What's inside a 1920s Harmony

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What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby bighollowtwang » Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:08 pm

Big dust balls...and ladder bracing. Nothing beats ladder bracing.

Here's my friend Dan's late-1920s Harmony...it needed some braces reglued, a split in the side cleated and glued, the bridge plate was starting to split, and all the glue seams were coming undone.

Here's the guitar with the back removed, with the sides held in place by a quickly slapped-together "mold" to keep everything from distorting:

http://img5.picsplace.to/img5/20/39DV5822.JPG


I'm happy because of beer.

http://img5.picsplace.to/img5/20/39DV5827.JPG


Here you can see two splits: one directly under the fingerboard extension (in front of the neck block - oooh, nice glue blob there too) and one at the side (shoulder area) extending from the neck block. Cleat time!

http://img5.picsplace.to/img5/20/39DV5829.JPG
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby stumblin » Wed Mar 29, 2006 5:05 pm

"I'm happy because of beer."
An admirable sentiment, and one which does you credit.
At last. Now I know what ladder-bracing looks like.
I feel better equipped now for all those technical discussions.
Thanks.
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby david » Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:19 pm

Yeah, thanks for putting up those pictures. I could throw the terms around with the best of 'em. But, that's the first time I think I ever saw the inside of one of those.
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby bighollowtwang » Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:38 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Mar-29-06 AT 01:40 PM (EST)]As far as old ladder-braced guitars go, this is not a 'great' one.

Why?
Because the spruce top is quite thick and the whole damn thing is rather overbuilt. There's FOUR top braces (all my old parlor guitars only have three) and that certainly deadens the sound, but probably not as much as the thickness of the top.

Having said that, it still blows away most 'affordable' modern guitars I've had the misfortune of playing...and unlike some of my more fragile and lightly built parlors, this one can safely be strung with 13s. This isn't a "parlor" guitar - it's 14" wide at the lower bout, and I don't think anything over 13" can really be considered a 'parlor' guitar.

I see a lot of people asking about all kinds of cheap smaller-bodied asian-made acoustics...and even at the reasonable prices they go for, they're hardly a "bargain" compared to some of the fantastic 20s and 30s instruments which can be had for similar sums of money...
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby allanlummox » Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:46 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Mar-29-06 AT 01:47 PM (EST)]I'm assuming that those braces could be shaved a bit...
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby bighollowtwang » Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:00 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Mar-29-06 AT 02:01 PM (EST)]The braces on that thing look like they could support bookshelves!

Since it wasn't my guitar...and has sentimental value for its owner (it belonged to his late grandfather and it was the only thing he left behind) I decided not to mess with it beyond structural repairs...but the braces certainly do speak volumes about the build quality.

The braces in my c.1915 Lyon & Healy Jupiter are neatly sanded and painstakingly shaped, not to mention much thinner.

My late 20s B&J Serenader (which also appears to be a Harmony product) has a much thinner top, three neatly shaped braces, a much neater interior, and way more volume (even though it's a smaller body) and tonal richness.

Just goes to show that even in the early days, Harmony's quality varied wildly.
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby slidnslim » Fri Mar 31, 2006 12:36 am

You should have seen the braces in my Kay-jumbo
Zak, I could have thrown them in the stove and
heated the house for,the night! gotta love them straight
braced buggers eh! very nice blues tone,mine has a tail-
piece with a floating bridge and the top really resonates,

Kenny,
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby crowduck » Fri Mar 31, 2006 12:55 am

Zak,

Check out this link to a ladder braced Stella.

CrowDuck

http://www.johnhowguitars.com/Repro.html
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby bighollowtwang » Fri Mar 31, 2006 3:52 am

Thanks, very interesting page!
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby crowduck » Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:24 pm

Speaking of "ladder braced" Harmony, Stella, Regal, etc., they must be 'catching on''. Check out this one on eBAy. Also, notice the 'slick marketing' with soundclip. Looks like a nice one. I got one just like it in 'like new' condition last year for a bit over $100, this one's already over $150 with a day left. Goes to show what can be done on eBay with the right promotion.

CrowDuck

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... %3AIT&rd=1
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby crowduck » Mon Apr 03, 2006 7:42 am

Zak,

Here's another look at ladder bracing.

CrowDuck

http://www.toad.net/~harpe/stella_plans.htm
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby david » Mon Apr 03, 2006 12:24 pm

On one of the "bonus" features with the DVD of the movie "Lady Killers" they interview the instrument maker that made all the instruments the characters pretend to play. Turns out the guy (I forget his name) has made guitars for some pretty well known players.

What stands out in my mind is his statement that the secret to a great sounding guitar is that it has to be built so that it's just on the verge of falling apart.
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby bighollowtwang » Mon Apr 03, 2006 10:51 pm

>What stands out in my mind is his statement that the secret
>to a great sounding guitar is that it has to be built so
>that it's just on the verge of falling apart.

This is very true...the flimsiest, most lightly built instruments with the thinnest tops are usually the ones that sound the best. I've also noticed that guitars without trussrods or any reinforcing non-adjustable pieces of metal in the neck don't resonate like the ones with unreinforced necks...and in the cases of all my old guitars, the V profile (and huge size) of the neck is enough to keep them straight.
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RE: What's inside a 1920s Harmony

Postby crowduck » Tue Apr 04, 2006 1:33 am

>Speaking of "ladder braced" Harmony, Stella, Regal, etc.,
>they must be 'catching on''. Check out this one on eBAy.
>Also, notice the 'slick marketing' with soundclip. Looks
>like a nice one. I got one just like it in 'like new'
>condition last year for a bit over $100, this one's already
>over $150 with a day left. Goes to show what can be done on
>eBay with the right promotion.
>
>CrowDuck
>
>http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=7402720459&rd=1&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&rd=1

Believe it or not, this old Stella/Harmony went for $202.50 + $39 shipping, and had 23 bidders. Not bad for a guitar that originally sold for $36 new in the 60's, and was considered a POC. I know where I'll be selling MY guitars................aaaaah, eBay.

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