11/04/2011

c.1925 Harmony-made Hawaiian Parlor Guitar




It's now 2015 and I'm updating this guitar's post for a third time. I've entirely re-written the post and added new photos and a new soundclip to reflect its current circumstances. It's a fun guitar and has been traded back and forth among friendly pickers and now that it's back in my care I decided to up the ante further and modded it a bit more.

This is a Harmony-made parlor from about the mid-20s and originally it would've probably been strung as a Hawaiian (raised-string slide) guitar. In 2011 I reset the neck, did-over the frets, and added a new bridge. It played well and left strung up with extra-light 10s. The next time I saw it the action had moved around a bit so I did a bit more work and this last time it came back in trade with the action too low and I did even more setup work and settled on using electric guitar gauge 10 strings on it as the ladder bracing is very, very light and wants a very low-tension set of strings. I also re-intonated the saddle for this change in gauge (with the unwound G) and added a very-cool lipstick (Danelectro-style) electric pickup suspended in the soundhole.

The result is a guitar that sounds great as a fingerpicker (less so but OK with a thin flatpick) both unplugged and plugged-in. It records easily and the lipstick pickup's tone gives it a very blues or ragtime-friendly plugged-in sound. I love the mix of lipstick pup on a hollowbody acoustic: it's a very natural, balanced sound. There's nothing quite like it and it sounds far better than most "made for acoustic" soundhole pickups, to my ears. The pickup is also grounded to the strings via the ball-ends at the bridge so you don't get any of that "vintage soundhole pickup" ground hum.


This time around I also added a repro-looking pickguard to cover-up a big section of pickwear. The guitar also got a new "strapping brace" back brace to replace a broken mid-brace and a new upper-bout top brace to replace a broken one there as well. I'm guessing this got some rough storage for a little bit to pop both of those, huh?

Remarkably, there are no cracks on the instrument and it's made of solid spruce on the top, solid birch on the back and sides, is bound with celluloid on the top, back, and soundhole edges, and has a poplar neck with a dyed-maple fretboard. All the finish is original and it looks super-cool, as you can see!


There's that familiar Harmony-build "shield dip" at the top of the headstock. The nut is replacement bone. As I noted before: I've got this strung with electric guitar 10s (specifically the D'Addario EXL110BT balanced tension set) to keep the pickup very happy and the top happy with low tension.

The scale length is 24" and it has a 1 3/4" nut width, flat-profile board, medium-v neck shape, and those thin, narrow old frets. If you're a "neck strangler" you may not like the feel of these frets as they may catch your fingers, but if you have a lighter touch you'll do just fine. Period frets are like that for the most part.


Original clay dots (the big ones) are flanked by my addition of new clay dots and side dots in the normal positions for modern convenience.


I glued-up the lipstick pickup to the underside of the soundboard on a piece of thin walnut. Pretty nifty in looks, methinks. This is a GFS-made lipstick pickup and sounds tops.


As you can see, the bridge is low and the saddle is as well. Still, the action is fast and slick -- about 1/16" across the board at the 12th fret. It can be shimmed up if you prefer slightly higher action for heavier flatpicking but I think this is perfect for fingerpicking.

As an aside, the top has been perfectly stable-in-service with this particular set of strings on it.


The decals are very cool.





The tuners aren't original but they look more or less OK. They're 60s types similar to the stuff seen on old Harmony products from the late 50s/early 60s.



The medium-blonde finish on the birch back/sides looks pretty sweet and is slightly unusual for the time.




In addition to old trapeze-tail holes there are also a couple of old tiny screwholes on the treble side waist where a weird "over the top" pickguard had been installed. I prefer my new one -- hah hah.


A super-lightweight, molded-foam, waterproof, etc. hard case comes with the guitar. It works well... and you can set it down with no worries on the remains of our quickly-melting snow, too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jake

This is guitar #2 I've been able to buy from you now. Looking forward to playing this tone-ful beauty

Ben