1910 Gibson Style U Harp Guitar

Update: since I originally posted, the old soldered tailpiece repair (it'd split at the bend and then had some thin brass soldered under it) gave way so I had to fix it again. This time around I used a bunch of small screws to "pin" my new (thick) plate of brass to the old (thin) brass and soldered both them and the edges in place. It's been holding a couple weeks, now, so it's ready to go again. Here's what the tail looks like now:

Now back into it: a glorious instrument, right? The owner and I can't figure-out if the top has been refinished as neither of us have seen one of these in natural/pumpkin before. The finish on it is old and has clearly been oversprayed/top-coated at some point in the past, however, so it's hard to tell. The finish on the rest of the instrument is all-original, however. The serial number puts it at 1910 per the "Mandolin Archive" research.

These old Gibson harp guitars are beautiful instruments and, really, works of art. Count the scrolls and imagine all the time it took to carve the top and the back. It's elegant, fantastic, and beautiful in execution as well, because this one actually sounds great, too. The harp strings ring-out like a spinet piano and all of the extra "drone" strings give the instrument an inherent, supportive "reverb" to its voice. With such a huge soundbox, it sounds fuller than your average period Gibson archtop guitar (on the fretted neck) as well. It's got girth!

This arrived in actually pretty decent shape structurally, though it needed some love to get it player-worthy. The top has a variety of old crack repairs and most were done folksily but adequately.

Repairs included: one replacement fret, bass-side fretboard replacement binding, a fret level/dress and fret seating work (someone had clumsily tried to fix this in the past, so there's minor chipping near the frets), minor re-repair to old hairline crack repairs (there's a filled/repaired area under the harp side of the tailpiece that needed touching-up), replacement of the not-well-fit original one-piece bridge with two new bridges (both ebony, one adjustable for the 6-string neck), cleaning, a restring, and setup.

Setup notes: it plays perfectly with a straight neck (adjustable, actually, via the metal turnbuckle brace on the back!) and 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret, strung with 54w-12 gauges. The frets have some life left in them and are good to go.

Harp neck notes: I have this strung in gauges 65w, 60w, 56w, 52w, 50w, 48w, 46w, 42w, 40w, 38w low to high. Notes are E, F, G, G#, A, Bb, B, C, D, Eb but can be tuned a step in either direction as you please. The first low E is the same as a bass guitar's low E string and the Eb above it is a half-step below normal guitar's low E. The harp "scale" runs from 35" to 31 1/2" low to high.

Scale (6-string) length: 24 3/4"
Scale (harp side) length: 35" to 31 1/2"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at bridge: 2 3/16"
Body length: 26 1/4"
Lower bout width: 18 3/4"
Side depth at endpin: 3 5/8"
Top wood: solid spruce (carved)
Back & sides wood: solid birch, carved back
Bracing type: tonebar
Fretboard: ebony
Bridge: ebony (both)
Neck feel: huge V/C-shoulders shape, ~12" board radius
Neck wood: mahogany

Condition notes: while mostly original, the jury's out on how much of the top finish is original or not. The back/sides/neck/etc. finish is all original. The tuners are all original, though a couple of the guitar-side ones are bent. The tailpiece (amazingly!) has its original celluloid intact. The original bridge comes with the guitar but I have replacement ones installed which make it a much more practical, better-sounding player. They have little tacks on their feet to help them maintain position despite the tailpiece's sideways pull. The top was roughed-up with minor glue residue under them, anyhow.

There are a number of old repaired hairline cracks to the top but all bracing and structure is good. It's been stable since string-up. There's, of course, general handling wear throughout including scratches and small dings here and there. The fretboard has some chipping around the fret edges here and there, too, but is in good order, now. The nut is likely a replacement. There's replacement binding for the fretboard on the bass side.

I have the tailpiece strung backwards, as well, with the ball-ends on top of the celluloid retainer. This lets the string-ends pull the tailpiece off of the top and so give good downpressure on the bridges. The celluloid is warped into a shallow bend, so this is necessary to keep it off the top. It also sounds better this way. About half of the bridge pins are original and half are era-correct from my parts-bins but unoriginal.