4/20/2016

1970s Harmony H159 (Modified) Jumbo Flattop Guitar




The H159 was Harmony's down-scale version of the H1260 and... yes... it's quite down-scale, eliminating solid spruce over solid mahogany and "real" binding for solid birch all-over, a poplar neck, dyed-maple fretboard and bridge, and no truss rod. This one arrived as a train-wreck of badly-repaired and busted seams, missing and loose bracing galore, a split pin bridge, loose neck, and all that other good stuff that comes with a poorly-stored guitar.

Its owner wanted me to do some modding to it along the lines of this guy, and so that's what happened. I jacked the neck up off the body (archtop-style) during the bolted+glued neck reset, filled-in the pinholes on the bridge and converted it to an adjustable unit, scrounged a tailpiece, fixed up all those seams and missing/loose braces, gave the frets a level/dress, and set it up. This will get used as an open-G slide guitar and so the adjustable nature of the bridge gives it the ability to go from a fingerpicker to a slider on the fly. I recorded the soundclip in open D tuning with the action setup "as normal."


The interesting thing about converting these old ladder-braced jumbo (well, this is like a super-dread at 16" across) guitars to a tailpiece/adjustable setup is that their volume almost always jumps-up another half-as-much, the playability increases by default (tailpiece setup = slinkier strings due to the extra string afterlength), and both the bass and treble frequencies are freed-up greatly yielding a "fuller" tone.

The downside, of course, is that you gain a bit of extra overtone presence and, like a resonator guitar, all the energy is "used up at once," which means that you lose a bit of lingering bass and mids sustain while gaining a bit more on the treble side.


The nut is 1 11/16" and the board has a light radius. The neck shape is a small-medium C-type. This has the usual 25 1/4" or so Harmony scale for the time.


The only "real" binding on the guitar is at the board! The dots are faux-pearl.



The original bridge is seen, here, chopped-up a bit, with its pin-holes hastily-filled, and the new archtop-style adjustable saddle installed. I made this new saddle up quickly from a bit of rosewood.


The rather-nice tailpiece is an old 12-string unit.



A lot of the back seams were poorly-repaired beforehand (including missing and/or dislodged kerfing) and "slipped," too. I did the best I could with all of them and they're stable, now, but not beautiful. The idea was not to make a budget guitar into a gold-digging repair.


New Kluson-style repro tuners grace the headstock... because the originals were fussy.





Here you can see the big old rosewood "step" under the board extension.

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