9/23/2015

1940s Harmony "Americana" Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar Conversion




Electrified Hawaiian guitar? Hollowbody lap steel? What do you call this, exactly? I call it a Harmony. In fact -- probably a late 30s/early 40s Harmony judging by the hardware and build style. We won't let the political atmosphere distract us from the fun factor, though, will we?

My in-laws picked this up at a flea market for me (thanks!) and I thought I'd just hang it on the wall for a while (since it was in such disrepair), but last week I had this kick to go out and find a lap steel again (I was pinging Gibson BR9s on eBay) for recording use and decided "why not do something different?" I always end up selling my old steels in-between recording sessions because someone inevitably spies them on the wall of my workshop and says, "hey, neat-o."

So -- I glued up all the loose seams (almost all of them, mind you), drywall-screwed the neck back into its joint, ripped out any loose bracing (thankfully the loose braces were in the less useful places) and converted it into an "electric Hawaiian" complete with 30s-era raised steel nut, a 60s Japanese adjustable electric bridge, and a brand new GFS-supplied Korean P90 pickup that I put under a scratched-up cover that's been haunting the workshop for a few years. Of course it turned out cool and raunchy sounding! It's tuned CGCGCG low to high with a mixed set of Black Diamond flatwounds. Keep it simple, right?



The old nut extender states "Hawaiian Steel Nut" on its face. Cute.





The volume knob is an old 60s one too. I picked a P90 pickup because -- well, I love em -- but also because I'd been thinking of that BR9 sound and desire creeped in...


This is the original tail. For the bridge I removed the individual-height string "wheels" that would've been on it to begin with and just let the threaded bar do the work. This makes string spacing really easy.





The original Kluson strip tuners work just fine after a lube.






2 comments:

David Meyer said...

Hello. I have this exact guitar (minus the Hawaiian conversions, of course). It's been in the family at least 50 years, probably longer. I've searched the Harmony databases online and haven't found this one, nor can I find any identifying serial number on the instrument. Do you have any information on it? Are you guessing it's a Harmony or did you find it in a catalog? Thanks in advance.

Jake Wildwood said...

Oh, it's definitely a Harmony. This same guitar type/model was painted, finished, and otherwise dressed-up in a zillion different forms for a zillion different suppliers over the years. They first made this shape in the mid/late 30s and it replaced their earlier 12-fret parlor/0-size look and the same design/build made it all the way to the late 60s under the standard 40s/50s "Stella" student guitar variant.