6/11/2015

1946 Harmony H2415 Archtop Guitar




This guitar is owned by the same fellow who owns the banjo mandolin in the last post. It's easily identified, not only by its general shape and build, but also because Harmony stamps their instruments (for the most part) quite regularly. The model type, H2415, and the date-stamp, S-46, are both obvious right in the bass "f hole" on the back. This puts it just on the tail-end of "wartime" production, which is also (for the most part) obvious due to the rosewood (rather than plated steel) tailpiece.

This would've been a lower-mid-priced instrument when it was built and features a press-arched solid spruce top and press-arched solid birch back with birch sides as well. The neck is (probably) poplar and all the rest of the fittings -- bridge, fretboard, and tail -- are Brazilian rosewood. It has Harmony's fairly-standard 24 1/4" scale for the time, a big old V-neck, 15 1/4" lower bout, and 1 3/4" nut width. In the lap it feels like a just-slightly undersized Gibson L-50 or similar, which its very curvy lines are obviously ripping-off a style cue from.


The bottom line is: I like this guitar! It has that "Harmony archtop" tone which boasts a lot of mids with a slightly creamy top end, but adds just a bit more bass to the bottom than I usually hear on these guys. I this respect, it handles more like a Gibson-made Kalamazoo KG-31. It has a good "backing chord" sound like those guys can get.

My work on this guitar included regluing about 2/3 of the back/side seams (they'd been poorly glued in the past), including the endblock. Some of the back rides over the sides here and there, but it was like that when it came in, too, and doesn't detract. The rest of the work included a good fret level/dress (this one, amazingly, is getting by without a neck reset), replacement thumbwheels and modification plus compensation of the original bridge, new buttons for the tuners, a crack cleat/repair on the back, and general cleaning and setup.

It, of course, plays just as it should with spot-on, fast action.


The original bone nut is still kicking. Also, despite the non-reinforced neck, it's holding up to regular light (54w-12) string tension just fine.


Original brass frets are doing well despite being "shallowed out" here and there to adjust mild relief in the neck. This has faux-pearl (celluloid) dots and I added side dots as well, per the customer's request. The board is lightly radiused and shows the "side to side" scratch marks of the Harmony planing/shaping machine. You can almost "date" Harmony products by how the marks get worse and worse from the 1920s-1970s.


The pickguard had a bunch of white paint dots on it which came right off with cleaning. It looks great, really.


I also really love these classy rosewood tails. They're very simple, look cool, and I'm sure give a bit more predilection towards warm overtones vs. a metal tail. The two screws can be used as "relief adjustment." When they're tightened all the way down, the tailpiece tends to snap down towards the body. If you loosen it just a little bit you can have good down-pressure but have the tailpiece just slightly above the top (ideal), and if you loosen it more it will "rock" into a direct line from the tailblock area like a metal tailpiece.


This is the original bridge but it came without thumbwheel adjusters. I've modded the bridge a bit to allow completely flush adjustment of the bridge top, but also plenty of adjustment room "up" so that in winter when the top loses moisture (and thus drops a little), the action can be dialed up. I also reprofiled the top for proper compensation.





The "faux flame" paint job was typical on Harmony instruments right through the 70s.

You can see the only crack on the guitar at the bottom of the back. It's been cleated-up inside but a previous misaligned glue-job kept it from being a super-clean fix.


The old Kluson tuners work fine. I rebuttoned and lubed them as the original black buttons were almost to the point of crumbling off.






Aside from this endpin, thumbwheels, and new tuner buttons, the guitar's fittings are original.

1 comment:

Amahl_Shukup said...

My dad bought this guitar shortly after getting back from his service as a Navy corpsman with the Marines in the South Pacific in WWII. Needless to say, the war affected him deeply, both physically and emotionally, and I think he must have bought this guitar as a form of music therapy for himself; he found solace in music. I learned my first C chord on this guitar when I was 8 years old, and I inherited it when my dad passed away, dead at 61 from lung problems contracted in the war and emphysema from smoking. Cheers, dad, I hope you can see the nice restoration on your old guitar.