- Immediately Reserved, on first release of preliminary details, as provisional pre-order for an existing customer in London, who has already purchased a really nice 1960s Harmony H162 Spruce/Mahogany Three-quarter/Terz size guitar from me recently, also restored on his pre-order, and has now specially asked to reserve this one, pending completion of the restoration.
27/06/2017 - Restoration completed ready for dispatch - now showing updated series of photos of the guitar, following restoration, plus the last 3 images, being the Sears 1937 Supertone guitar advertisement, the identical model guitar photo from the Vintage Blues Guitars Blogspot, and the photo of the Three-quarter/Terz size version of the same guitar from the Silvertone World website, all referred to in the text.
This is clearly both a quite rare and an unusual guitar, amongst the Harmony-made guitars which survive from the Depression Era/1930s, around 80 years ago.
The identification details, as clearly as they can be stated from the research I have done, follow the YouTube section below. It is rare to find a small-bodied size flattop guitar, but with F-Hole, violin shape soundholes, more usually found only on archtop guitars, rather than the standard round soundhole. It is clear from the Sears 1937 Supertone guitar advertisement, on the link below, that Harmony made both flattop & archtop versions.
This is an unusual and interesting guitar, which if correctly identified, was one of the number of models Harmony reproduced/re-worked for Sears under their Supertone brand. I have never seen another one, other than the ones in the photos on the links above.
Stock Number - VTG1270.
This superb vintage acoustic blues guitar is the floating bridge/tailpiece configuration so frequently used on parlor & small-bodied guitars in the 1930s, but with the added dimension that most unusually it incorporates violin style F-soundholes, more typically found on archtop guitars, rather than the usual round soundhole.
It has great looks, lots of vibe and historic all-American character - a superb sounding parlor blues guitar, which can be set up for finger-style or for bottleneck playing - an iconic Chicago made, 12 fret-to-the-body, size "0"/"00" Blues Guitar - all solid Birch back & sides, ladder braced construction. The Sears Supertone guitars advertisement included in the SilvertoneWorld website on the link above includes the following description........
"Birch body, curly Maple grain shaded effect on front; white striping around top edge; Walnut finish side and back. Size 13 1/8 x 35 1/2 in. Violin style sound holes. Ebony finish guard plate, ebonized fingerboard, ornamental position designs, nickeled tailpiece, geared patent heads."
In modern description we could mention terms like tobacco sunburst, tiger-stripe, faux-flame, but overall it has that uniquely dark vintage look that only a guitar genuinely from the depression era can show.
The guitar is larger than true original parlor size, even a bit larger than the post-war Harmony Stella "parlors", based on the long running production of the Stella H929, and similar guitars Harmany made right through to the finish of their production in Chicago in 1975, of which I have restored & sold so many. In fact it lies between Martin "0" & "00" sizes, but with the same 615mm./24.25" Scale Length as those Stellas, but a 42.5mm./1.69" (1 & 11/16" in old money!) nut, narrower than the more typical 44.5mm./1.75" of the later "parlors", slightly greater overall length of 37"/94cm., wider 14"/35.5cm body width, lower bout and upper bout of 10.25"/27cm., longer body length of 19"/48.3cm., body depth front - 3.3"/8.4cm., rear - 3.8"/9.6cm.
If you are an acoustic blues player and wonder why that top line guitar you bought doesn't sound authentic when you play blues like those of Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell, or Blind Lemon Jefferson, I can tell you why it doesn't and never will! All of those guys and many others from the 30s through to the 60s played Birch bodied guitars, some of them with Spruce tops, some all Birch, but it is the Birch which gives that unmistakable sound. No guitar made today, American or otherwise can give you that sound, for Delta and Country Blues!
If you want a fully functioning, great sounding piece of American musical history, this is it - a really exceptional addition to any collection of Blues/Vintage Guitars.
As far as I can tell, at this preliminary stage, prior to getting it on the workbench, this guitar is nearly all original, and this originality will be maintained as far as possible in the restoration process. I can't be absolutely sure at this stage, whether it will be necessary to replace what I assume is the original wooden nut, but my experience with removing old dyed Maple nuts is that they frequently have become too friable to survive the operation, or to be re-usable! In which case it will be replaces with a new purpose-made Ebony one.
The one thing I know is not original is the tacky plastic adjustable floating bridge it came with, but I slipped it out before taking the photos! In it's place, pending final decision on the replacement, I have slipped in what is probably the tallest of the standard dyed Maple bridges, from my stock of original pre-used Harmony/Stella parts but further adjustments will be undertaken.
In addition to the photos of this guitar, taken prior to restoration, I have added a photo of the identical model from the Vintage Blues Guitars blogspot, showing the same type floating bridge. The illustration in the 1937 Supertone advertisement is not clear enough to determine what style of floating bridge is fitted, although the Three-quarter/Terz model shown in the Your Grandpa's Guitar link is the other type of floating bridge, which incorporates a fretwire saddle, often seen on older Harmony/Stella parlors. I may have one in my stock of original parts, but at the moment I'm more in favour of the plain wooden style I have already inserted.
You will see from the photos that the dyed Maple fingerboard has suffered some localised damage in places, including around the missing last fret. It rather looks as if most of this damage results from an earlier poorly executed re-fretting job. From experience I know how friable & fragile older fingerboards of this type can be but, after assessment with the professional luthier I work with, we will be re-fretting the guitar, after re-levelling the fingerboard. Although this should fully revive the condition and playability of the guitar, the downside is that the original, characteristic stencil painted on position markers will be lost, and it will have to replace with plain dot inlays.
The overall cosmetic condition is really very good for an 80 year old guitar. Inevitably there is overall cosmetic wear and ageing....honest play wear, but absolutely the minimum you could expect on an 80 year old guitar! I'm not entirely sure what has happened with the headstock finish, which has a rather matted look to it, with 3 score marks on the face....not sure whether there might have been any name/logo on the face originally. Will look at whether finish can be improved, and will add vintage type ferrules/bushings to aid the operation of the machines, and will also cover the slight chipping around the post-holes.
Structurally things seem pretty good also, but there is a need for some work, as I would expect. On inspection with the luthier, it looks as if the neck joint has been reset previously, but that following this the alignment of the fingerboard extension has not been good. AS mentioned previously the fingerboard will be re-levelled, in addition to any other work we find to be necessary during the course of restoration. There is a crack running through the front pickguard fixing screw location....no real movement & may have been glued but likely to require reinforcement, and also a couple of fine creases in the back panel, near the neck heal. Also my impression from the sound of the top is that something may be slightly loose inside....nothing actually rattling around, but it is possible that braces are becoming loose & require re-gluing. I think that we will need to take the back off to give the opportunity to check/re-glue/reinforce cracks & braces as needed.
The 3-on-a-strip tuners/machineheads are assumed to be the originals, appear fully functioning, in fact so clean they almost looks like modern repro replacements....I will re-check their originality. They will be checked over & cleaned, but actually show really minimal discolouration. There is no intention to do any finish restoration at all, merely to clean where needed and allow the superbly aged guitar to shine.
On completion of the fingerboard treatment/re-fret, bridge adjustment/replacement, and any other work found to be necessary, we will be looking to set the guitar up with an action of around 3mm. at the 12th. fret, which with just a tad more string height at the nut/first fret in order to aid bottleneck play, I reckon is ideal for a Stella "all-rounder", good for Bottleneck play, but with fretting aided by the shorter scale length and consequent lower string tension, therefore ideal for a mixture of finger-style and bottleneck play. At the moment, with the bridge temporarily installed the 12th. fret action is just lower at 2.5mm. & seems to be playing fairly ckeanly.
Additionally it could also be used for full-time slide with a nut riser costing no more than a few pounds. The sound is typically loud and pokey, just as a Stella should be - a great Bluesy voice! It has "That Sound" in spades - even, woody, bright, clear, ringing tone! Unless otherwise requested, it will be strung with Martin Bronze Light 12-54 strings, and really sounds tremendous - and loud!
There is no case included. I do have some period cases...not as old as this guitar, at which age very few cases are still in anything like usable condition, but from more like the 1960s, or I may be able to supply it with a specially fitted Hiscox Liteflite hardshell case. These cases of course do offer much better protection, but even the smallest case produced by Hiscox does require a couple of their extra internal pads fitting, in order to hold the small guitar correctly. I will be happy to advise whether I can marry the guitar to a suitable case, at the time of purchase, and if so agree with you an inclusive price for Guitar + Case.