5/23/2017

1930s Harmony-made Supertone Concert Ukulele





This uke is built just like a desirable Johnny Marvin airplane-bridge "tenor" concert uke, save that it has the "regular" bridge attached, instead. It looks, thus, a lot like the later 50s Harmony concert ukes (also very good instruments), but is in actuality a bit nicer in build quality and has more volume, sweetness, and oomph because of it. This one also has the Sears "Supertone" brand in the soundhole.

It came to me in amazing condition and I only really needed to do "fancy setup" work to it. The frets got some wicked-in glue to make sure they were seated well... then I gave it a fret level/dress, slight mod to the bridge, added an "insurance bolt" concealed in the neck heel (because these tend to have wonky neck joints, though this one was tight and at a good angle when it arrived), and a good setup. It plays on-the-dot with a straight neck, 1/16" action at the 12th fret, and is strung with Martin fluorocarbons.

The sound is full, sweet, punchy, and rich -- as you'd expect from a 14 3/4" scale concert uke with very light bracing and thin, solid-mahogany throughout.


Shockingly, there are zero cracks and the original satin finish looks awesome.


Even the headstock has the typical "Johnny Marvin" rolled-edges shape and thin, bone nut.


These necks have a wider nut but thinnish C-shaped front-back profile. It makes them ideal for someone who needs a bit of room for fingerpicking or complex chords. The intonation is pretty good but the last fret (the 12th fret) is a few cents off.

The pearloid-surfaced fretboard is in good shape and I added side dots to complement the painted-on face dots.


The top has 4-ply binding on all edges.


The mahogany bridge is original, though I've removed the raised wooden saddle area as it was compensated too flat. I've instead cut slots to let the strings leave nearer the front of the bridge.

I also drilled tiny holes under the string-loading slots so that one has the option of the "usual" ball-and-snug stringing (where it anchors at the rear of the bridge) or stringing "Jake-style" by passing the string through the pinhole in the top and then pulling it up to the soundhole and balling/knotting there. This puts less direct pressure on the bridge itself.



The roughly square-shaped discoloration on the back of the uke is due to the label's adhesive on the interior of the instrument discoloring the back under the finish. I've seen it in the same place on other Supertone ukes and that confused me for a while until I realized it was because the wood is so darn thin on these that it just seeps.


I added some washers under the original bakelite-buttoned friction tuners to get them to turn nice and smoothly.



There's one, tiny, old-repair "boo-boo" on the back, here.







1 comment:

Nicholas Ratnieks said...

Early 1930s Supertone label- predates the date stamp, I guess. I bet whoever put that ding into the edge kicked himself good and hard! Mind you after over 80 years just the one ding is somewhat akin to a miracle!