4/23/2018

1960s Harmony H1203 Sovereign 000-Size Flattop Guitar




This H1203 has no date stamp, but the plastic nut, plastic (original) saddle, thinner front-to-back neck profile, and lack of an endstrip date this H1203 to the late '60s or very early '70s. I've sort-of had my eye on this Harmony since its consignor/owner first sent it to the shop years ago. He's had so many other priorities in the work-flow, however, that it's been shelved in favor of other instruments. Since I'm on a Harmony blitz, I finally got a chance to get it going and I'll be making use of it myself for a while.

A lot of these Harmony 000-size Sovereigns have a bright, chimey, crisp tone that really suits fingerpicking or light strumming, but this one has a darker, thunkier, more dead sound (in the clip those are brand new strings, mind you) that suits the sort of chord-chomping, bass-run flatpicking I do. It's a lot like a Gibson LG-1 but not as barky.

This one's pretty clean and only has one tiny back hairline crack. It's also all-original except for the (new) plastic saddle. My work included a neck reset, fret level/dress, bridge reglue and reposition (someone had reglued it in the wrong place), and setup. It plays on-the-dot and smoothly. The necks are always a little weird on Harmony products -- they have a D-shape but there's almost a little flatness right on the back of them -- but they're definitely charming enough.

Specs are: 25 3/16" scale, 1 3/4" nut width, 1 1/2" string spacing at the nut, 2 1/4" spacing at the bridge, 15 1/16" lower bout, 11 9/16" upper bout, 3 7/8" side depth at the endblock. Action is 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret, the neck is straight and the trussrod works, and strings are 50w, 38w, 28w, 20w, 15, 11. Because of the ladder bracing and scale, I like to avoid 12s on old Harmony boxes unless they're absolutely necessary.


The wood used on the old Harmony guitars is often surprising -- this has great-looking solid spruce over also-great-looking solid mahogany back, sides, and neck. The bridge and board are both Brazilian rosewood.






I forgot to mention that I had to reglue the pickguard, too. They're always coming off.


The classical-style "tie-block" bridge was used by Harmony from the 1940s-onward on their fancier instruments. It keeps the look nice and tidy but I curse them during setup as it's a little more difficult to slack the strings and pull the saddle out for reshaping. Note that the back edge behind the bridge has some finish touch-up from where I had to move the bridge forward to reglue.



It's hard not to love the silky, somewhat-curly figure found in almost all the mahogany used on Harmony boxes.








The endpin is a brown replacement from my parts-bins.

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