1959 Harmony-made Silvertone 1420 Semihollow Electric Guitar

These old Harmony Stratotone-style boxes look like solidbody slabs, but when you pick them up you realize they have Danelectro-style semihollow construction which makes them lightweight and fun. It also gives them more of that fundamental, chunky, rootsy sound, too.

Because these were mass-market guitars, "from the factory" they're a little underwhelming -- the wiring is a little finicky, the frets are often installed a little uneven in height, and they simply need a bit of love to make them work the way you'd want them to. They're undeniably cool right off the bat, though, with their low-brow stylish looks and gutsy DeArmond pickups. Once they're fully-serviced, however, these things just crank it in so many good ways that you start wondering about the price-tags on fancier gear.

A friend brought this in for consignment and I thought it would be a nice, easy, almost-done-with-the-day project to get to, but of course it needed a little more thought than that. Work included fret seating and a level/dress, a ton of cleaning to the wiring (all the pots were entirely seized), an additional ground wire to the tailpiece, shielding for the pickguard and wiring cavity, removal of extraneous resistors (apparently to mellow the tone which = eww) in the circuit, general cleaning, a new rosewood saddle/bridge topper with compensation for regular (unwound-G) electric strings, a vintage-style strap button install at the shoulder, side dots install, and a good setup.

It's currently wearing 46w-10 strings and has a ballsy, bluesy tone. The neck is straight and it plays with spot-on 1/16" action at the 12th fret. Everything is original save the replacement bridge top (which is a 1950s modified Kay saddle), the extra strap button, the side dots, and the shielding and bridge ground.

Specs are: 24 1/8" scale, 1 3/4" nut width, 1 1/2" string spacing at the nut, 1 3/4" spacing at the bridge, 13 1/8" lower bout, 9 1/4" upper bout, and 1 7/8" side depth.

Materials are: poplar body cores and bridge block with ply birch (I believe) top, back, and sides. The neck is poplar with a non-adjustable rod in it. The bridge base and fretboard are ebonized maple while the bridge topper/saddle is rosewood.

Note the original bone nut.

The fretboard has about a 12" radius to it and small-to-medium frets.

I jacked both of the pickups up a little closer to the strings with ~1/16" shims.

Note the full compensation at the bridge for regular 3-wound, 3-plain stringing. I also added a couple of screws (identical to the other Harmony hardware) from the bridge base into the body to keep the bridge in its proper spot for good intonation.

Note also that the little "hook" of the pickguard next to the bridge has a small crack in it. It's not obvious but it was repaired in the past with some sort of glue and came undone when I took the guard off of the top to shield it and clean-up the wiring.

I love those cupcake knobs!