1910s Harmony-made Supertone Fancy Parlor Guitar

Update 2020: this guitar was purchased back in October of 2019 but the owner needs to pony-up some cash so it came back for consignment. In the meantime, it'd taken a bump and I just finished-up regluing some braces and installing a new (vintage) bridge to suit. I've updated the description where necessary. Back to the original post...

Guys, it has been a while since I've worked on an old, lightweight Harmony parlor guitar. This Supertone-branded one is in for consignment and it's crazy. Check out how intense that rope binding and plethora of purfling is... check out how seriously the finish has alligatored...! You can barely see through it to the nice figure in the mahogany that's on the back and sides.

It has some design features that are quirky, too, including a radius on the fretboard which I barely ever see on Harmony builds and it originally had the "patented" adjustable steel bridge that I've only ever handled once or twice on guitars coming through the shop. It's a nice idea but it needs lots of tweaking to actually make it work. I'd initially modified the steel bridge and used it for the guitar, but since doing the extra repairs on the guitar, I swapped it out for an old 1940s-era Kay rosewood bridge instead.

The rest of the design is straight-ahead Harmony-built for the time, though, including the thinly-cut top and light ladder-bracing that can only handle the lightest steel strings (46w-10 gauges) tuned to standard pitch. Its sound is remarkably full for a little "size 2" body and it has a sweet, rich fingerpicking tone. I'm excited to also relate that the flatpicking sound is nice and gutsy as well, though you have to back-off from a heavy-handed approach with the extra-light strings.

Work included: a neck reset, fret level/dress, cleats for 6 hairline cracks on the top above and below the bridge, cleaning, replacement bridge, replacement saddle, general cleaning, and setup.

Setup: action is spot-on with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret. It plays quick and easy and the strings are gauged 46w-10 (extra lights). The neck deflects just a tiny bit under tension (~1/64) but is essentially straight. The fretboard is quirky, though -- it's perfectly-fine up to the 12th fret, but starting at the 12th fret the board drops-off significantly from the rest of the board -- so if you're looking to do acrobatics above fret 12, look elsewhere.

Scale length: 24 1/8"
Nut width: 1 7/8"
String spacing at nut: 1 5/8"
String spacing at bridge: 2 1/4"
Body length: 18 1/8"
Lower bout width: 12 3/4"
Waist width: 7 1/8"
Upper bout width: 9"
Side depth at endpin: 3 3/4"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: solid mahogany with flamey figure
Neck wood: mahogany
Bracing type: ladder
Fretboard: possibly actual ebony, probably ebonized maple
Bridge: rosewood, 1940s-era Kay parts-bin replacement
Neck feel: medium V, ~10-12" board radius

Condition notes: aside from the repaired hairline cracks, the instrument is in overall decent shape. The finish has entirely alligatored all-over, however, so some of the finer details are obscured by that. One can still see the absurd level of trim, however, and cool, "arts and crafts"-style wood inlay and binding work. The frets are nearly full-original-height but that means that they're still very small and slim. It's a period thing, after-all. There's some cross-grain scratching on the fretboard, too, presumably from when it was made -- and there's chipout in the board that's been repaired at the 12th fret.

Also: I mentioned above that the fretboard extension drops-off a lot after the 12th fret and that's true -- it's because I reset the neck twice on this (the joint was an unhappy one) and during the second reset, the angle was knocked-back a little too far during clamping and shimming-up. This meant the board dropped more than I'd like over the body. This is why I used a "top load" 1940s/50s Kay bridge because the back-angle on the extra-tall saddle is less-intense than if I'd used a traditional, pin-load bridge.


Nick R said…
Quite an amazing instrument- and an example of a higher end Harmony guitar. That Supertone label is possibly the original style that lasted for quite a while into the mid-20s- when it began to change regularly over the next 15 years.
Nick R said…
Time for another comment. The guitar sounds amazing! I see you have a copy of "Sweetheart of the Rodeo." Quite a few years back, a T-shirt with that fabulous old imagery from the early 30s was available via Chris Hillman's website which linked you to the maker/retailer. I had to have one but it is only worn on special occasions!
Unknown said…
Cool guitar. I like quirky. Is this a good candidate for nylon strings? (I prefer them). Do you have an estimation regarding the fingerboard radius?

KPW said…
What fun! I've been looking for another one of these for many years. I have a Supertone this same size in Brazilian Rosewood. It had been water damaged so I took the finish down to the wood. The damage destroyed most of the rope binding but the purfling stayed intact. Also the headstock inlay was destroyed. All of the top ladder bracing had fallen out and I rebraced it in a more modern x bracing by removing the back. I refinished it with Tru Oil. It will most likely be strung up by the end of the week.