Vintage Unique 1936 Oahu Tonemaster Lap Steel Guitar
Most of the Tonemasters were much more ornate. Please refer to our store for examples. It's relatively rare to find one without the ornamentation. This has the body shape & details that were used prior to 1936 and may even be a prototype. They were sub-cotracted out & made by KAY. These are one of our favorite vintage lap steels.
We’ve had several of these guitars and find them to be outstanding. The longer than normal scale length of 24.5" gives it more range than conventional lap steels. They’re one of my favorites. A sister guitar, the Diana was the lap steel of choice for one of my favorite artists, Lance Harrison. I highly recommend checking out his CDs & UTube videos.
I’ve been told several times that the pickup in these guitars are worth more than the guitar. Be that as it may, the pickup may be rare, but I prefer leaving the pickup in this guitar. The body is just too beautiful. If I wanted to rob a pickup for another guitar, I’d choose a guitar that was less attractive to take it from.
The pickup receives rave reviews. We recently sold another Oahu Tonemaster with this same model pickup and the new owner of this fine old guitar chose it particularly for the signal translation of the pickup. Jimi Hendrix played a Strat with single coil pickups and AlNiCo magnets. I’ve run this guitar through combinations of effects and duplicated some of the sounds he created, only on a slide guitar. This guitar can scream. Or growl. Or be mellow. And the sustain is also noteworthy. You can go from country twang to Southern blues to Hawaiian or anything beyond. It’s up to you.
This is a vintage classic.
*This guitar is likely 1936. We don't know precisely, but I'll share what we do know. This model was made by Oahu itself. Dickerson, Harmony, Valco & Rickenbacher Also made versions for Oahu. It's not the Ricky version which was made around 1940. Other than eliminating Ricky, these were made from the early '30's to the '50s. We try to date via the pots. These are Stackpoles 618. Stackpole Source-date codes weren't an industry standard until after WWII. But I have seen them used on Stackpole pots on electric National guitars as early as 1935. The first time date-source codes were published was 1924, so I guess you could see them as early as the late 1920's. The standard was the year is the first # and the week the following numbers. Therefore, 618 should translate to the 18th week of 1936.
So..This guitar is likely 1936.
The other components also fit this analysis.
The pickup is cloth-bound.
I hope this helps.
We received this guitar without a case and are offering it here the same way. However, we stock cases (at $67.55) that are designed for a keyboard but also work well for lap steels. They are larger than most lap steels, but have foam inserts that can be placed to hug the guitars well, providing excellent protection. We also offer vintage lap steel cases but none of our (in stock) vintage cases fit this guitar.
*A comment from a helpful eBayer: a little insight into that Tonemaster. I have owned and operated a '52 Diana for a couple of decades now. Those pickups are very good split coil designed and with highly responsive adjusteably pole pieces. The Diana/Tonemaster pickups were made by Valco and are like the ultimate, high end version of the classic Supro pickup but made out of better materials. My Diana is also the loudest electric guitar I have ever encountered. It's sound is very midrangey but quite controlable via the polepieces. I have used it in a variety of tunings and with a range of string gauges to match and each one required fine tuning of the poles to set up the sound but well worth the effort.
As to how it compares to a vintage Gibson lap steel I don't know, but my main guitar is a Supro Twin equipped with Gibson P-90's and to me, the biggest difference is the Oahu sounds like a lap steel (an awesome one!) and the Supro w/P-90's sounds like a console steel. Both of them sound very good but not a lot alike.
*Please see our other listings and store for many other Vintage Lap Steel Guitars and Amplifiers. We currently have over 60 lap steel guitars & 40 amps. We specialize in Vintage gear, primarily slide guitars. *
*Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.