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Old 08-23-2019, 03:47 PM
XYRN XYRN is offline
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Default "New" 1962 Harmony Archtop

Yesterday, after having lunch with my Aunt she surprised me by giving me her guitar, that was bought new for her in 1962 by my Grandparents!

I'd seen it a couple times before and played it the spring for a few minutes but I had no idea she planned this.

Although she is a music lover and loves guitar music she never took lessons and never played, and never had kids around, so it probably has less than ten hours on its original strings!!

There hasn't been a case for it so she wrapped it in blankets so it has picked up a couple very light dings in the last 57yrs. It's almost NOS.





No truss rod, but "steel reinforced".



Nice looking fingerboard, pretty much zero wear on the frets, though they could use a little dressing on the edges, just a couple are a little catchy.



Either a model and/or lot number or serial number, I don't know.



And a close up of what appears to be the 1962 production code.



Going to take off the old strings and clean/oil the fingerboard and polish the frets lightly.

Not sure what gauge strings it has, but I can mike them and find out.

I'm pretty excited about this "new" toy!
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Old 08-23-2019, 03:50 PM
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Brucebubs Brucebubs is offline
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Stunning!
Absolutely love it.
Great story and history.
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Old 08-23-2019, 04:18 PM
jaan jaan is offline
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i had the exact same model guitar; it was way cool. Congrats!
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Old 08-23-2019, 04:22 PM
L20A L20A is offline
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I would love to be gifted an old archtop. Lucky you!
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Old 08-23-2019, 08:15 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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You have a real survivor there - when I was taking lessons in Brooklyn about the same time as your aunt, these then-$27.50 guitars were standard fare; unfortunately most of them fell victim to the ravages of the old New Brunswick (NJ) Black Diamond strings (as did my own Harmony Broadway) - just one gauge thinner than bridge cable, and I strongly suspect it's the fact that the original strings were never changed that allowed it to retain its playability. As I'm sure you're aware they weren't the most refined instruments of their kind, but if you needed a lot of punch and cut these old Harmonys would deliver; don't quote me on this but TMK they were also made of solid birch (unlike many of their contemporary competitors) - another factor in their often surprising tone/volume, and if you need an acoustic lead instrument with a vintage vibe and the ability to cut through at your next song circle you'll be hard-pressed to find anything comparable at a reasonable price...

A couple caveats:
  • FYI the fingerboard is also birch, stained to resemble rosewood and varnished to a gloss finish (much like Fender's maple necks); while I'm not surprised that there was virtually no fret sprout after nearly six decades - even the cheaper instruments routinely used properly-dried/seasoned woods in their construction - I'd be careful with any fretwork if you don't want to take off the finish...
  • I'd start with a light-gauge string, preferably one with slightly higher tension that will exert sufficient downward pressure on the bridge to drive the top (archtops work on a "piston" principle to produce tone, rather than the "torsion" of a typical flattop guitar) but not enough to warp the neck or stress the dovetail joint. IME Martin Retro Monel MM12's would be an excellent choice: slightly higher tension than PB or 80/20, a"slinky" playing feel, and true vintage tonality - I've been using them on my Godin 5th Avenue (a latter-day version of the entry-level student archtops of the '40s-50s) with excellent results; if your tech gives it a clean bill of health the medium/light LJ's Choice set will give your guitar more punch at both the top and bottom end while still retaining easy playability...
  • Get a case of some kind ASAP - forget the blanket thing if you intend on playing it regularly (as I hope you do), and don't just leave it out on a stand. Although not designed for heavy use a chipboard case would be period-accurate for your guitar, but with the market preference for gig bags as well as the availability of relatively low-price/light-duty hardshell cases they've become hard to find in an appropriate size - based on the stated measurements one of these might work:

    https://www.amazon.com/Chipboard-Cas.../dp/B0002ITINA

    If you want to go for a more contemporary option, a gig bag or lightweight hardshell designed for a 000/OM guitar should fit - once again, check your dimensions before purchase...
Best of luck - use it well and often...
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Old 08-23-2019, 10:31 PM
XYRN XYRN is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
You have a real survivor there - when I was taking lessons in Brooklyn about the same time as your aunt, these then-$27.50 guitars were standard fare; unfortunately most of them fell victim to the ravages of the old New Brunswick (NJ) Black Diamond strings (as did my own Harmony Broadway) - just one gauge thinner than bridge cable, and I strongly suspect it's the fact that the original strings were never changed that allowed it to retain its playability. As I'm sure you're aware they weren't the most refined instruments of their kind, but if you needed a lot of punch and cut these old Harmonys would deliver; don't quote me on this but TMK they were also made of solid birch (unlike many of their contemporary competitors) - another factor in their often surprising tone/volume, and if you need an acoustic lead instrument with a vintage vibe and the ability to cut through at your next song circle you'll be hard-pressed to find anything comparable at a reasonable price...

A couple caveats:
../redacted/..
Best of luck - use it well and often...
Wow, lots of great information, thank you Steve!
Yep, it will continue to stay in the family and I will put it into the rotation.
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Old 08-23-2019, 11:54 PM
Kerbie Kerbie is offline
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What a beauty! Good story... that's one to treasure.
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Old 08-24-2019, 12:10 AM
Shaneh Shaneh is offline
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Default I had this same guitar

Donated it to some of the victims of the CA fires. H1213 is the model number btw
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Old 08-24-2019, 06:26 AM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa;614487 6A couple caveats:[LIST
[*]FYI the fingerboard is also birch, stained to resemble rosewood and varnished to a gloss finish (much like Fender's maple necks); while I'm not surprised that there was virtually no fret sprout after nearly six decades - even the cheaper instruments routinely used properly-dried/seasoned woods in their construction - I'd be careful with any fretwork if you don't want to take off the finish...
Although the Archtones were entry level archtops the fingerboards on the H1213 and H1215 were not stained birch but maple which they grained to resemble rosewood. The one thing Harmony was really good at was graining tops to resemble spruce,, faux-flame sides and such.
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Old 08-24-2019, 06:45 AM
beatcomber beatcomber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
unfortunately most of them fell victim to the ravages of the old New Brunswick (NJ) Black Diamond strings (as did my own Harmony Broadway) - just one gauge thinner than bridge cable
I've never heard anyone who was around back in the day say anything positive about Black Diamonds, LOL!

Just for fun, I recently bought three sets of ancient shrink-wrapped Black Diamond flatwounds. (I'm half-tempted to try a set on my '64 Kay Speed Demon.)



Quote:
and I strongly suspect it's the fact that the original strings were never changed that allowed it to retain its playability.
I'm curious to know how playable the guitar actually is. Pretty much every Harmony acoustic I've ever encountered in the wild (at flea markets, etc.) needed a neck re-set, but this one was obviously not neglected.

Does it play OK?


Quote:
[*]I'd start with a light-gauge string, preferably one with slightly higher tension that will exert sufficient downward pressure on the bridge to drive the top (archtops work on a "piston" principle to produce tone, rather than the "torsion" of a typical flattop guitar) but not enough to warp the neck or stress the dovetail joint. IME Martin Retro Monel MM12's would be an excellent choice: slightly higher tension than PB or 80/20, a"slinky" playing feel, and true vintage tonality - I've been using them on my Godin 5th Avenue (a latter-day version of the entry-level student archtops of the '40s-50s) with excellent results; if your tech gives it a clean bill of health the medium/light LJ's Choice set will give your guitar more punch at both the top and bottom end while still retaining easy playability...
Great suggestion, this guitar is begging for monels!
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Old 08-24-2019, 08:10 AM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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The virtue of Black Diamond strings was you could get them pretty much everywhere. While string tension exacted a harsh toll on Harmonys. Neither they nor Kay were none too picky about necks. Speed trumped quality construction. Even the steel rods Harmony started going to in the late-1950s were often poorly installed resulting in their more easily bending. If you have ever done a neck reset on a Harmony what you often find are popsicle stick shims with a ton of glue slathered into the joint.

"Goin' down to Lillian's music store to buy a Black Diamond string. Gonna wind it up on my guitar. Gonna make that silver sing" - Tom Petty "Dreamville"

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Old 08-24-2019, 08:28 AM
boldtone boldtone is offline
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Congrats on your NOS Harmony!! Don't know who made the Wards Airline archtop that I got new in '64, but it could have been Harmony. I think it was about $30. Black Diamond is what I used. Man was that thing tough to play for a then 13 year-old! Traded that off in '66 for a Gibson Kalamazoo electric. Also a cheap guitar.
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Old 08-24-2019, 09:51 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zombywoof View Post
Although the Archtones were entry level archtops, the fingerboards on the H1213 and H1215 were not stained birch but maple which they grained to resemble rosewood. The one thing Harmony was really good at was graining tops to resemble spruce, faux-flame sides and such.
Based on first-hand experience I'm well aware of Harmony's use of stained-maple fingerboards on their low-/mid-price models during this period (my own Broadway boasted an unsealed "ebonized" maple board, that eventually succumbed to rot about the same time the neck finally went south, and an elementary-school classmate's Montclair was similarly appointed), but the OP photos give the impression of one of those all-in-one birch necks I recall seeing on certain entry-level instruments (a college bud also had an H1213 so equipped which I played extensively, and IMO the grain here looks more like birch than maple in the pics - YMMV). BTW I'm also a big fan of those faux finishes - a girl who was taking lessons at the same music school had a "TV blonde" with painted tiger flame that I thought was the coolest thing going...

Quote:
Originally Posted by beatcomber View Post
I've never heard anyone who was around back in the day say anything positive about Black Diamonds, LOL!

Just for fun, I recently bought three sets of ancient shrink-wrapped Black Diamond flatwounds. (I'm half-tempted to try a set on my '64 Kay Speed Demon.)

For several reasons - value, playability, potential damage - I'd just stick them in the case with your '64 Kay and use them as a conversation piece and touch of period-accurate vibe (trust me, you don't want to play them ). FWIW several years ago I set up a gennie '58 LP (goldtop/darkback/PAF's) for a local nonagenarian who was no longer able to play, thanks to the Black Diamonds he had installed back in the day (FYI he also had two unopened sets in the case, along with a '50s Bobby Lee skinny strap - talk about period vibe); a set of D'A 12-52 flatwounds (comparable to what would have been OEM back in '58) and a bridge adjustment brought things back to spec - the smile on his face was priceless, and his grandkids have a "401(k)" heirloom that'll still rock the house...
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Old 08-24-2019, 11:15 PM
XYRN XYRN is offline
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Wow, fun to read the conversation this has sparked!
I am going to take off the current, such as they are, strings and at least mask off the fingerboard and take some 0000 to the frets, and then put on new proper lights.
Until then I cannot really comment on its playability.
Neck is straight and the action doesn't seem too high, though, so I'm optimistic .
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Old 08-25-2019, 03:47 PM
whvick whvick is offline
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I have a Broadway that was beat to death and a kid got it In His grandpa’s stuff. I gave him $5, and somewhat more to the local luthier to make it playable.
It is fun to have around.
Enjoy yours!
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