1/27/2013

c.1940 Harmony H373 Archtop Mandolin


Update: This mandolin comes with a brand new Canadian (TKL, et al.) tweed hard case, bought recently from Elderly (click here for a link to what it looks like).

This is a great A-style bluegrass or old-time mandolin with a strong, dark, poppy sort of tone. It's exactly the same model and year as a previous model 373 I worked on and then sold, regrettably. For those on the lookout for something that sounds similar to a Kalamazoo A-style or Gibson A-50, this is an excellent (and more budget-friendly) model, but they're very hard to find. The later incarnations of this design (post-war models in the Monterey line, specifically) are a little bit more heavily-built and are still good instruments but don't have quite the percussive and dark pop and zing that these pre-war models have.

This instrument itself has no label but there's the remains of a Sears "Supertone" label is affixed to the headstock front. The other 373 I worked on had the remains of a Harmony label. Bad decal sheets? I suppose so!

What's interesting about this mandolin is its very "modern" feel. It plays and reacts much like a modern A5 style mandolin with a 12-fret neck joint, fast neck, and long 14" scale


Good old paddle headstock. New bone nut. The tuners are also replacements (1950s/60s model tuners from the bin) as the originals had been painted red in a kid-like fashion and weren't worth the bother to clean up.


My work on this was pretty minimal: there was a hairline crack on the treble f-hole (under the pickguard) that needed cleating, the frets needed leveling and dressing, it needed some new hardware (tuners, nut), and also a good setup.

Whoever painted the original tuners red also left a bunch of splish-splash of red paint dots here and there on the instrument, too, and that needed cleaning-up. I also added some pearl side dots and a strap button at the tailpiece for fun.


With a long 14" scale and a nicely-thinned top, this instrument reacts beautifully with even fairly light strings (32w-9). Because the neck is unreinforced I'd stick to 34w-10 lights at maximum, though.


This has a typically-Harmony archtop bridge: the adjusters work "backwards" from all other makes in that rather than the shafts mounted solidly in the base of the bridge with the adjusters pushing up on the saddle area, the shafts themselves move up and shove themselves up into the saddle. It's a curious design but one that upright double bass bridges with adjusters share, too.

Also: check out the nice, tight spruce used for the top.


Gotta love these funky variations on the old Waverly "cloud" look. This one has a slight break at the angle on its cover.



The finish is in really great, gleaming shape. That binding, by the way, is the real stuff -- but that "flame" isn't! Typically weird Harmony choice, there. The wood itself is solid (plain-wrap) maple, though.



The back is arched, too, and just like the top this arching was done in a steam press, not carved.



Note that the replacement tuners are using the original (painted red) screws. Heh heh.




No comments: