1910s H. Williams Quart-Sized Harp Guitar




So adorable... and so odd! I have no information on the maker ("H. Williams, Buffalo NY"), but he definitely had a good hand. This creature is both pretty and elegant in its cut and folksy-as-heck at the same time. I really love the rope binding around the edges, Portuguese-ish soundhole rosette, and "American cabinetry" headstock details. It's simply a treat.

The backstory to this instrument is that a consignor of mine actually left this at the dump sometime last year. A local acquaintance picked it up and brought it here for evaluation. She eventually left it here over winter and, like all my backed-up workload, it's finally done.

The builder of this instrument certainly hadn't thought-out the nature of tension and time, so when this came in it had a twice-poorly-reglued bridge, a huge oversized extra bridgeplate installed, and a line of bridgepin-holes on the top that'd formed something that looked like a shattered fault-line under the falling-off bridge. There were also several back seams and cracks needing to be addressed and a new bridge was needed desperately.

Part of the trouble was that it was probably built for gut (these days: nylon) strings, but it'd been abused with some pretty brutal steel over its life. After dealing with all of the usual repair issues (cracks, new bridge, seams, fret work, etc.), I removed the extraneous jumbo bridge plate that'd been installed and added bracing where it was needed -- two lengthwise braces to either side of the soundhole and one ladder-brace to the south of it. Aside from those and one ladder brace right at the top of the soundhole, the only other bracing is an odd, large, bridge-plate/brace that sits under the saddles that the builder installed originally.

My new bridge is setup for string-through mounting of the nylon/classical strings and it has two drop-in saddles for easy action adjustment up/down via shims or shaves. I also cut the harp neck's saddle at a steep angle to get as much extra vibrating length for the lowest notes as I could.

Work included: a new rosewood bridge, new saddles, fret level/dress, seam and crack repair (and re-repair) to the back and sides, additional bracing changes to the top, cleaning, replacement tuner parts from my bins, and a good setup. Action is hair-under 3/32" (bang-on) at the 12th fret, the neck is straight, and there's adjustment room at the saddles to set it up to taste.

A note on strings: I used a standard "LaBella 900 Gold Nylon" set for the fretted neck, but tuned it up from E-to-E to A-to-A (ADGCEA low to high), as the scale length suits this "quart" tuning. I used a custom set of sub-bass strings for the harp neck that I bought from JustStrings.com's D'Addario individual classical strings selection. They're gauged 60w, 58w, 56w, 54w, 52w, 46w. I originally had a 50w for the highest of these, but the tension was too high so I subbed-in a standard classical guitar low E for that note. I tuned the sub-bass strings DEFGAC low to high and that suits the range of keys friendly to the fretted neck -- D, G, C, A, and E if you retune the C to B for E tunes. The D note is one step below normal guitar's low E.

Scale length: 18 1/4"
Nut width: 1 9/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 3/8"
String spacing at bridge: 2"
Body length: 14 3/4"
Lower bout width: 12"
Waist width: 8 1/8"
Upper bout width: 9 1/2"
Side depth at endpin: 3"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: solid mahogany w/some curly figure
Neck wood: oak or?
Bracing type: ladder/tic-tac-toe shape
Fretboard: ebony, ebony nut(s)
Bridge: rosewood, bone saddles
Neck feel: medium C-shape, flat board

Condition notes: extra bracing added, replacement bridge and saddles, and general wear and tear throughout with some old (not-so-pretty) hairline crack repairs on the back, sides -- one on the top.





Because the underside of the top looked like a fault zone along the original bridge pin holes, when I made the new bridge I used "string-through" string holes rather than full-size pinholes for string mounting. This means the bridge is far-less likely to crack-up and split (like the original) if it dries out and whatnot. It also means less of my repaired top surface is torn-up and weakened through drilling-out 12 pinholes. 









The back and sides look like they're made from pretty, slightly-flamed, Cuban mahogany.





Comments

Ivan said…
Really sweet. I'm interested in it if the person who brought it in no longer wants it.
Bill Arnold said…
Gorgeous! Beautiful work, Jake!