4/18/2018

1970 Harmony H1203 Sovereign 000-Size Flattop Guitar




The H1203 was Harmony's 000-size upscale flattop guitar and it specs-out much like a Martin 000-18 save that it's, of course, ladder-braced and the 25 1/8" scale is a little longer. The top is solid spruce and the back, sides, and neck are solid mahogany. It's often great-looking mahogany, too. Both the bridge and fretboard are rosewood (Brazilian), and the finish on the Sovereign line was always a nice, respectable-looking gloss that brings out the wood. Tonally, this guitar has a bit of the compressed, growly kick that you hear out of something like a Gibson LG-2, but the upper-mids and highs are definitely more in the Harmony realm of extra-sustain and zip.

That said, these are Harmony boxes and they suffer from the usual woes -- not-so-great neck joints and bridges often glued in the wrong places. This one's major suffering is a really common one -- the truss rod's adjuster nut is snapped-off from someone monkeying with the rod and I can tell that enough of the threaded length is gone that removal, cut-down, and re-tapping would be in order to get it going again. The good news is that the neck is straight (and still straight even when I tune it F-to-F over E-to-E standard), so it's not a playability issue.

My work on this included a neck reset, fret level/dress, and modification of the bridge to an adjustable, rosewood type. Harmony installed the bridge a good 1/8" off, so I adjusted it to this setup so that I could goose that saddle area forward without having to fuss too much. I also reglued the pickguard a little bit. There are no cracks and the guitar is healthy and playing spot-on. Its only ding on the playability-side is that the fretboard extension dips down from the rest of the fretboard over the body a bit.

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 1/8" lower bout width, 11 5/8" upper bout, and 3 3/4" side depth at the endblock. The top is flat with just a hair of doming under the bridge. Action is perfect at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret. I have it strung with 50w, 38w, 28w, 20w, 15, 11 strings as regular 54w-12 can be hard on the tops of these guitars. The neck is straight (even when tuned a half-step over pitch) and has a medium, C/D shape to its rear. The fretboard has a ~12" radius and the frets are the original, somewhat-smallish, Harmony stuff.


Aside from the usual weather-check to the finish, the guitar is pretty clean.

The date-stamp on this is nice and clear and indicates 1970 manufacture.


The truss cover is not original.


If you look closely, you can see tons of mild grinding/chatter on the board parallel to the frets. This is from Harmony's fretboard machining that gets progressively rougher from 1940-on-up. You see it on almost all of their products except for the very fanciest models.



I love the celluloid tortoise pickguard.



I have it set so that with the saddle grounded-out on the bridge the action is low/fast/spot-on. This also gives better contact with the body. From there, it can be jacked-up for higher action to suit personal tastes.



As is often the case, the medium-toned mahogany on this Harmony has a bunch of light figure/curl in it throughout.



The heel cap has some damage but is still there.





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