1946 Harmony Gene Autry Rubber-Saddle Electrified Guitar

A local customer was looking to get a "rubber bridge" guitar of the style popularized by Old Style Guitar Shop and used by, ya know, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Most rubber bridge mods use a tailpiece setup but I figured I'd try a pin-bridge setup on this guy as that was the original fit for this model. It involved a bit of finagling at the (new) bridge, but I think the end result is something that has a "damped traditional" sound. The tailpiece setups with rubber bridges are thwackier (as you'd expect) while this is a little more mellow and chunky.

Anyway, the guitar itself has a 1946 date-stamp inside and was made by Harmony. It's solid birch throughout with a poplar neck and ebonized-maple fretboard. The bridge would have been the same but it was long gone -- replaced with an over-long tailpiece and floating bridge when it arrived here for consignment.

I fixed it all up for the buyer/new owner -- it got a neck reset, seam repairs, brace reglues, fret level/dress, new StewMac repro-style tuners, new bone nut, side dots install, a new rosewood-like (it's in the family but I can't remember the species) bridge, and a pickup and wiring harness install. The customer supplied the pickup but I made the mount for it. The harness has 500k pots and a .022uf tone cap.

It has specs like most of the "standard size" Harmony parlors of the day -- 13" lower bout, 24 1/8" scale length, 1 3/4" nut width, and a big old hefty C-shaped neck profile with a hint of V in its back. The board is flat. Yes, this feel is not for everyone.

Above is an in-process pic with the bridge installed and the wiring harness going in. I ground the strings to the harness by fitting this copper tape under the bridge plate with a ground lead coming off of it. The ball-ends snug-up against the tape and thus ground the strings to the harness.

Here's a detail shot of the bridge. Note how I've used screws to keep the (cut-from-truck-tire) saddle aligned at a compensated angle despite its squiggly nature.


Nick R said…
This model has a spruce top, so if this one is birch, it is an example of Harmony grabbing a body destined for another model and whacking it out to fill an order that might have been delayed. You do see examples of fancy footwork where a guitar is different to the supposed spec! Good old Harmony!
Jake Wildwood said…
Yep, Gibson did similar stuff, too -- it's definitely birch on this guy.
Rob Gardner said…
Cool looking little package, though it is astonishing to see so much work and thought going into a guitar that started life way down at the bottom of the quality barrel. I will never understand all the affection for Harmony guitars, but people love them.
Nick R said…
My version of this model- it definitely has a spruce top, sounds really amazing- it is exceptional. It really could use a neck reset and some cracks fixed. I think people are surprised how good some of these Harmony made guitars sound. Mine has a 1943 date stamp inside.