5/22/2014

c.1940 Harmony Johnny Marvin "Tenor" Concert Ukulele




Yet another customer's instrument, this is a mid-40s Harmony "Johnny Marvin" concert-size ukulele though Harmony marketed it as a "tenor" size uke. Work on this one included a neck reset, fret level/dress, K&K pickup installation, replacement (1930s Harmony, though) bridge, new Gotoh UPT pegs, and of course a full setup (including Aquila Super Nylgut strings in this case).

Yes, of course, it's an excellent uke. I always love the sound of these Johnny Ms when they come in the shop. They've got that sweet, rounded-corners, concert uke sound coupled to a tone that's very "fundamental" in nature with very few extra random overtones. This makes them super useful for recording or band use as they don't sound cluttered. They make perfect strummers.





The dots in the rosewood board were originally faux-pearl but two were missing so I replaced them all with plain real pearl. This also got side dots, too, during repair. Brass frets.



The all-mahogany body works nicely with this 30s mahogany Harmony bridge filched from my parts bin. The original bridge had been split and damaged via some absurd bolted-bridge repair in the past and this one fit neatly in its place. There's some extra "exposed foot" around the bridge but that seems to be due to the yucky old repair work more than anything else. You don't notice it unless you're looking and I retouched the color to more or less match the other finish, too.



Binding on the front and back, nice-grade solid mahogany throughout, and the dark sunburst finish with glossy nitro paint are all features that make these ukes excellent "stage" instruments... they're slick.


I also can't say enough about the new Gotoh UPT tuners... 4:1 gearing, lighter weight than the pegs that were on this, and extremely nice functionality... what's to complain about? They cost about $60 a set but it's well worth it if you plan to play a uke like this daily.


So... originally this neck was put on flat to the body with one big dowel installed between the two in the center of the heel. Bad design! It always lifts away at the bottom of the heel and action rises over time.

In this case, I popped the neck off, installed a second dowel near the bottom of the heel for better support (they tend not to lift up after you do that) and in addition installed a bolted-on system above the original dowel, too. This makes it a glued and bolted neck joint that's easily a zillion times better than the original joint. It should remain stable in service as long as the instrument lives on.


At this point Oona interrupted me and said "TAKE MY PICTURE!" -- okay, fine!


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