They have one of those that's been rebuilt with new braces, neck reset, the works... It's at a local shop and I swear it plays and sounds like a high end guitar, it's a trip.
Mine is refinished, it's had a neck reset, it still beats the heck out of anything I could find new for what I paid ($400). Chalk it up to old wood.They have one of those that's been rebuilt with new braces, neck reset, the works... It's at a local shop and I swear it plays and sounds like a high end guitar, it's a trip.
Holy smokes! How did I miss this thread?!
Not sure what model this is, but maybe @LGOberean can help me ID it. I have been playing it lately in standard tuning. Love how that old wood resonates. Normally I play it with a nut riser and open tunings.
It originally had a wood tail piece, which one day decided to explode. I replaced it with a trapeze. That’s what leads me to believe that it’s from the 1940s.
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Thanks for the input Larry!Cool! Welcome to this thread.
I'll take an initial stab at identifying that Harmony archtop, which I'll be doing just from memory, not online research to verify the various specs and factoids rattling around in my brain. So I may be off, but I'll try...
That looks to me like it's from the Archtone series, which was Harmony's entry level series of archtops. One of the distinguishing features of the guitars in the Archtone series was the painted on "binding." Models on up the archtop ladder from the first rung Archtone series had celluloid binding. I don't recall for certain, but I believe that series goes back to the 1940s. More on that in a moment.
Not counting the tenor guitar model in the Archtone series, there were three 6-string Archtone models: H1213, H1214 & H1215. They were all made from solid birch, with necks that were maple, with the fretboard "ebonized" or whatever they called it back then. The H1213 Archtone was the model my Dad had when I began to play in 1967, so that was the guitar I learned on. It was a lighter shaded brown than the reddish brown color of yours. The H1214 was a blonde color with a faux flamed finish. The H1215 was a darker, reddish brown, like yours. I believe yours is an H1215.
It appears yours, if it is indeed an H1215, has some features that are not original. The tuner buttons don't look original to me. Also that compensated saddle on the floating bridge isn't original. And of course you've already said that you had to replace the original tailpiece.
Now about the '40s vintage. If that guitar originally had a wood tailpiece, then it was indeed from the '40s, more specifically, from 1942-1946. It was a wartime thing that wood replaced the metal tailpieces, from the USA's entry into WWII until after the war was over, carrying on into 1946. (I don't recall if any '47s still sported the wooden tailpiece, but I know it still carried over into 1946.)
Also, the headstock logo features the font style that was used in the '40s and '50s. Early in the '60s, the font style and design changed. And speaking of the headstock, it appears that yours has no printing on it beyond the Harmony logo. That too is consistent with the '40s and even into the early '50s. Later models had printed on the headstock near the nut "Steel reinforced neck." The necks without that steel bar were thick. With the advent of steel reinforcement, the necks got thinner.
There should be a date stamp inside the guitar. Whether or not it's legible is another matter. Typically on the inside of the back of the guitar opposite the f-hole on the right side (partially covered by the pickguard) a letter/numbers code is stamped indicating the date.
The letter will either be an "F" or an "S," and there is some controversy over what the letter stands for. Many say these stand for "Fall" and "Spring." However, one longtime Harmony employee in the Chicago factory related a different signification. He stated that the company's production was divided in half, the first half running from January through June, then there was a company break for the 4th of July, followed by the commencement of the second half of the year's production run. So his view was that F = First and S = Second.
But regardless of the letter signification, the two-digit number following was of course indicative of the year. For example, my Harmony Broadway H954 (several rungs up the ladder of Harmony's Archtone series) has a (barely) legible date stamp of "F-53," which I take to mean it was made in the first half of the year 1953. And BTW, I was also made in the first half of 1953, so this is my birthyear guitar.
I think lighter gauge strings is a very good idea and may be a necessity with what you've described.I've got a confession to make: I haven't changed the strings on my mid-'60s vintage Harmony H165 since I got it in December!
I don't exactly know what strings are on it, either, but they feel like 12s, they sound like phosphor bronze and they have color-coded ball ends. So, I'm guessing it came strung with D'Addario EJ-16s. And they've held up pretty well for the past eight months.
In fact, I wouldn't call them unplayable now. They still hold their tune pretty well, but those original tuning machines aren't the greatest anyway, so tweaking the tuning is an ongoing thing, new strings or not.
I bought strings to put on it. They are the Harmony HA02 set (phosphor bronze custom light gauge). Around the same time as the purchase of the H165, I bought some accessory items ( a tin of picks, a strap and the strings) from the current iteration of the Harmony Company (owner/parent company, BandLab Technologies). I just wanted (new) Harmony-branded accessories with my '60s Harmony mahogany folk guitar.
The strings on the guitar were in good shape when the guitar arrived, so I told myself I'll get some life out of the strings on it before changing them. I didn't expect that to be eight months worth of life. But with all the other guitars I have, not the least of which is another MiC (Made in Chicago) Harmony, my 1953 Broadway archtop, this H165 is hardly the only guitar that gets any play. And it doesn't go to gigs, so the strings have lasted. And I suppose I could even try to squeeze yet more life out of them.
But I'm inclined to change them, not only for the improved tone and feel, but for the guitar's sake. When I got the guitar, the pin-less bridge was pulling up ever so slightly, not so much that you could slide anything into the gap thicker than a sheet of paper, but there was a gap nonetheless. That's still the case, though it hasn't worsened noticeably, but there is another issue: there is a slight bellying up behind the bridge. This too is slight, but it's there. So I've been wondering if a change from 12s to 11s and the resulting lessening of string tension and pull on the bridge and top might be advisable.
Any thoughts on this?
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I don’t have it yet. It’s being delivered on Sunday.@horax that's a really interesting find, a conversation piece for sure. Do you have the guitar in hand yet? Those Goodwill pics show the stamped serial/model #, but is there a pic of the date stamp?
The very first guitar I ever "plunked around on" was my Dad's 1961 Stella by Harmony H929. It had the typical sunburst faux mahogany grained finish. The guitar is no longer in our family, but it looked just like this one (pic borrowed from the interwebs)...
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Based on the pickguard, that one you've purchased is from the mid to late '60s, I'd say. And I agree that someone stripped off the paint/finish on body and neck alike. Catalogs from the '60s stated that the bodies were made of "hardwoods" which typically meant birch, and that the necks had a "rosewood stained maple fingerboard."
You're right, the bridge isn't typical. As in the pic above, the H929 typically had a thin floating bridge with a metal tailpiece. Yours appears to be a string-through bridge affixed to the top, with a metal tailpiece. Until proven otherwise, I would take that to be evidence of later repair/modification work.
Seems like a lot of us "got our start" on Harmony guitars. Some were really nice.