c.1940 Kay-made Harlin Brothers Squareneck Guitar

I couldn't resist posting some pics with our first real snow of the year just starting to stick in the background. This is a Kay-made, 0-size, all-solid birch guitar sold under the Harlin Brothers (Chicago) brand. It's got some very cool stenciled-on faux-binding and pinstripes and a curious "mottled" effect to the finish areas around the soundhole and top edges.

Work included a bridge reglue, new bone nut and saddle, new rosewood bridge pins and a black plastic endpin, slight seam reglues, new tuners, cleaning, and setup. It's good, sturdy, and ready to go and has a solid, full-sounding voice and lots of volume.

Just a note -- this is a squareneck (Hawaiian) guitar, made for raised strings and use in the lap with a steel/slide.

This style of finish and stencil work was popular with all of the big Chicago makers in the late 30s through the early 50s.

There's this "H.B." stencil at the headstock and also a burned-in Harlin Brothers mark in the soundhole. The new Kluson-style repro tuners work nicely and don't look too out of place on this guy (this would have had openback Klusons installed originally).

I like the painted-grain "faux rosewood" board. The pearl dots are the real thing, though.

The sponged/marbled effect to the finish in the rosette area and outer edge of the top looks pretty cool.

Who can complain about a nice rosewood pyramid bridge? This one, like many 40s Kays, has bolts installed for extra security underneath those pearl dots. When I installed the new bone saddle I made it a bit bigger than the original for extra stability (and improved tone).

I think the big black line down the back would have been one of those reflective-foil decals like one sees on old Kays and Oscar Schmidts from the 30s, but the top layer of the decal is long gone leaving only the residue/bottom layer of it. Looks fine!

I've strung the guit with 54w-12s and tuned it to open D for the moment, where it sounds nice.

The neck joint is good to go.

There are two tiny hairline cracks (one at the top edge of the soundhole and one near the heel on the back) aside from this, but no others. This is the largest and is an old hairline repair that's not 100% flush on either side of it. The bracing holds it just fine as does the old fill job on it, which I've added to and sealed up.

Overall, this is a low-brow cool choice for both experienced or beginner Hawaiian/Dobro style play. It's got a good singing tone (those extra overtones are in just the right place) with a good attack and volume to jam with.


Ron Neely said…
Quite different from my HB squareneck.