c.1935 Harmony-made Supertone Round-hole Archtop Guitar

I worked on a same-model guitar back in January this year, but aside from the repaired longish hairline crack on the top, this one is in arguably better condition. I think Harmony was trying to make something for Sears (who used the Supertone name in their catalogs) like the small-body roundhole archtops Martin was building in the early 30s with this model. It's almost a direct rip outline-wise of a Martin 00 shape and features a longish 25 1/8" scale and 14-fret neck. This makes it pretty similar to early Martin R-18s.

The big difference, of course, is that this has a pressed-top with extremely light ladder bracing (the braces are spruce strapping material) and the body is made entirely from solid birch. The neck has a hefty v-shape to it but the 1 11/16" nut makes it a bit faster than comparable Regal products from the same time. The fretboard appears to be rosewood-imitation dyed maple while the bridge actually is rosewood. I'm thinking the neck is poplar.

Work included cleating and filling that top crack to the bass side of the bridge, brace reglues to the top, a neck reset, fret level/dress, seam separation repairs, cleaning, tuner lube, and of course a good setup. I also fit the original bridge better and then cut it in half to install adjusters like one would find on most other archtops (this makes on-the-fly setup a breeze).

For what was a modest archtop model when it was first made, this is a handsome guitar. The simple black/tan sunburst looks 30s-cool and the cream celluloid binding on the top and at the soundhole gives some nice contrast. Everything is original to the guitar, too, save a new plastic endpin and the modifications to the original bridge.

The bracing is extremely light on this guitar's top, so while the neck can probably deal with lights (54w-12) I've strung it with a "custom light" GHS set of 50w-11 which is as heavy as I'd go on this considering the top bracing. The tone is loud, big, rumbly, and very old-timey. It has bite like a gypsy-jazz guitar but that warmer, open tone one gets from having a nicely-thin top and round soundhole on an archtop.

Original wood nut and cute Supertone decal.

The markers are stenciled on. The brass frets are good to go after leveling/dressing. The neck itself is dead straight but after the neck set, the fretboard extension over the body dips down just a hair. Action is spot-on and quick and is easily adjustable at the bridge.

When I add adjusters I typically just install them with hex-nuts that can adjust from the side with a proper wrench from your car's toolkit (or finger-adjust with tension off the guitar). This gives a cleaner look and saves a little bit of weight.

I've only seen this peculiar tailpiece used on 30s/40s Harmony products from what I remember. It works pretty well and the extra string length can be muted with some foam under the front edge if desired.

The back and sides are stained a very dark brown/black color.

The original tuners work just fine. One peg has a slight bend to it but they're all good to go.

Now that the neck has been reset, it shouldn't need work for a very, very long time. I always completely fill any voids when I do resets so they'll actually hold tension minus any glue. The factory never made them that way!

Excuse the sandy bits in the photo -- but here's that new plastic endpin installed.

1 comment:

Chuck Surette said...

I just picked up a Melody King - F hole version of this guitar. I hope mine turns out as nice.
Chuck Surette