This is a ca. 1990 Bently Dreadnought guitar. It has a sold spruce top, solid maple back and sides (stained to look like mahogany). It was made in Romania, right around the time the communist regime ended. I dated it based on 2 things: similar models and headstock labels in the 1990 Bently catalog, and the fact that it doesn’t say “The Socialist Republic of Romania,” which ended in 1989.
Upper bout: 12 1/2″
Waist: 11 1/2″
Lower bout: 15 3/4″
Scale Length: 25″
I saw this guitar listed on an online auction site, and noticed it had cracked down the center seam on the front, and that it had a back strip on the back, covering the seam between two pieces. It also had laminated binding, which wasn’t a feature I saw on any of the Dreadnoughts listed in the 1990 Bently catalog. Bently guitars are supposed to be cheap laminate Korean-made guitars, imported by the St. Louis Music Company as a cheaper alternative to their Alverez line, so I wondered why this was a Bently labeled guitar that had signs of being made of solid wood (the seams on front and back) and a made in Romania label. I took a chance and bought it. I loved the sunburst, and I love straight-shouldered dreadnoughts, and figured I could always sell it for what I had invested.
The guitar is very well made – Romania is a center of orchestral instrument construction (which might explain the maple back and sides, an uncommon wood for guitar making, although common in carved instruments like violins and mandolins.) It’s X braced, and has a 12″ radius on the fretboard. It also has evidence of previous repair work from a luthier. The top crack is cleated and sealed, and there are cleats on some small cracks around the soundhole rosette. The bridge is still very high, slightly over a half inch, but the saddle is down as low as it can go.
When I got the guitar, it did have some issues. The treble side was peeling away from the tailblock, and some of the binding on the back was peeling back. Someone had fixed it with packing tape, and while the tape was gone the residue remained. The heel was separating from the body, and there was a bow in the neck. One of the tuners was broken. I cleaned up the seam separations and the binding first, and got some replacement tuners on order. (I ordered vintage Kluson-style replacements.) The neck issues presented more of a challenge. Here’s what it looked like when I got it.
I thought about doing a full neck reset, but wasn’t sure I wanted to be that invested in this guitar. Although it appeared well built, I still hadn’t heard it. I decided to convert the guitar to a bolt-on neck, so I drilled two holes in the neckblock with a long bit through the endpin hole. I then detached the fingerboard extension with heat, and clamped the tail of the guitar to my bench. I ran a straightedge down the neck, and using a long clamp at the nut, clamped the neck to the bench and pulled it down until the straightedge just cleared the bridge. That also closed up the heel separation. I then ran screws into the holes I made in the neckblock to secure the neck joint, and then reglued the fretboard extension. In hindsight, the new neck angle means that the fretboard extension now has fairly high action. I should have cut a wedge to glue under the extension to keep those frets playable. Next time.
Once everything dried and the tuners arrived, I went to string it up and the low E slot cracked off on the plastic nut. I had several bone blanks, so I put a bone nut on it. I strung it up with D’Addario EJ11 light strings, and adjusted the truss rod to remove the back bow. I spent several days tweaking the nut slots to get the action low at the “cowboy chord” frets, and it plays easy and loud. Man is it loud.
Action is spot-on at 3/32″ at the 12th fret EA, and 5/64″ DGBE. In the long term, I might plane the bridge down a bit so I can get a reasonable saddle height. The saddle is absolutely as low as it can go now, barely 1/8″ at the E strings. I buffed out that gorgeous sunburst with all that honest wear from being played and played and played and now it looks like a million bucks. I also bought a new hard shell case for it. It’s a keeper.
Here’s a sound clip, again with my mediocre guitar skills and colorful thumb bandage: