1970 Harmony H1270 Sovereign Jumbo 12-String Guitar

The 12-string version of Harmony's Sovereign jumbo is, cleverly, tailpiece-loaded and built as a 12-fret model. This relieves the ladder-braced top of all the pin-bridge "sideways" tension and at the same time places the bridge right in a sweet spot to deliver a huge, blooming, piano-style tone. This is a customer's guitar in for resale and it got a bunch of work -- though it came in pretty darn clean and is leaving that way, too.

This one has a 1970 date stamp inside and is all-original except for a new bone bridge. The top is solid spruce, the back and sides are solid mahogany, and it has a mahogany neck with a bound rosewood fretboard. Like the comparable 6-string Sovereign of this style, the binding is fancier than normal and the headstock is veneered with rosewood. It has a giant sound and plays perfectly (3/32" bass, 1/16" treble action at the 12th fret) with a good straight neck. Because of the long scale (25 1/4") I've strung it with standard 12-string 10s and detuned it a step. The neck stays stable when I tune it to pitch but I prefer to take the chicken's route and play it safe. Harmony suggested, when this was built, to detune down to C#!

Work included a neck reset, fret level/dress, "rehang" of the pickguard (the old glue had let up), one tiny crack cleat at the side waist (see later pics), that new bone bridge, cleaning, and full setup. The only crack on the guitar is the one I just mentioned at the side waist and it's about 2" long. Tiny. The finish is in great shape and has only a small amount of weather-checking and general age wear.

Original synthetic nut, rosewood headstock veneer... and a functional truss rod. I scooped out the truss rod cavity and added an extender for the nut so that it'd be a lot easier to access the truss nut. I always have to do this on old Harms because the company had a tendency to bury them in a small access pocket.

The nut width is 2" so this gives you plenty of room for fingers -- especially if you're picking out big old Leadbelly-style bass runs. In fact -- this guitar has much more in common (construction and sound-wise) with old 1920s 12-strings than it does with ones built contemporaneously to it.

The board has a light radius and the neck has a big old D shape to it.

My new bridge is made of bone and I cut it in mandolin-style fashion. It's also compensated for every string so it plays in much better tune up the neck than your average 12. It replaced an original, big-footed floating Harmony bridge (included with the guitar) that -- from personal experience -- I find a little bit overkill as well as not very functional. It'd also been mucked-up enough that I didn't want to finagle it back to functionality. This smaller, more "transparent" bridge will enable the top to vibrate a lot more, anyhow.

The simple tailpiece is heavy-duty and well-made.

Harmony calls this a "jumbo" body but I think of it as a "swelled dreadnought" shape instead due to that big waist.

I lubed the tuners and they're working just fine.

As an aside: aren't 12-string slotted headstocks excellent?

The heelcap is missing but it doesn't hurt the vibe.

This is the 2" +/- hairline crack on the waist side. I've cleated it inside so it's good to go.

There's a small wedge of filler at the neck joint from shoving the neck angle back enough to get good height at the bridge. You wouldn't notice it without a direct shot like this, though.


TheRolexMan said...

How in the world does that stand alone bone bridge stay in place without the wood that it would normally be slotted in to? Did you carve a little channel for it and glue it? Cause it looks so fragile. Every time you take the strings off, doesn't it just fall out? Never seen anything like this before but yes, if it stays in place, it will sound better.

Jake Wildwood said...

Well, the bone is certainly not fragile -- and yes, if you take all of the strings off at once, it will simply fall off -- but string changes are always better one by one. Mandolins, banjos, bouzoukis, citterns, and almost all tailpiece-style flattop and archtop guitars use this setup, which is called "floating bridge." Most modern guitar players are unfamiliar with it, which is why it looks odd to you. String tension holds it in place. If you're into electrics, you know that string tension is what holds the adjustable bridge on a Les Paul in place, too, or most archtop electric jazz guitars.

On the latest version of this mod, the owner had me use the original bridge and knock the neck angle back even farther:


That bridge isn't attached (as per the original design, too), but features adjusters like an archtop guitar.