1938 Crest (Harmony-made) Archtop Guitar

Harmony made the Crest model for the Sears Supertone line from '36 or so until '39 when Supertones became Sears Silvertones. The Silvertone Crests after '40 are then mostly Kay-made guitars through the '50s. This one doesn't even have the Supertone moniker on it and is simply branded "Crest" on the headstock, though it can be found among the Supertones in old Harmony catalogs (I've included a catalog page at the end of the post).

The catalogs bill this model as one of the higher-end, carved-top instruments made from fancy woods throughout. I think parts of that are true about this particular guitar. It's true that the top is solid but the interior of the guitar bears no evidence of a "carved top" stamp that Harmony usually put on its carved-top models. I don't always see the stamp but it's usually there. Furthermore, while taking a look at it with a mirror inside, it doesn't look carved.

I've handled a number of period Harmony carved-top guitars and one can clearly see the carving work on them and bracing that's a little more complicated and refined. The carved-top models tend to be arched a bit high like Epiphones and are cut very thin and light. This one also has thin fabric backing for the top from f-hole to f-hole across the belly -- something I often see on pressed-top guitars. So... I think this is probably a pressed-top archtop. It also sounds like one -- lots of snap and good volume but less sauciness on the high-end and more emphasis on the mids.

Its back and sides are flamed maple, too, but the back is ply in construction. Gibson started using figured-maple ply backs around '39 or '40 on many guitars, too, so I don't really see this as a downgrade, but ply backs are a little unusual for Harmony products. I see them from time to time in this era specifically, though, and always on archtops, so at least that's consistent.

Other fittings are nicer than usual for a Harmony, though -- it has a rosewood board on its neck and it originally had large-plate, individual Kluson tuners. The original nut is bone and the sides are solid, flamed maple. Soundwise it's nice, with good cut and snap.

This was brought in for consignment and, unfortunately, it'd had some sloppier old work done on it by way of a botched neck reset and refret job. I corrected that work and now it plays fast and easy. I even had a period Harmony bridge to fit to it which was nice because the (non-original) one that was on it was cut-down quite a lot and unstable.

Repairs included: a neck reset, fret level/dress, cleaning, replacement (period) bridge fit/install, and setup.

Top wood: solid spruce

Back & sides wood: solid flamed maple sides, flamed maple (ply) back

Bracing type: tonebar

Bridge: rosewood

Fretboard: rosewood

Neck wood: maple w/steel reinforcement

Action height at 12th fret: 3/32” bass 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: 54w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 16, 12 custom set

Neck shape: big V

Board radius: ~12-14"

Truss rod: non-adjustable steel

Neck relief: mild (ameliorated through level/dress of frets)

Fret style: medium-low/wide

Scale length: 25 1/8"

Nut width: 1 3/4"

Body width: 15 1/2"

Body depth: 3 1/2" + arching

Weight: 4 lbs 5 oz

Condition notes: it has replacement tuners and a replacement bridge, though the bridge is a 1930s Harmony-made one that I've fit to it. There's a hairline crack (repaired) at the bass-waist-top that runs over kerfing, anyhow. The finish has average wear and tear with lots of small scratches, pickwear, small nicks and dings, etc., all over. The back of the neck shows wear. This guitar had a neck reset that was botched (not enough angle added) and I re-reset the neck

 It also had a full refret and the board was "dressed" before the refret, but unfortunately relief/warp hadn't been leveled out of the neck before frets were put in. That means that to make it play correctly, I had to level the existing "warp" out of the neck off the top of the sort-of-new frets. That makes them lower in first position and near the body joint. Fortunately, most folks will not even notice this while playing, but it is there. The level/dress job means effective warp/relief tuned to pitch is minimal (under 1/64").

The pickguard is also mounted without an L-bracket and simple attached via a screw to the top at the waist. I used a spring-mount to give it a bit more resistance to finger-pressure.

It comes with: its original (!) hard case in so-so condition.



Nick R said…
It makes me wonder if this model was based on the Harmony Cremona II which was press arched while all the other Cremona models were carved. The Cremona II had the same fingerboard dots as well. However, it is still a very nice guitar.