9/04/2014

c.1925 Harmony-made Fancy Mahogany Soprano Uke




Harmony made a ton of ukes back in the 20s and this style seems to have appeared more towards the mid and later part of that decade's production. It's all-solid mahogany throughout and has an actual bound fretboard installed with a nice long extension giving you plenty of range to play on. The soundhole and top edge are also bound and the instrument itself is crack-free except for the middle of the back where a longer tight hairline is glued-up and stable. It has that "peanut uke" sound which is direct, simple, and all-forward with a decent amount of punch that sits well in a group setting. It's a lot louder than it looks.

My work on it included a bridge reglue, seam repairs, a fret level/dress, neck-bolt install (to offset the fancier Harmony-uke tenon neck joint build which necessitates this add-on), cleaning and setup. It's currently set as a perfect fingernails-style strummer (low, hair-below 1/16" action at the 12th fret) but for the fingerpicker or person who drives a uke hard I can jack the action up a little bit by installing a fret saddle for more height.



The rounded shield headstock style and this medium-light natural finish over the mahogany became a Harmony trademark from the late 20s and on. Previously their finishes tended towards a ruddy dark brown mahogany color on their hog-bodied ukes.

The fittings -- bakelite-buttoned friction pegs, rosewood nut, etc. are all-original.

Nut width is 1 3/8" and the neck shape is a medium C/V type.


Pearl dots. This uke has a 13" scale and the strings I have on it right now (Martin fluorocarbon concert/soprano set) sounds good in GCEA but even better at ADF#B. I think if I were going to play this hard I'd want to step the gauges up to maybe a Martin fluoro tenor set which is a bit more stiff at this scale length.



The high A slot is a bit worn but balling up the strings with enough of a clumped "big knot" holds just fine.



The back has a funny moisture-damaged area. It's only in the finish. There's also a tight hairline that runs half of the back's length right down the middle but it's been drop-filled and is perfectly stable.



A pearl dot hides the drill hole for the neck bolt which was added during the neck reset (I reglued the joint as well as bolted it). The higher-grade Harmony ukes of the time had a tenon neck joint which is simply not substantial enough to take tension over time. I always reset them with the addition of either a screw or adjustable bolt (as in this case-- access on the inside) to keep them snug for the rest of their service life.







...bolt access.

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