10/03/2013

c.1955 Harmony Concert Ukulele



Older concert ukes are hard to find, especially nicer all-solid mahogany ones. This Harmony concert uke must date to the early-mid 50s as it's got some of that nicer-quality mahogany and thinner wood than the late 50s/early 60s versions of this same model that feel a bit clunkier.

Work on this one included a new (rosewood) bridge, a fret level/dress, a countersunk screw for additional heel support (more info below), cleaning, and setup. It has a sweet, fairly loud, and balanced/focused tone which makes it especially nice for strummed chords or quick fingerpicking. It doesn't have the long ringing bell sustain that a Martin concert of this style and time would have but it also doesn't cost four figures to own.





I like the looks of this -- simple and understated -- and it even has top, back, and soundhole binding. The soprano version of this model only got soundhole binding, so it's already a step up in that direction. The bracing is ladder-style and quite lightly-done.

There's a bit of strumming-wear at the upper bout top but the rest of the uke shows only minor use wear and the usual amount of weatherchecking.


The rosewood nut had to be shimmed up as someone had cut the slots down to try to improve action in the past (while the bridge was still too tall).


Faux-pearl dots in a rosewood (thin) board. The neck profile on this is a mild oval/soft v shape and it's wider than most brands which makes complicated chords and fingerpicking far more enjoyable. 12 brass frets.

Action runs to a hair over 1/16" at the 12th fret -- the standard I set ukes up for. Intonation is good and it plays nicely. This uke has a 14 3/4" scale length.



My new rosewood bridge is nearly 3/16" shorter than the (too-tall) original mahogany bridge. I tend to use fret-saddles on ukes as they install easily and look (and sound) nice with the nylon/fluoro/whatever strings. This one uses a "string through top" mounting style where you pass the string through the hole, out the soundhole, knot it, then pull it up from the bridge to the tuner posts.

The holes are drilled with wider string spacing than the original bridge which means you have more room on the board. They're slightly off-center because the original bridge's footprint was glued at the factory off-center. You wouldn't notice it unless I told you!

For a variety of reasons, when I have to replace uke bridges with brand new stuff, I use this system. To my ears it sounds better (better back-angle and more secure mounting of the strings) and it also looks nice and clean.




The neck shape is a soft C shape with a sort of flattened rear



The addition of felt washers under each of these 50s "space age" plastic uke pegs means they now function nicely.


See the pearl dot in the heel? That covers a small screw I added as "backup" in this neck joint. Harmony and Regal both installed uke necks with a big dowel in the upper-neck area. This dowel joint leaves the lower part of the heel with only a flat surface to hold the glue onto. Eventually stress from tension will let that glue give way and even if the joint looks 100% tight, there will be some "softness" to it which will effect tone.

I've bit this problem off at the head, here, and even though the joint was rock solid, I countersunk a screw into the heel and neck block and covered it with that pearl dot. This should keep that joint nice and tidy in the future.


It's an attractively proportioned instrument and both looks and feels good under the arm or in the lap.



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