1930s Harmony-made Supertone "Hawaiian" Parlor Guitar

Well, at least I think it's a '37 -- the red date stamp is awfully smudged. But, yes, this is yet another incarnation of the "standard 12 fret Harmony" from the 1930s. This one has a Supertone (Sears-sold) label in the soundhole, and I've worked on variations of this guitar many times. Strung "Hawaiian" style with raised strings they have a sweet, airy, sing-song voice and setup "Spanish" style they make good, mellow, articulate fingerpicking guitars -- though I have to admit I'm not as much into the flatpicked sound on these unless the player's touch is light.

Specs-wise, it's just-under 0 size with a 13" lower bout and a short, 24 1/8" scale length. The body is solid birch throughout, though it has a finish that gives a faux-mahogany appearance. This one is a little more deluxe than usual and has a bound, pearloid-surfaced fretboard, black binding at the top and back edges of the body, and nice wood purfling around the top edge. Overall condition is excellent in that it has zero cracks and is entirely original except for replacement (ebony) pins and a new saddle.

I worked on this for a customer and it received a neck reset, fret seating, fret level/dress, one brace reglue, recut of the saddle slot and a new (compensated) bone saddle, and general setup. Because these are built so lightly, I've strung it with 46w-10 "extra light" strings. The feel is sort of "classical" in tension but works nicely for fingerpicking.

I think the effect of the faux-mahogany sunburst-ish finish and the decals is tres cool.

The 1 3/4" bone nut is original. Note the usual "crested" Harmony headstock shape.

Every time I have a pearloid-boarded guitar in that needs fret work (they all do), I soak some thin superglue into the fret slots to make sure they're seated beforehand. This type of board often distorts over time and the frets don't hold "the way they used to."

I added side dots, though the painted "face dots" are original.

The cool wooden purfling wasn't originally so muted -- the pale green stripes were a vibrant, emerald green and the pale brown was a bright yellow when it was made (this can be seen when the fretboard is lifted off of it).

Ironically, Harmony actually glued the original bridge in such a way that the front edge of the original saddle slot was compensated. Still, it needed a new saddle after the neck set and so I expanded the slot wider front/back to install a new bone saddle with better compensation.

I've always loved seeing this crazy decal on these old Harmony boxes. The pineapples remind me more of pinecones, though!

The original tuners are going strong after a lube.


Nicholas Ratnieks said...

I have seen Supertone guitars with a 36 and 37 date stamp- the first has the "big rectangle" label while the 1937 guitar has the smaller rectangle- and a tuning chart. This label is much less busy looking- blue and silver coloured which in about 1939 became circular. The label in this guitar is an earlier incarnation- as early as 1932- the first year of the date stamp in an oval used until S40. A rectangle was also used- F-35 to S-39 but no dash was used in that little oval stamp. Your guitar may be older than 1937- but not before 1932- although it's not exactly a Big Deal! Of course, somebody may have found a stash of old labels- all manner of anomalies can be found among the vast output from the Harmony factory!

Jake Wildwood said...

Yeah, I'm used to seeing these guitars 1928ish through 1935ish. Thanks for the detail! You're always damn informative. Appreciated!

Nicholas Ratnieks said...

Jake, thank you. There's a lot of incorrect information out on the web which people, quite naturally, just repeat. Your site is a source of very good information, so adding a tiny bit to your vast contribution is the least I can do. Looking at that stamp, it looks to me like 857. It's not S37- and it may not be a date stamp- some kind of order number, perhaps. You see the tuners on this guitar from around 1930 and I reckon the guitar is very early 1930s. If that is a date stamp, whoever stamped it was having a bad day- or he had reckoned on a bit of mischief making!

Jake Wildwood said...

Yeah, it's smudged, for sure.