4/27/2014

1930s Harmony-made H1665 Valencia Archtop Tenor Guitar





Update 2017: This has come back in for consignment. It came in much the way it left, though I've done a fresh fret level/dress and setup job on it and added cleats to two tight hairline cracks on the back. The pics and the soundclip have been updated as well as spots in the below text.

Yeah, this is pretty cool! I've been trying to get this guy finished all week but things kept intervening. It's a 00-size (14" lower bout), all-over solid birch, archtop tenor guitar... and it sports a 14-fret neck joint and round soundhole. This is just what the doctor ordered if you're at all interested in 30s-40s jazz, blues, or lead folk picking styles on the tenor guitar. It's got pep and zing, for sure, and it looks oh-so-cool. Thanks to the Harmony Guitars site for model number ID.

Work was sort of "the usual" for a 30s Harmony... the neck got a reset, the frets got leveled and dressed, the bridge got a new (taller) saddle for proper string height, the hairline crack on the top (tight) near the tailpiece got cleated and filled, as did the two hairline (tight) cracks on the back. I also reglued a portion of the fretboard and installed a new set of guitar-style tuners to replace the 1:1 friction pegs that came with it originally.

How's it play? Excellently -- 1/16" at the 12th fret and toting a straight neck. The bridge is compensated for DGBE ("Chicago" or "baritone uke") tuning and strung with 30w, 20w, 16, 12 strings.



I have no idea how many of this style Harmony was made but I'm assuming it's very few. It seems they were taking a leaf out of the Gibson and Martin books when they built this guy as it has that early-30s "round hole" archtop look and vibe. This thing is "press-arched" which means the (solid birch) top and back were pressed with heat and moisture in a mold into their present shapes. The back was then reinforced with canvas "strapping" and the top has thin spruce "strapping" braces installed, ladder-style, in a 3-below, 1-above-the-soundhole fashion.

This gives a sort of snappy, biting, and percussive voice to the instrument which is great for quick chord chop backing or lead work. It has a lot of "bite." The 4" side depth, though, gives a bit more mwah to the lower-mids than you'd expect out of a guitar of this size.


Fortunately, the celluloid-bedecked headstock has a guitar-ish enough shape to accept guitar-style right-angle tuners elegantly. The 1 1/4" width bone nut is original and the neck has a medium-sized V-shaped profile.


This has a bound, dyed-maple fretboard with pearl dots. The frets leveled and dressed nicely but are those typical thin 1920s-30s Harmony frets that might catch you if you're a heavy-handed player on slides. The board itself has a longer, tight, hairline dryness crack in it that's been no worry for several years.



The original rosewood bridge was cut down at some point -- but by installing a new bone saddle to replace the original (too short) bone saddle, I was able to reuse it.


Simple tailpiece...





Just below the heel cap you can see a smaller hairline crack on the back that's tight and terminates (on the inside) at the first reinforcement strip installed by Harmony. I've also added a cleat to keep it tidy.


There are two tight hairline cracks on the back near the endblock area, too. The short one doesn't go farther than the block and is thus stable and the longer one was filled and cleated a while back.

Just recently this guitar picked-up some new scratches via a few taste-testers in the shop. Forgive them -- they know not what they do!






The endpin is original and aluminum.


Here are some perfectly useless factory-stamped markers (at least for ID or dating).

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

what a beauty, and I'm sure you have it set up better than the day it left the factory.

Anonymous said...

Jake,

I'll be up Saturday instead of Friday. I have to work overtime. I plan to get there as soon as you open.

Scott

NickR said...

I don't know if any of the six string Valencias have that celluloid headstock- certainly, mine does not have one. My guitar is tobacco sunburst and is virtually identical except for the tenor aspects and it is is dated S34. The other big difference was that it was sold by Beare & Son Ltd (B S & L) and sold as a "Michigan". This company still exists after 150 years and is British- once a big London dealer with another outpost in Toronto, Canada. The company's trademark was the "Cat & Fiddle" and still is. I saw a Harmony archtop on ebay with a celluloid headstock cover featuring the cat & fiddle and it was amazing-the guitar looked okay as well. There is a Beare & Son Gibson catalog from about 1936 on the internet- the cat is on most pages but at the back you see a big version of this funny old fellow! Michigan branded guitars were made by many US absed companies but after WW2 they were only European.