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Midget Washboard #442, shiny tin, good
Identical to Zinc King #703 except for shiny tin rubbing surface.
Identical to Zinc King #703 except for shiny tin rubbing surface.

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Learn how to play a washboard on Folk Rhythms Video!

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  • Pictured washboards are representative sample: Your washboard will vary from pictures.
  • Washboard Grade: Good
  • View all washboard grades.
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Our Price: $41.97 each

Here's what you get: One good quality vintage washboard

Quantity in Stock:(Out of Stock)
Product Code: 100-610-442-S-G

Description Technical Specs
Vintage Good Quality Midget #442 Washboard
Shiny tin rubbing surface
Great alternative washboard for the legendary Zinc King #703

Genuine Vintage Midget #442 made by the National Washboard Company
The National Washboard Company manufactured washboards using several kinds of tin. The Midget #442 washboards featured in this shop represent three kinds of rubbing surfaces: shiny tin, dull tin, and dark tin. The Midget #442 washboards described on this page are the shiny tin version.

Shiny Tin
shiny tin Sunlight brightly reflects off the silver rubbing surface which resembles a shiny tin can. Flip any Midget #442 washboard on its backside and you will see shiny tin beneath the wooden panels too. Despite gradual degradation of the tin plating (which is normal over time on smaller vintage washboards), the silvery color is fairly even over the entire rubbing surface. And like most vintage lingerie washboards that faithfully served a household, the tin plating is usually worn from use.

Corrugation Pattern Like Zinc King #703
midget 442 silver metal profile As you can see in the photo at right, the metal rubbing surface of this shiny tin Midget #442 washboard is a "wave" corrugation pattern. This is similar to the metal rubbing surface you find on most Zinc King #703 washboards.

Strong Lightweight Rubbing Surface made from Thin Steel
The Midget #442 must have been a workhorse in its day. Maybe that is why so many of the boards reveal ridges worn from use. The rubbing surface of nearly all small vintage washboards is a core of steel coated with tin. Yes, your vintage Midget washboard is basically a corrugated tin can with a wood frame. How do we know the rubbing surface is steel coated with tin? Because the worn corrugated ridges show rust. I have yet to see a Midget #442 washboard - or any steel-core washboard - that is totally free from rust.

On the other hand, the metal rubbing surface of a Zinc King #703 washboard is virtually rust free. However, every once in a blue moon I will find a 703 with rust spots. So some Zinc King #703 washboards are probably made of zinc plated steel instead of solid zinc. But I am just guessing. In any event, unlike Zinc King #703 washboards, all Midget #442 washboard rubbing surfaces are prone to rust. So be sure to keep your vintage Midget #442 washboard dry and away from moisture. BTW, if you have definitive data on the composition of washboard rubbing surfaces I hope you will drop me a line.

How does the tone of a Midget #442 washboard compare with a Zinc King #703? To find out I conducted a simple auditory test comparing the relative tone of each Midget #442 washboard to the Zinc King #703. The boards were tested using brass thimbles. I got the same results using plastic thimbles. The results from highest to lowest tone are shown below.

Relative tone from highest to lowest
1. Midget #442, shiny (highest tone)
2. Midget #442, dark (distinctly lower tone than Shiny)
3. Zinc King #703 (distinctly lower tone than Dark)
4. Midget #442, dull (similar, but slightly lower tone than Zinc King #703)

All in all, the four washboards sound pretty much alike. But washboard connoisseurs might note the difference in tone between the Midget #442 Dull Tin and Zinc King #703 was barely perceptible, at least to my ear.

Small Compact Size
The Midget #442 is the same exact size as the Zinc King #703. And although some washboard artists prefer larger models, "The size of the washboard does not improve the sound," insists Grammy award winning songster, storyteller, and multi-instrumentalist, David Holt. And he should know. After all, David's Folk Rhythms DVD is the definitive video for learning how to play the washboard (plus bones, spoons, hambone and even the paper bag).

Approx Dimensions
Mini: 7-1/2" x 15" (19cm x 38cm)
Pail: 8-1/2" x 18" (21.5cm x 46cm)
Family: 13" x 24" (33cm x 61cm)

So just to be clear, washboards come in three sizes: Mini (toylike), Pail (small), and Family (large). The Midget #442 is a small pail-size washboard.

Specially Selected Vintage Musical Washboards
About the only way you can latch onto a quality vintage washboard you would be proud to play on stage is from an antique shop, flea market, garage sale, estate auction, or granny's attic. Beware of makeshift versions, hidden damage and missing parts on eBay. (I have a pile of bad eBay boards in the basement.) Of course, none of these places offer you the broad selection of specially selected vintage musical washboards you can get right here on this website.

What Makes This Washboard So Special?
You can boil it down to three factors:

midget 442 silver metal detail 1. Strong Shiny Tin Plated Rubbing Surface
The thin shiny tin surface delivers the highest tone of any Midget washboard. So if you always wanted something like a Zinc King #703 washboard, but with a slightly higher tone, then this shiny Midget #442 is for you. Steel is a strong metal. But don't worry about the weight. After all, a pail-size washboard like this is nothing more than a corrugated tin can with a small wooden frame. So it won't weigh you down. At just 17 ounces (more or less) this shiny Midget is the heaviest of the bunch. And if those extra 1 or 2 ounces have any impact (positive or negative) on your playing I hope you will click the Review button and tell us about it.

midget 442-s backside 2. Wooden Back Panels Resonate Sound
The two wooden panels on the backside form an enclosure behind the metal rubbing surface. This creates a resonating chamber that adds tonality and helps drive the sound - kind of like a drum. The Midget #442 is one of the few washboards that sport such a chamber.

washboard-construction silver 3. Brilliant Floating Construction Boosts Harmonics
The frame design is elegantly simple and compact. The metal rubbing surface floats - and resonates - within a deceptively simple tongue & groove and rabbeted framework. So the entire unit is amazingly sturdy yet flexible. That's why the whole darn structure rattles when you play it. And it is all secured in this vibratory state with just four small strategically placed nails. What's more, no elements stick out, fall off, or snag at you.

Which Washboard Grade is Right for You?
Every Midget #442 washboard we sell is a fine playing vintage instrument. All parts, including the two back panels, are intact and in good working order. For all practical purposes each washboard plays just as well as the next. The difference in price merely reflects the outward appearance of the wood, the rubbing surface, and the ink.

Washboards in all grades below are antique objects that might show signs of age, wear or inconsequential damage such as small chips, water staining and paint spots from long term storage or display.

midget 442-good silver

Might show scuffs, scratches, minor cracks in wood. Ink might be faded or missing. Might show conspicuous rust, soap residue or other slight imperfections. No significant cracks in wood frame. No pin holes, cracks or breaks in metal rubbing surface. No serious ruts, dents or substantial scratches (i.e. washboard was not a musical instrument in former life). No missing panels. No missing parts. Framework is sturdy yet flexible. Washboard has been around the block a few times but is eminently playable.

midget 442-better silver Better
Overall better condition. Minor rust areas.

midget 442-better silver Near Mint
Light wear. Hardly used. Little or no rust or soap residue. Ink color and print quality usually good, but not always.

washboard-mint Mint
Appears unused. Ink color and print quality usually good, but not always. Little or no rust. Belongs in a museum. Don't know why you would want to scrape up a fine antique relic like this to play music on it though.

How to Attach Accessories:

The wood on vintage washboards is bone dry and brittle with age. So avoid hammering nails or tacks into the washboard because the wood is likely to crack. The safer way to add accessories and hardware is to drill holes with a sharp wood-cutting bit, then attach with bolts (preferably) or screws.

Grading Scale in a Nutshell:
The weathered ones cost less, the clean unblemished ones cost more.
  • Tin Plated Rub Surface: Resists rust.
  • All Wood Frame: Easy to attach accessory Items
  • Shiny Tin Surface: Produces highest relative tone
  • Distinctive crackly sound: Not clangy or ringy
  • Back Panels Resonate Sound): Adds tonality and sound color
  • Floating Construction: Boosts harmonics
  • Sturdy yet Flexible: Radiates sound, won't fall apart
  • Natural Wood Finish: Won't irritate skin

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