2/08/2014

c.1930 Harmony-made Supertone Size 5 Tenor Guiar




What a pretty little thing this is, huh? Late-20s or early-30s in build, all-solid mahogany throughout, snazzy pearloid fretboard and headstock veneer, cute "acorn" bridge, and multicolored trim. The finish is even pretty clean and tidy and the sound and playability -- spot on.

But -- what a lot of work! This guy got a neck reset, a couple seam reglues, a couple small hairline crack fill jobs, a complete refret (made extra-tedious by the pearloid material), bridge saddle-area surgery (it had been mucked a bit in previous iterations), new pickguard (in the shape of the original), and of course all the usual setup fare.



This is a feisty little creature and has a sweet, woody tone and a lot of volume and punch. I've currently got it strung with the DGBE strings of a set of light guitar strings (32w-12) and it zings. 

When this came in via trading I was really surprised at what good shape the finish was in and how little fading there was to the fancy multicolored purfling (usually it's aged-in to muted browns).


New bone nut. Also -- these days, if a tenor instrument comes in with a straight-sided headstock amenable (aesthetically) to guitar-style tuners -- I've been installing them. I figure the new owner won't mind a little convenience over either $90+ Waverly 4:1 pegs or fussy old friction pegs. The holes in the headstock were nice and tight for these Kluson-style repros so I didn't bother with ferrules. A lot of old Harmony products from the time didn't, either, so the look is right.


Each one of these dastardly frets had to be set with super glue and clamped up to get them to hold properly for later leveling and dressing. I also couldn't keep the frets 100% new and full height because that same pearloid stuff often slightly "warbles" the board's top over time so I needed to correct out a little bit of relief in a couple of spots.

It's a short-scale tenor with a 21 1/4" scale length.



With all of the fancy trim, I figured a plain black pickguard might suit the instrument a little better than something flashy. Originally this same shape would've come in the color of the fretboard's pearloid. A fragment of the original guard was left but it wasn't useful for anything.


Forgive a few dots of bone dust! This bridge is original but the saddle area had been mucked with. It was also uncompensated to boot. I cut a new compensated slot, installed a new bone saddle, and then built the disturbed area of the bridge back up with rosewood dust and glue. A benefit of this is that, yes, the instrument now plays in tune up the neck! ...and the new ivoroid pins look pretty slick, too, huh?

My biggest frustration with a lot of Harmony bridges, however, is that they installed the bridge pins really close to the saddle area and used thin bridge plates. This often means that the wrappings of the string ends (depending on brand) will ride over the saddle which can sometimes yield a springy sort of tone depending on the string in question. The only solution to this is to either install 1/4" bridge plates (tone sapping ones, at that) or pad the end of the string with some sort of spacer like extra ball-ends slipped over the strings (which I will do on this particular guitar in the morning).





Amazingly, there are no cracks in the back or sides.






Nice Supertone label! Unfortunately it probably covers up the ink-stamped Harmony dating number.

Also: this guitar comes with its original case which is rather beat-up. It will serve for storage but not much else.

1 comment:

Seonachan said...

Wow, the black pick guard really sets off the flashy fretboard & headstock - looks fantastic. Sorry about the tedious refret!