Saturday, April 26, 2014

1930's Harmony Valencia Round Hole Archtop Guitar

Here we have a 1930's Valencia Round Hole Archtop Guitar.  This guitar has a classic depression era look from a classic depression era guitar maker.  I love the old time smoky/tobacco colored sunburst as well as the original appointments - bridge, tailpiece and pickguard.

This guitar has seen its share of the road as it looks to have been banged around a bit.  It is in need of a bit of work in order to be made an optimum player.  Neck could be reset and some work to the fingerboard which has a number of cracks from drying out would help this guitar become a nice player.  As it sits, it is a first position player or slide guitar as the action gets a little high after the fifth fret or so.  Nonetheless, I still find myself grabbing this instrument now and again just because it looks so cool.  I never really mind high action anyway - it's a character builder.

These round hole archtops are a curious bunch.  They give off a nice old-timey sound and have some interesting construction characteristics, such as a lack of back bracing.  The tone(somewhat obviously) falls in between that of an archtop and a flat top guitar, though on this one it is tough to describe because of a need for a neck reset.  The string break angle is not forcing enough pressure down on the bridge to create the volume you would like to hear, which in turm muffles the tone a bit.

here is a shot showing the lack of back bracing

some ugly repairs on the back
side view gives a good look at the arched top

Friday, April 18, 2014

1960's Harmony Master Acoustic Archtop Guitar

Here we have a 1960's Harmony Master archtop guitar.  This is a good example of  a mass produced instrument by harmony.  The painted on headstock logo as well as the painted on fret markers are just a couple of the cost cutting methods used .

Not only were they cutting cost with the paint but with the process as well.  You can see that they weren't that concerned with creating perfect boxes for the fret markers as the paint shadowing and spill out is pretty evident.
They must have had a better stencil for the logo as there is no bleed.  These guitars and the building process are such a curiosity, which is why I love them.  You would think it would have been a lot easier to master the block paint on the fretboard than it would have to ornament the headstock nicely. I would have loved to been there in the factory to see how things operated in their effort of mass production.  Harmony was outproducing everybody back in the day, making millions of guitars.  As wonderful as it would be to see a craftsman work individually on an instrument, it would also be pretty cool to see how Harmony, Kay and Regal mass produced their instruments.

This guitar is a pretty spunky player and a bit of a survivor as she is in pretty good shape for her age.  It's tough to find these lower grade instruments in good shape.  I wonder if they were thought of as being somewhat disposable because of their lower price point and people just didn't have any incentive to take care of them.  A friend of mine said it all when he said "once you get used to it, it's a lot of fun to play.  If you are used to the sound of your dreadnaught, than this guitars feel and tone might take some getting used to. Once you dig into it, it is a bunch of fun to play.  I keep a Kay or Harmony archtop with a 17" lower bout on my wish list as that bigger lower bout would probably round out and balance the tone a bit better.  Plus the ones from the 40's are really sharp looking guitars.