Vintage Acoustic Guitar Repair : Harmony Sovereign H1260





Here’s a ’60s Harmony Sovereign H1260 on the workbench.

Vintage Harmony guitars have become a popular choice for collectors and often fetch high prices on auction sites. The H1260 was produced between 1958 – 1971.

The Harmony Guitar Company became the largest producer in the U.S. They sold 250,000 pieces in 1923 and 500,000 in 1930, including various models of guitars, banjos, and mandolins. The company peaked between 1964 – 1965 selling 350,000 instruments, but low end foreign competition led to the company’s demise 10 years later. In the years from 1945 – 1975 the Chicago firm had mass produced about ten million guitars. More info on The Harmony Guitar Company here…

The Harmony Guitar Company ceased trading in 1975 and sold the Harmony name. The name is now used by an unrelated company based in Illinois that imports guitars from Asia. More info on vintage Harmony guitars at Harmony Database

* From Wikipedia



As previously stated these old 1260s are becoming collectors items and owners are forever looking for ways to bring out the best in them. This 1260 belongs to a regular customer and a frequent visitor to the workshop.

It originally came into the workshop to have a pin through bridge fitted. Whilst it’s on the workbench I had an opportunity to give it a thorough workbench assessment and I did’t like what I saw.

It had a high playing action and on closer inspection I could see that the neck had been refitted. This had been badly done and left me with the impression that this old Sovereign had been the victim of abuse in the hands of an inexperience repairer.

There was a strange veneer line that ran the length of the neck under the fingerboard. It appeared to (have been) be a piece of Maple veneer, but why was it there? This didn’t look like Harmony spec. but it suggested that the fingerboard had been removed at some point in its life.

Click image to enlarge

After talking over the potential problems with its owner we came up with a plan to save this old jumbo.

A Renovation Plan

To remove the fingerboard from the neck and body

To remove the Maple veneer from the top of the neck.

To remove the neck from the body and reset at the appropriate angle for a good playing action.

The fingerboard was (to be) assessed after it has been removed to ascertain if it could be reused or replaced.

All binding around the fingerboard was to be renewed including the edge dots.


A small heat blanket was used to heat the fingerboard. For ease this was done in several stages.

With the fingerboard removed it was a simple job to steam and remove the neck.

More info about removing and resetting a guitar neck here…

The body, neck and fingerboard were set aside for a few days to dry out and settle.


The Fingerboard

Fortunately the fingerboard was removed cleanly and without damage. The frets were removed and the fingerboard cleaned up.

I took this opportunity to refret the fingerboard as this makes for a very easy job with the fingerboard removed from the neck.

The fingerboard was fretted and new bindings attached.

 


The Neck Reset

It’s clearly visible in the photo (below) that the dovetail is badly broken. This is quite common when a neck is removed. Generally speaking all the broken parts a gathered and pieced back together. However, in this instance there are no broken parts to be collected. This means that these parts were omitted on the last neck reset!

The dovetail end was cleaned up as best as is practical and the neck reset.

More on neck resets here…

The edge bindings were trimmed to size and the fingerboard reattached to the neck.


Why bother changing the bridge?

As previously mentioned owners are forever trying new ways to bring out the best tone in their Harmony guitars. A pin through bridge is an efficient way of enhancing the bass and mid range tones. This is partly due to the increased break angle of the strings from the saddle to the pin hole and partly due to the 90° angle of the string through the bridge and soundboard. Another beneficial factor is the direct contact of the string’s ball end with the internal bridge plate beneath the soundboard.


Making the Bridge

A purpose designed and made metal block was heated to approximately 400°F. The heat transference was enough to soften the glue holding the bridge.

The new bridge design was based approximately on the same shape and dimensions as the old bridge. The new bridge has an extended front to allow for correct saddle position and therefore accurate intonation.

The footprint of the old bridge was cleaned up and a soundboard patch installed. This ensures that the new bridge will stay stuck.

The new pin through bridge was fitted and glued into place.

The guitar was strung up and tested.

Some strings were choking around the 12th fret area. This was a bad sign and suggested that there was a slight hump in the fingerboard around this area. The only course of action was to defret the guitar and reshoot the fingerboard. This is unfortunate as this had already been refretted at the start of the restoration. However, my optimistic thinking was that it could work out fine and there was very little lost in doing the earlier refret when the fingerboard was loose.


Fingerboard Reshoot

The frets were removed and the guitar was prepared for the reshoot. This entailed using a jack plane and cabinet scrapers to smooth out the hump in the fingerboard.

Some of the inlays were lost.

With the slight hump removed new M.O.P dots were inlayed the fingerboard was refretted.

A new nut was made and fitted along with a new scratchplate.

The back of the neck was refinished to disguise a multitude of chips and breakouts around the binding area.

 



This short video clip shows the transition of this instrument through restoration.

Restoration has transformed this instrument 

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Thanks GPL

Soundtrack: Aloha Uncle Lawrence by Jim Kimo West

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