6/30/2013

c.1935 Harmony-made Biltmore Herald Archtop Guitar



Well, I must say, this is a fancy box! Higher-end Harmony products crop up more often in the '30s than any other time (from my experience) and it seems they enjoyed a brisk trade building guitars for other firms. This Biltmore Herald is one example.

Choice material is used throughout -- a solid spruce top (pressed? I think, but perhaps carved), good mahogany neck, rosewood fretboard and adjustable bridge, and mahogany back and sides. It's got celluloid "tortoise" binding on both the top and bottom edges with some cream ply to make it stand out and it has a multi-ply pickguard and fancy headstock veneer.

I worked on this for a customer (who's selling it) and it came in very clean, though the neck had a tiny amount of relief (which I removed for playability via leveling and dressing the frets) and there was a small hairline "crunch" area on the side bass lower bout. The (tiny) cracks weren't moving and the wood wasn't cracked through to the inside, so I massaged some glue in and "that's that." After that it just needed a setup and a set of slightly lighter strings (these have a 25 1/8" scale and unreinforced necks so I like 50w-11 as a starting reference). The result is a super-quick player with that snappy, percussive tone that lets this bite and project quite well.


It's a really pretty guitar. Did I mention it also comes with its original chip case? Not bad.


Bone nut and cool headstock veneer!


Pearl dots in a bound, radiused rosewood fretboard.


The simple rosewood adjustable bridge works well. I filed a "notch" to intonate the B string.


The good, heavy duty tailpiece is a plus.



See how glossy and clean that finish is? Pretty remarkable.

The back has a number of surface scratches (probably from a buckle?), but the front and sides are clean save for lacquer cracking from the weather.






The tuners are high-quality types for the period. These were somewhat more of an expense when this was made.


The neck joint is perfect!




Who doesn't love a cream endstrip and original strap button?

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