2/23/2017

1939 Harmony-made Supertone Archtop Guitar





I've had the chance to work on a lot of Harmony archtops and this one is fairly typical for a mid-grade model for the time. It has a press-arched solid spruce top, solid birch back and sides, a poplar neck, and rosewood fretboard and bridge. Aside from the tuners and the bridge (the latter of which is period but probably not Harmony in origin), it appears to be original, too.

These make good, cutting guitars that aren't as refined and smooth as carved-top models, but have a snappy, direct, mids-soaked sound and a biting top-end. For someone holding a group together with chop chord "snare work" on guitar, something like this is a great sidekick.

A consignor brought this in and it had already gained a neck reset but needed a bunch of work to get it dialed-in. I reglued some loose seams, cleated the main back crack and filled/sealed a hairline crack on the top under the pickguard, fitted the bridge a bit better and compensated its topper, cleaned-up a bolt-hole at the back of the heel (to which I added a bolt for extra security -- why not? ...it was already there), gave it a fret level/dress, made a new bone nut, replaced the mismatched tuners with a set of nickel-plated 60s Guild tuners from my parts-bin, and then set it up. It's playing with spot-on 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret, has a straight neck, and is strung with 52w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 16, 12 strings which are ever-so-slightly lighter than a normal 12s set (to take tension off the unreinforced neck).


Specs-wise this sort-of apes a period Gibson with a 16 1/4" lower bout and a curvy profile. The side depth is 3 3/8" but the arched back and top give it extra depth beyond that. It has a "modern-style" 1 11/16" nut and a lightly-radiused fretboard, 25 1/8" scale length, and a medium-sized C-shaped neck profile.


The guitar shows general wear-and-tear from years of use, but overall looks pretty good for its age.



It's nice to see the original celluloid pickguard.



I compensated the bridge topper a bit better during setup.



Segmented f-holes are bog-standard on Harmony products, though the company did go back-and-forth with them throughout time. On the inside-back below this f-hole is the S-39 date stamp.


The back and sides are birch but have a faux-flame paintjob to give them a maple look at distance.



The tuners are nothing to write home about, but they work.




Here you can see a repaired old hairline crack on the back, the "patched" bolt hole at the back of the heel, and a scratch on the side next to it.


This crack on the rear, lower-bout was larger but I sealed and cleated it.





On the lower bout rear there's about 6" of seam that lacks kerfing and has been reglued. I forgot to mention this above -- but it's stable.


The endpin is unoriginal and from my parts-bins. The original one seemed to have shrunk quite a bit.

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