Claescaster

Category: DIY

Harmony H-162

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sHarmony H-162, Made in Chicago, USA in the late 1960’s

Two years ago I came across a couple of Harmony guitars, two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 acoustic guitars and a late 1950’s Harmony Monterey H1325 archtop guitar. I sold the archtop pretty much straight away since I got two Levin archtops at the same time. Both of the Harmony H-162 were in desperate need of a neck reset and were unplayable so they got packed away for the first year and a half and then in April I got around to remove the necks and now last week I finally managed to reset the first of the two. This Harmony H-162 feels a lot like my 1965 Goya T-16, but of course ladder braced instead of X-braced. These were called folk guitars which is a grand concert size, the exact same size as a Martin 000. The Harmony H-162 was produced in Chicago from 1940-1971, this one is most likely from the last 1960’s looking at the headstock. Even though it was an inexpensive guitar at the time they were built with all solid woods, back and sides of selected quality mahogany with a resonant spruce top. It’s a surprisingly well sounding guitar for being a mass produced ladder braced guitar, way better sounding than any Gibson B-15 or B-25 I’ve heard and it cost a third. The neck is pretty wide which makes it extremely comfortable for finger picking. Considering the price of a late 1960’s Martin 000-18, or even a Gibson B-25, the Harmony H-162 is a bargain for a USA made all solid wood vintage guitar. This guitar is now for sale.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sOnce the neck was reset all the hard work was done. The rest was just cleaning, polishing frets, oiling fretboard, repairing some binding, installing machine heads and creating a new truss-rod cover.

Harmony H162, 1959 Harmony catalogue
I got myself two late 1960’s H-162 so now I will start on the second one and get that neck reset as well. Taken from a 1959 Harmony catalogue

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How to… reset a neck

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sHarmony H-162, Made in Chicago, USA in the late 1960’s

This is a project that could have been done in two days but has taken two years. I guess it’s partly my fault, I wasn’t really sure how to reset a neck so I kept putting it off. I also have a 1.5 years old daughter and she is like a black hole when it comes to making time disappear. Anyway, now it’s done and everything worked out pretty great. I steamed off the necks back in April and then I had a lot of gigs and moved house in the middle and then last week I finally managed to get the guitar back together.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
I drilled a small hole under the 14th fret and tried to steam it off that way but it worked really badly so in the end I got frustrated and just removed the fretboard and got the neck off that way instead. I glued the fretboard back straight away so I wouldn’t mix the parts between the two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 that I had lying around at home. Once the neck angle was corrected I glued the neck back with Tite­bond 506/​4 classic wood glue.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
The late 1960’s Harmony H-162 in parts, it was actually quite easy to reset a neck. It’s pretty worn but the solid woods are really nice, mahogany back and sides with a two piece spruce top.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
I cleaned up the dovetail and heel with a chisel and then adjusted the neck angle with a file, it felt less risky than doing it with a chisel. I didn’t have to remove much for getting the action down and making it playable again.

 

How to… carve a bridge

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden in 1968

I decided to carve a new bridge for my 1968 Levin LT-18. The old bridge needed to be re-glued anyway so I thought it was a good time to create a new one in ebony instead. I did this once, I carved a new bridge for my 1973 K. Yairi YW-1000. This was a pretty similar job, both ebony and roughly the same shape. I’m really happy with the sound of this guitar now, so much richer than with the original bridge.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968First step was to remove the old bridge with a heated spatula and then copy the bridge and drill the holes.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968Then shape it as close to the original as possible using my Japanese saw rasp and different files.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968Last step, fit the bridge and glue it down. Once the bridge was in place I could check the intonation to get the saddle slot in the perfect spot. Unfortunately I cut the slot 1 mm too wide so the bone saddle got a bit fatter than I had planned. Perhaps that gives tonal qualities I would have missed with a thinner saddle, let’s hope so. I also installed a LR Baggs M1A so I can use the guitar for gigs.

Before: with the original rosewood bridge and the individual height adjustable plastic saddles

After: with the ebony bridge I carved and a bone saddle

 

Rickenbacker 330

Rickenbacker 330 Made in USA 2000A Rickenbacker 330 in Fireglo, Made in USA April 2000

Last week I had Sr. Chinarro’s Rickenbacker 330 at home for some minor work. This was actually the first Rickenbacker guitar I’ve ever played, I tried a Rickenbacker 4003 Bass ones but that’s all. I’m not sure why I haven’t been more interested in the brand, they look amazing and a million awesome musicians plays Rickenbacker. Perhaps I got lured in to the Telecaster cave early on and never managed to find my way out. The Rickenbacker 330 was introduced in 1958 and it really feels like it was built in an old fashioned way, perhaps not entirely in a good way. I mean when the electric guitars came in the 1950’s all the different brands had to figure things out for themselves for not infringing anyone else’s previous patents, hence why saddles, pickups and constructions varied so much in the beginning. There are a few solutions on the Rickenbacker that feels a bit weird, like the saddle, pickguard or the fact that they have lacquer over the rosewood fretboard. The problem with this guitar was that it had groves in the fretboard that I had to fill in with lacquer, scrape and then buff out with sandpaper and metal polish, which worked really well in the end. I think I will stick to my Levin orchestra guitars when it comes to hollow bodies but I really enjoyed having this Rickenbacker 330 at home so I could finally try one out. I loved the neck, both thickness and the feel of it and the pickups sounds really great, it’s a very versatile guitar.

Rickenbacker 330 Made in USA 2000
Rickenbacker 330 Made in USA 2000

Claescaster

The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016The new Claescaster, my second attempt at building a guitar

Back in 2014 I built myself my first Claescaster, it was not just my first guitar but pretty much the first anything I ever built. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either so I decided to give it second try and here is the result, the new Claescaster. The truth is that two years ago my wife was pregnant and I thought that was a great opportunity to build myself a Telecaster to mark the occasion. Unfortunately we lost that child half way through so I named the first guitar Greta after the daughter we never had. Two years later we tried again and were blessed with our little Frida, and just before she saw the light of day in early May I had my second Claescaster ready and gave it her name. My wife asked if I was going to build a guitar every time she gets pregnant and I might very well do that, it’s a great way for a man to keep himself busy during the nine long months of waiting. I will try to find some more pictures of the building progress, if not there are some more on my Instagram.

The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016Claescaster – Frida, is not the best Telecaster I’ve ever played but it’s still pretty damn good guitar, and ten times better than the first one I built. My plan was to build a 1952 copy so I could be like Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards or Roy Buchanan with his Nancy. Unfortunately that never happened, or at least not as close as I hoped for. Everything was going great, I had an awesome baseball bat neck with a 7.25 radius, it was actually so fat that I had to reshape it twice, great grain running along the top, everything felt smooth and the edges were pretty straight for being cut and shaped by hand, then I got to the lacquer. I managed to use the wrong lacquer and even though I tried to scrape it off and try again I never got perfect after that. I decided to give up on the brand new look and went for some form of old and worn 50’s vibe instead, which was my secret plan all along, I just wanted to have it perfect before I made it look old. Anyway, I’ve learnt a lot for my next Claescaster.

The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016The body comes from a wood pile I found in the streets of Barcelona and most likely pine. If I remember correctly it was a beam or a bed frame, that I cut in half on the length and glued together to get the width. The neck was from a block of North American maple that I bought in a wood shop here and that I had to saw by hand, which took forever. I used a 6 mm stick of wood for the fretboard markers and jumbo frets from Jascar. The pickups are Artec and the hardware is all from Wilkinson. I will try to get video up so you can hear what it sounds like.

How to… Replace frets

Hagström Western 6 Made in Sweden 1978Hagström Western 6 Missouri, Made in Sweden 1978

Last weekend I tried a trick that I had seen some old luthier in the US doing on Instagram, replacing the first three worn frets with the last three, instead of re-fretting the whole guitar. This seemed like a really good solutions for my 1978 Hagström Western 6 which had terrible wear on the first three frets.

Hagström Western 6 Made in Sweden 1978It seemed a bit pointless to do a complete re-fret when it was just the first three that was worn, I also like to keep things as original as possible. I just pulled out the first three and the last three and replaced the first three with the last three and then added three new frets where the last three used to be, easy peasy. I just had to nip off the edges with some pliers, file them down and round them a bit to get them smooth. Since you don’t play on the last three frets, or at least I don’t, you don’t have to level and crown them too much.

LR Baggs Lyrics

Sigma DR-41 Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoSigma DR-41 Made in Japan 1980, now with a LR Baggs Lyrics installed

As I mentioned before I ordered myself a LR Baggs Lyrics a couple of month ago and finally got around to install it in my Japanese Sigma DR-41 from 1980. I couldn’t really decide which guitar to put it in that’s why it took so long to get it done. The actually installation was very straight forward and easier than I expected. I just drilled a 13 mm hole in the end block, installed the endpin jack, stuck the microphone to the bridge plate inside the guitar and then just fitted the volume control at the sound hole and the battery pouch to the neck block. I did two tests to show the difference between my old LR Baggs M1 and this new LR Baggs Lyrics. I thought it would be a great idea to keep both systems in at the same time so the clips would be identical and easier to compare, but ended up getting quite a lot of noise. I’m not sure if it was a dodgy cable or if the systems interfered with each other, perhaps the magnets was causing havoc? Either way, neither sounds like this on their own. I played some nice chords in the first example and the normal things I play in my Youtube videos in the second, plus some little blues licks in the end. You can really hear the limitations of the M1, even though it has other advantages like the fact that it never feedback. I have a feeling that this Lyrics might be more sensitive for that on stage. I have to say that I really like to woody and open sound of the Lyrics and it seems to handle my attack as well when I play licks. Overall, the best and most natural sounding pickup system I’ve heard so far. I understand why Sturgill Simpson is using it.

Sonora parlour

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sSonora parlour guitar made in Germany 1920-30’s

I’ve recently managed to do some more work to the Sonora parlour. I decided to reset the neck to try to get rid of the banana neck and high action and it worked pretty well. I also redesigned the fretboard and added some wooden dot markers. Now the action is low and the guitar is easy to play.

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sSonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sThe new Sonora parlour and here is what she looked like before

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sMy initial plan was to steam the neck off by drilling two small holes under the 13th fret and that way get steam straight in to the dove tail. That didn’t work, I think it was too much old glue stuck in the joint and also the needle tip I used for my home built steamer was too thin. I decided to remove the whole fretboard instead, I used a spatula heated on a normal clothes iron which worked like a charm. Once the fretboard was off I could just steam the hell out of that joint and eventually the glue softened and then neck came off.

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sNext I had to try to remove the hump on the fretboard where the neck and body meet. I removed all the frets, and kept them in the correct order to make it easier to reinstall them later. To get rid of the hump I had to remove almost 6 mm of the overhang and then sand the rest to get the fretboard straight. 

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sI re-cut all the fret slots, reinstalled the frets and added four wooden dots in different grain directions as position markers. I gave the fretboard a coat of lacquer and then painted everything black except for the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th fret. I added a layer of lacquer on top and then sanded it smooth and polished out the frets again.

How to… carve a bridge

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973K. Yairi YW-1000 a Martin D-45 copy made in Kani, Japan in 1973

It’s been a while since I posted anything in my little DIY series, How to…, like me previous post about How to… reset a Levin neck or remove a bridge. I did carve a little floating bridge for my Levin 65 over a year ago but now it was finally time to carve a proper ebony bridge for my K. Yairi YW-1000.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973I thought about getting a pre-made Allparts ebony bridge at first but felt that it would be more fun to make one myself from scratch instead. I ordered some rosewood and ebony blanks from Madinter, it thought it could be good to have some extra at home, and got started. First I removed the old bridge, it had two screws that was a bit tricky to get out but eventually I figured it out. I removed the bridge with a spatula that I heated on a normal clothes iron, it works like a charm every time. Start in a corner and work yourself towards the middle and be careful when it starts to loosen up so you don’t break it off and chip the top, it should come off slowly and without force. I planed the ebony blank and then used a cabinet scraper to get it even. I copied the old bridge and drilled the holes straight away. It felt easier to do this before the bridge was shaped, it would also have saved me a lot of time in case I messed up the holes and had to start all over again. Luckily everything went fine.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973Once the bridge was sawed in to a good size, I made it a couple of millimetres bigger on all sides, I drew the outlines of the final shape. I mounted the bridge blank on a piece of scrap wood with two screws so I could more easily work all around with the bridge firmly secured. I used a chisel to carve out the shape on the sides and from the top down towards the wings. I got a good round shape with a half round rasp and then it was just a hell of a lot of sanding to remove all the lines from the rasp and to get it smooth and nice.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973I glued the bridge on and after 3 days I strung up both E-strings and used a drill as a saddle so I could move it around until I got the intonation right, I forgot to take a picture of that. I marked out the saddle and then sawed a 3 mm slot. Next step was to create a bone saddle to match and string it up. Easy peasy, well it was a hard days work but it was easier that I thought.

Harmony Monterey

Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325A late 1950’s Harmony Monterey H1325, made in USA

A couple of weeks ago I came across a really nice looking Harmony Monterey H1325. The only way to date these guitars is by the second stamp inside, if you can find it, giving the year and month. Unfortunately I can just see 784H1325 and the second stamp JAN in mine. I assume it’s from the late 1950’s judging by the head logo and the lack of trussrod since that was introduced in 1964. It’s a really nice playing and sounding guitar, not as loud as my Levin archtops, the 1951 Levin Royal or 1946 Levin Model 32, but still a very nice guitar. Harmony guitars were mass produced in Chicago during this time and even though they are made from solid woods they feel a bit low budget, in a good way, I guess that’s why they are so damn awesome and look so rock n’ roll.

Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325

Harmony H1325 – Monterey
Acoustic archtop – Brown shaded
Production years: 1952-1972 (other years possible, not verified)
Spruce top, birch body – Grand Auditorium 16 1/2 in. Unusual sunburst pattern in bands. Neck has a trussrod from 1964.

Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325There was a lot of cleaning to do and two cracks that needed to be glued. One large on the upper bout and a smaller one on the top and then I glued down the heel a bit better which got the action down. Except for that it was in pretty good shape for being around 60-years old and all original.

Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325The original case has these awesome looking shipping stickers on it, I presume from when the guitar left America for Germany by boat in the 1950’s carried by the first owner.

Harmony Monterey, 1959 Harmony catalogueThe top left looks very much like my Harmony Monterey, having said that, the model number inside mine is H1325 which match the bottom left. Taken from a 1959 Harmony catalogue

Harmony H162, 1959 Harmony catalogueI also got myself two late 1960’s H162 from the US that I need to restore. First of all they need a neck reset but then I was actually thinking of removing the back and X-brace at least one of them. Taken from a 1959 Harmony catalogue.