c.1935 Harmony-made H1665 Valencia Archtop Tenor Guitar

Update 2015: This came back in on trade and she's just as sweet as when she went out. I adjusted the setup just a hair, compensated the bridge saddle, and remarked on the newer TKL chip case that's included with it now. Back she goes into the world...

Yeah, this is pretty cool! I've been trying to get this guy finished all week but things kept intervening. It's a 00-size (14" lower bout) all-solid birch all-over, archtop tenor guitar... and it sports a 14-fret neck join and round soundhole. This is just what the doctor ordered if you're at all interested in 30s-40s jazz, blues, or lead folk picking styles on the tenor guitar. It's got pep and zing, for sure, and it looks oh-so-cool. Thanks to the Harmony Guitars site for model number ID.

Work was sort of "the usual" for a 30s Harmony... the neck got a reset, the frets got leveled and dressed, the bridge got a new (taller) saddle for proper string height, the hairline crack on the top (tight) near the tailpiece got cleated and filled, as did the two hairline (tight) cracks on the back. I also reglued a portion of the fretboard and installed a new set of guitar-style tuners to replace the 1:1 friction pegs that came with it originally.

How's it play? Excellently. 1/16" at the 12th fret.

I have no idea how many of this style Harmony was made but I'm assuming it's very few. It seems they were taking a leaf out of the Gibson and Martin books when they built this guy as it has that early-30s "round hole" archtop look and vibe. This thing is "press-arched" which means the (solid birch) top and back were pressed with heat and moisture in a mold into their present shapes. The back was then reinforced with canvas "strapping" and the top had thin spruce "strapping" braces installed ladder-style in a 3-below, 1-above the soundhole fashion.

This gives a sort of snappy, biting, and percussive voice to the instrument which is great for quick chord chop backing or lead work.

Fortunately, the celluloid-bedecked headstock has a guitar-ish enough shape to accept guitar-style right-angle tuners elegantly. The bone nut is original.

Bound, dyed maple fretboard. Pearl dots. The frets leveled and dressed nicely but are those typical tall, thin 1920s-30s Harmony frets.

The scale length is 22 3/4" rather than a straight 23" on this guy and I have it strung up for DGBE "Chicago" or "baritone uke" tuning at the moment in regular guitar "light" gauges: 32w, 24w, 16, 12. I adjusted the nut to accept bigger "octave mandolin" GDAE strings, too. The neck is good and straight.

The original rosewood bridge was cut down at some point but by installing a new bone saddle to replace the original (too short) bone saddle, I was able to reuse it.

Simple tailpiece...

The thing that kills me is just how sweet that dark-brown/black into red-orange sunburst works with the cream-bound top and back edges.

The endpin is aluminum.

...and here are some perfectly useless markers (at least for ID or dating).


Anonymous said...

what a beauty, and I'm sure you have it set up better than the day it left the factory.

Anonymous said...


I'll be up Saturday instead of Friday. I have to work overtime. I plan to get there as soon as you open.


NickR said...

I don't know if any of the six string Valencias have that celluloid headstock- certainly, mine does not have one. My guitar is tobacco sunburst and is virtually identical except for the tenor aspects and it is is dated S34. The other big difference was that it was sold by Beare & Son Ltd (B S & L) and sold as a "Michigan". This company still exists after 150 years and is British- once a big London dealer with another outpost in Toronto, Canada. The company's trademark was the "Cat & Fiddle" and still is. I saw a Harmony archtop on ebay with a celluloid headstock cover featuring the cat & fiddle and it was amazing-the guitar looked okay as well. There is a Beare & Son Gibson catalog from about 1936 on the internet- the cat is on most pages but at the back you see a big version of this funny old fellow! Michigan branded guitars were made by many US absed companies but after WW2 they were only European.