good + Condition.