Restoration Now Completed! - 16/01/2019 - full series of photos of the completed job have now been added.
There is limited information on the H900 model on the Harmony Guitars Database, which reads as under the heading below....
These "Depression Era" guitars are always interesting, and this description is interesting both for what it does say & what it doesn't say. It gives the production date as 1940, but I read the date stamp in this guitar as 1936. Equally, although information on the H900 in the HGD is so sparse, I have seen photos of guitars described as H900 models sporting various features found on other familiar models from the mid-thirties to the early '40s. In particular I have seen one with the Laurel pattern soundhole ring decoration, which I have read somewhere that was a stylized representation of the Olympic wreath at the time of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and then again another one sporting a wooden "Wartime" tailpiece, suggesting typical Harmony finish variants of the model, and a wider production period. The HGD description refers to the "Idento" tailpiece, which this guitar has.
Stock Number - VTG1560.
This is an interesting vintage guitar with the floating bridge/tailpiece configuration regularly used on parlor guitars in the 1920s/1930s, and continued on in many of the Harmony-made Stella guitars from 1940 to 1975. In addition to the restoration work I am currently undertaking, work has been carried out before it came to me, by a luthier, for the previous owner....see details under condition heading below.
It appears that the previous work entailed primarily a neck rest, bridge modification, and some subtle clearcoat over-finishing. These works would not have been ones I would have done, or at least not in exactly the way they were, drawing a little away from the maintenance of originality, which I prefer to see. Nevertheless I have to concede the slight customisation resulting has given the guitar a unique character, which I'm sure will appeal to many serious players.
It retains 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, parlor Blues Guitar - ladder braced, all Solid Birch construction, flat, un-radiused fingerboard, typical of the guitar type & period, and shaded "faux-flame" finish.
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 mentioned previously, the guitar has previously undergone work by a luthier before it came to me. The guitar appears to be all original, except for the bridge, and some clearcoat over-finishing. The overall condition is good for an over 80 year old guitar. Inevitably there is cosmetic wear and ageing, including various scratches & knocks, but the clear over-finish does give a tidy appearance, whilst not detracting from the vintage character of the guitar.
Structurally, the previous luthier's work entailed a neck reset, very tidily completed, with appropriate fillet added under the fingerboard extension in line with the altered neck angle....only unusual feature is that the alteration of the neck angle was much greater than usual, resulting in the need for an elevated bridge in order for the strings to clear the fingerboard & play, but with the disadvantage that, because of the bridge height, strings were not correctly fitted to run under the front edge of the original "Idento" tailpiece. With the neck-angle further back than I would have set it, the resulting geometry of the guitar is more like that of a small archtop, and the replacement bridge then installed had a height of approx. 19mm., rather than the 11mm./12mm. normal for a parlor guitar of this type. The bridge height has now been reduced a little following fingerboard re-levelling, and the strings correctly located in the tailpiece.
The other issue identified was that not only were inadequate frets fitted, but the fingerboard was significantly uneven. Having removed those frets, I have re-levelled the typically flat, un-radiused, fingerboard in order to not only correct the unevenness, but also slightly reduce the angle of the fingerboard alignment, which then enabled me to take down the height of the bridge a little, reducing in height and re-shaping more satisfactorily the Bone saddle insert.....the unit is still taller than is usual....not that the high bridge & consequent break angle for the strings over the saddle is any bad thing, giving good down-force on the bridge, aiding sound transmission. After re-levelling was completed the fingerboard dot position inlays were replaced & new frets installed.
Not unusually in guitars of this age and type, there is very slight shaping around the soundhole and, after consultation with the luthier I work with it was decided that, purely as a precautionary measure, additional small Spruce braces should be installed running front to rear, above & below the soundhole, between the ladder/cross braces to the front & rear of the soundhole. This has been completed, just to give extra precautionary strengthening & reinforcement in this area.
The square-ended 3-on-a-strip tuners are original, and although not stamped do appear to be Waverly machineheads, remaining surprisingly clean & bright, for their age and fully functioning. In fact their operation is so good and they are such a good fit that I have not fitted the vintage type "Bootlace" ferrules/bushings that I normally add to those Harmony guitars on which they were not factory fitted....The fit is so close that I would have had to ream out the post-holes in order to do this, so their didn't seem to be a need....however they can be fitted if a purchaser required. The original "Idento" metal tailpiece is similarly in good shape, with only very limited & localised corrosion.
Wooden nut is of original type, if not the actual original, and after fingerboard work, has been adjusted and re-fitted. There is no intention to do any further finish restoration, leaving the tidy over-finish as is, merely to clean where needed and allow the superbly aged guitar to shine.
The completed set-up of the guitar gives a good action of around 2mm./2.75mm. 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 parlor or 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.
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 MM12 Retro Monel Light 12-54 strings, and really sounds tremendous - and loud!
There is no case with the guitar. 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.