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Tag: Acoustic guitar demo

Harmony H-162

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

I finally put the second Harmony H-162 back together. I got two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 acoustic guitars about 2-3 years ago and it has taken forever to actually find the time to re-set the necks on them. The first one I put together back in November and that one was sold straight away. This one is reserved for a friend of mine but if he decides to get one of my Levin guitars instead then I will put it up for sale. They are really nice these Harmony guitars, wide neck, strong tone and great wood. Harmony used the same wood supplier as Martin back in the day. 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 late 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.

Harmony H-162, Made in USAHarmony H-162, Made in USAThe Harmony H-162 was missing machine heads, nut and saddle so I cut new ones in bone and added machine heads and some ebony bridge pins.

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 late 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

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

 

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.

German parlour

German parlour, unknown maker 1920-30'sMy wife’s little unknown German parlour, probably from the 1920-30’s

Back in May I found an old German parlour guitar of unknown make, well it later turned out to be a Sonora, but that opened up my eyes for these small beauties. It’s hard to compare them two since the first one had to be completely rebuilt and this parlour was playable when we got it, except for two small cracks in the top. I actually got my wife to fix up her own guitar, it was about time she was introduced to what I normally do when an old guitar arrives. First she had to polish the frets, oil up the fretboard, clean the whole guitar, oil the tuners, ad some fish glue to the small cracks and clamp her up and then when she was ready, restring her.

German parlour, unknown maker 1920-30'sGerman parlour, unknown maker 1920-30'sThe little unknown beauty. There are no makers mark or any further info on this guitar. We just both fell in love with the amazing flower inlays and couldn’t resist her.

German parlour, unknown maker 1920-30'sThere is a first time for everything, now my wife Araceli can take care or her own guitars

Goya T-23

Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966Goya T-23, Made in Sweden by Levin in 1966

Finally, it took two years but now I’m at last the proud owner of a lovely Goya T-23. When I bought my first Levin back in the summer of 2013 I started to search Vintage Guitars Sweden for different models to study and learn everything I could about Levin. There was 3-4 different guitars that I fell in love with straight away, Levin LM-50 with all it’s bling, Levin De Luxe the king of archtops, Levin 174 which I later found, and of course Levin LT-23, the cowboy version of Levin LT-18. I love my 1966 Goya T-18 so I was pretty sure that this Goya T-23 would sound pretty sweet too, but it sounds even better than I could have imagined. My friend Wolf and I had a little jam last Saturday and it seems like the T-18 and T-23 were made to be played together, I will try to sort a video. I love everything about this guitar, the ebony fretboard with it’s block inlays, the flamed maple back and sides, the amazing cowboy pickguard and plastic details, the bridge shape and most of all, the sound. It has a Gibson like bass response but with a Martin like mid and treble, kind of the best of both worlds. It was well worth the wait, the next holy grail to find would be a Levin LM-50.

Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966I haven’t done any work to this guitar yet, I bought it from a seller in Franklin, Indiana, USA and since it seemed really dry when it arrived I wanted to wait and see how it reacts to the subtropical heat of Barcelona first. Most likely I will have to sand down the heal a bit to get the action down and perhaps even remove the binding on the neck and file down the frets since the fretboard has been dry and shrunk so the frets are poking out a bit. Hopefully the humidity here will help a bit and if not I will sort this issues after the summer. It’s very playable as it is and almost in mint condition with minimal wear.

Levin LT-23 / Goya T-23
Goliath size: Body width: 400 mm, body length: 505 mm, body depth: 95/120 mm. Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm. Spruce top with X-bracing, flame maple back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back. Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod. Single-bound ebony fingerboard with bass side pearloid block inlay. Nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons. Ebony bridge, natural finish and ten year warranty

Levin 1976 catalougeLevin catalogue from 1967. Now I finally have all four of them, the two top as Goya and the bottom two as Levin, but mine are from 1965-66 so they have a proper saddle instead of the adjustable saddle screws. Goya T-23 (1966), Goya T-18 (1966), Levin LT-16 (1966), Levin LT-14 (1965). Taken from Vintage Guitars Sweden

Levin Goya T-23 Made in Sweden 1966It arrived with the original Goya hang tag, an unused 1960’s leather strap and this awesome looking black alligator hard case that I think is original too. Taken from my Instagram

German parlour

Parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sBefore and after, Sonora parlour made in Germany

I recently restored a little German parlour that I unfortunately don’t know anything about. The only info the seller gave me was that it was made in Vogtland in perhaps the 1920-30’s. If this would have been a Japanese acoustic or a Levin I would have had a bit more of knowledge but I really don’t know anything about old German parlours. I just bought it to practice my guitar repairing skills and for that it was pretty good, I’ve learned a couple of new things. The idea was to give it to my wife but now we found another one for her so if anyone is interested in buying this then send me an email.

Parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30's

The action is a bit high so it’s ideal for slide playing but you can still play it like a normal guitar if you have light gauged strings on it. It sounds pretty awesome, really clear and loud for being so small. It’s made of all solid woods, spruce top, walnut back and sides and perhaps pine or some other light coloured wood in the neck, I’m not that great at guessing woods. One set of machine heads looks original and seems to be from 1920-30’s and the other is perhaps DDR made from the 1960’s, but both works fine. Overall a pretty nice sounding little guitar with a beautiful patina and the most awesome looking one piece walnut back.

Parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sI started with taking the back off so I could re-glue all the braces. It was pretty straight forward to open it, I used a heated spatula and a knife, it worked like charm, I removed all the braces in the same way. The head was broken and pretty much everything that could be lose was lose on it when it arrived. It has a small makers mark under the bridge but I can’t really figure out what  it says, if anyone has any ideas please get in touch.

Update: August 27, 2015: The brand is Sonora

Parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sI re-glued all the braces and the two cracks in the top with fish glue. Unfortunately the top had been cracked for so long so I couldn’t get it to close perfectly but at least now it’s solid with two cleats running along the cracks.

Parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sThe next step was to glue the head back on. This was a bit harder than the Spanish guitar I glued the head on the week before since the break this time was just under the nut and therefore a lot harder to clamp. I left it for 48 hours and it seems to have worked pretty well so I carved and sanded the back smooth and then painted it black again. I glued the back on and closed the guitar with tape and clamps and this was pretty tricky too, as I’m sure everyone that has ever closed a guitar would know. The sides tend to move outwards so you have to push them in place sideways at the same time as you clamp the top down to the body. A bit fiddly but it worked fine in the end.

Parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sNow I just had to make the guitar playable. These old parlours are known for having banana necks since they lack any form of reinforcement in the neck. On top of that they tend to have a hump where the fretboard meets the body. First I heated and steamed the neck under pressure which worked quite well for straighten it out a bit. Then I took out the last 5 frets, sanded down the fretboard, put the frets back and lowered them as much as I could. I painted the fretboard brown and sanded over it to match the rest. After that it was just to level, crown and polish the rest of the frets.