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Beware ! You're in Kamikazie here. Not many pro luthiers around, more often brave souls experimenting in their kitchen.

H1327 Monterey neck reset - by Zhyla

Bridge work - Neck Reset - Refret

Zhyla : So you guys have seen me bring a parlor guitar back from the dead and reset/refret a not-so-great H950 archtop. Today I started work on a guitar I really, really like. There isn't much wrong with this guitar other than the action and the frets.

Like the other archtop (check H950 page), this one had a tipped bridge. Same deal, fill with epoxy, smear vaseline on the wheels, and set the screws. I was a bit more careful with the masking tape this time around:

While that's setting it's time to drill the 15th fret in search of the neck pocket. Last time I hit it on the first try. It took 3 tries this time. That's my neck pocket sensing resistor there in the final hole.

I'm not real sure why the first couple holes didn't go thru, looking at it right now it seems like they were in the right spot. *shrug*

Ok, now remember last time I ripped the top open pulling the neck off? Not this time. I got an iron, a towel, and a plastic putty knife. Heated up the fingerboard extension and slowly worked the knife under it. I had wetted the towel (can't remember why) and some steam came off and started screwing up the finish. Gah! I put down some green painters masking tape (less sticky than regular masking tape, thanks to whoever suggested it in the previous thread!) to protect the finish and kept at it. I didn't get the knife very far under but I got some separation.

Then I did the steaming part, with tons of masking tape all over. Then down on the floor to press the heel against a short block. Last time I had a really tall block, this time once the neck gives the body can only travel another 1/4" - less chance of things ripping apart if things go wrong. The joint didn't want to go so I worked on the extension more, got that knife in there a bit farther, and went back for another shot of steam.

On the 2nd round of this I was able to work the knife under quite a bit farther and the extension completely separated. Something went funny under it which you'll see in the pictures. But after that the neck slid out like it was glued in with molasses.

Two problems here. First there's a bunch of steam damage. I had all that masked off. This is really frustrating. I'm starting to wonder if my steam is too hot. I was able to buff 80% of this out with some polishing compound. It doesn't want to come out where the finish isn't very smooth to begin with (hard to polish a rough surface).

Second, you can see a chunk of the top came off with the fingerboard extension. Not a big deal but I guess I didn't have it heated thoroughly enough.

So the dangerous part is over, time to move on to the tedious parts...

rlspt : I've heard of, but not tried myself, a couple remedies for steam/water damage. one is to use denatured alcohol- wipe on, let sit a minute, wipe off- but try it somewhere out of sight first to see if it attacks the finish. if it does, try paint thinner instead. i think this is supposed to replace the water molecules with a volatile vapor that then evaporates...?
The other is, believe it or not, mayonnaise. spread a thin layer on and leave it for 15 minutes, then wipe off. i think in this case the oil in the mayo replaces the water molecules, aided by the acid in the vinegar component ?
If anybody tries one of these and it works, i'd love to hear about it. the addition of mayonnaise to the kamikaze luthiery toolkit would be fabulous.

billieg2 : Thanks for doing the great pics and info. I think if you used a dry towel and kept the iron on longer it would have loosened the neck completely. May be the iron wasn't hot enough? I would think at a low setting leaving it sit on the neck for 10-15 minutes would soften up any glue under it. Good luck!

Zhyla : I think I will give the mayonnaise a try. Hope Miracle Whip works! I got some rubbing alcohol on my parlor at one point, it dissolved the finish. Probably works but makes me nervous.

Ok, I got the fingerboard planed yesterday afternoon. I used 60 grit sandpaper and it went pretty fast considering it's rosewood. I got most of the 14th fret hump out before I realized I'd sanded right thru one of the fret markers.

The one that looks bad actually came off while I was sanding and I glued it back on. These are certainly replaceable but that isn't something I want to worry about right now.

Another consequence of removing so much material is the fret slots are now a lot shallower. In fact, a bit too shallow to accept the new frets:

Luckily X-acto makes a saw that is exactly the right width to deepen fret slots:

I didn't quite get the hump out on the bass side. You can't even see it by sighting down the neck now but it's noticeable with a straight edge. I don't think it's going to be a big problem.

One thing I really like about this neck is the edges of the fingerboard are rounded off. It makes it so comfortable to hold that I am making sure to keep that rounded edge. This is the only guitar I've seen like this, usually the edge is fairly sharp.

So, a little more slot deepening and it's time to bang in the frets and finish them and move on to the neck joint.


Frets are in and finished. They turned out border-line fantastic.

I tried a new method this time for the finishing. I taped everything with that green tape and then went at it with the big file. It went a lot faster since I could get it almost flush with the wood without worrying about scratching anything. Then when the shaping was done I used a couple grades of emery cloth to knock down the sharp edges on the frets. I'm still going over them and finding a slight sharp edge here and there. I like the result.

The tape did lift a smidge of paint around the 14th fret on one side. I think this paint was loosened by the steam damage and it didn't take much to lift it.

So now it's just working on the joint itself, getting it shimmed correctly, and gluing the bastard back together. This is going pretty quick now that I have done this a couple times. At this rate I ought to be playing it next weekend... if I don't screw it up.


François : Back to the beginning, may I ask... About the coffee steam engine, did you had to plug the coffee side, to get steam from the other thing (name ?) ? Did you worked anything on the machine or used it from stock ?

geo : yeah same question as fran, the machine i got from the thrift store leaked water out of the coffee section, and the steam was very wet. the guy from stew mac john erlwine suggests what jaydee spoke of kind of a distillery chamber, a glass beaker with a stoper in the top with in and out tubes so most of the water stays in the beaker and drier steam goes to the guitar, its in his book on guitar repair.

Zhyla : Guys, my espresso machine is not modified. I don't drink coffee so I know nothing about these things unfortunately.


Looking closer at the heel I found a couple interesting things. First is there is a rosewood cap on the heel. Think this is original? Also there teeth marks on the white cap. I'm guessing this thing has been worked on before.

80 year old rosewood is tough stuff to chisel so this is going kind of slow.

Behold, the only factory marking I have found so far on this guitar:

Looks like a 1762 to me. No idea what that means.

It's the end of the heel/neck that faces towards the tail of the guitar. I'm guessing it's just a part number. The factory I worked at had a number for every single part, I'm sure they had something similar in factories back then.


jaydee : Awesome pictures! Thanks for sharing. I think the trick with the neck is waiting long enough. It has to be pretty hot and on frets.com he leaves the heat source on the neck as he puts the putty knife under it and he mentions being able to feel the heat under the top. When I did the one on my page a bit of steam was coming off the fingerboard from the heat of the iron. I had it on max. (but it was sitting on top of the frets, not directly on the wood!) When the neck was too cool, before I changed to the iron as the heat source, it was hard to get the knife under. Once I switched to the iron things went a lot more smoothly.

I was nervous enough about the heat that I had the top masked off to protect it.

I wonder if the water damage may come right on it's own? I remember the time when I was a kid I put a wet towel on a friends Mom's chair (What did I know about antiques, I was eleven?) and it all turned white. I was horrified but a week later it no longer showed.

Here's that picture of the steamer gizmo.

k1w1 : JD thats exactly what i was going to suggest, science dept. stopper, I am going to see if the home brew shops have similar

fanfab4 : I think it's important that you use a pyrex beaker . The heat from the steam could cause regular glass to break . The stopper is crucial also so that the steam doesn't escape .
What type of hose(tubing) would(do) you use ?

k1w1 : I'll let Julie relate her experience with hoses, I have some heat and pressure certified hose around here somewhere. Plumbers hot water hose (tubing) should do it.

Zhyla : I think the tubing I have is for hot water. The first time I used it the steam punched a hole in it. I still use it, it's just not as pressurized as it was (maybe a good thing).

jaydee : I used regular hose from our weed sprayer to start with and pretty much expected it to pop, which it did; dramatically with a loud BANG! Because I expected it I was standing well back but I still jumped a mile and poor Husband had to try the next experiment, bravely standing beside it while I hovered a few meters back. But then, he uses a chain saw too and I won't go anywhere near one.

We went to our plumbers and got an old bit of dishwasher hose which works just great. It works under heat and it also has what looks like a double layer, probably the outside layer is re-enforcement.

A high school science supply shop should have the double ended beaker thing and the right hoses to go with it too. Or a distillery/homebrew supply store. But for sure you'd need the type that handles heat and pressure. I'd be more worried about the pressure. Our coffee maker doesn't have a pressure release valve. I wouldn't want a glass jar full of steam exploding! And plastic would definitely melt. So you'd want either a valve on your coffee maker or maybe a deliberate hole in the tube to let out some pressure ?

With our coffee maker water is a problem especially at the start. We stuck it in the sink for 20-30 seconds until it started to steam good but the problem is it can start spitting water again a short while later. Water and steam does make wood swell, it pays to keep that in mind when drilling your hole for the steam nozzle.


Zhyla : Half done w/ carving the heel. I have discovered that the white heel cap material smells like Vick's vapor rub (menthol) when I file it. Smells REALLY good. What is the material used for that? Cause, um, I think I want to get a big block to file on when I'm feeling down :-)
I guess I sort of have the neck angle close to correct.

Before :

Now :

I'm a little worried. If I go any higher I risk not being able to get the action HIGH enough (not a common problem on this board I bet!). On the other hand, the H950 looked about like this before I set it. I was able to get the action dialed in perfectly on that guitar but was hoping the bridge would be higher for sound reasons. Of course the neck joint didn't stay 100% tight after setting on that guitar.

It's been a few years since Newtonian physics class but my calculation is the tension on the top will go up about 25% from all the way down to all the way up. Not enough to notice a difference in volume but maybe enough that some harmonics conduct better ?

Probably best to err on the side of caution and leave it be. Any thoughts ?

jaydee : I like erring on the side of caution and leaving it as is. At worse you may have to add a slice to the bridge to raise it slightly then put the screw things back on. If you get it too high, on the other hand, what do you do? Lower the wood on the top of the bridge I suppose. And your previous experience tells you that it looks about right.

Zhyla : Having decided to leave the neck angle alone, I did a little polishing to make sure the heel fits snug against the body. This involved putting the neck and body together, slipping some 100 and then 220 grit sandpaper between them and pulling sandpaper out slowly. Got a pretty good fit. And I checked the horizontal angle to make sure the strings are going to line up right.

Then it was time to shim. Maple veneer :

Works great. I bought a batch of it for $15 on ebay. I figure since it's maple it shouldn't compress much. I ended up cutting 2"x1/2" and a 3/"x3/8" for each side. It's hard to tell them apart in the picture.

The idea is there is more material removed from the heel end of the joint than the fingerboard end so to make the joint really tight we need to add material on the dovtail to pull the dovetail inward. Hope that makes sense, I know a couple people were confused last time I described that.

Being paranoid about the shims not being tight enough I superglued them on and pressed the neck into the body with a clamp. This told me exactly what I needed to know: the joint was so tight that it would not pull away from the body at all. It was also so tight that I was not able to separate the two pieces. I ended up having to tap the heel with a rubber hammer to get the thing apart. Phew! I didn't think I'd be able to get it out for a while. Working on your favorite guitar gets you praying, I'll say that.

Then I applied the glue (still using Titebond liquid hide glue) and clamp it for a while.

This time tomorrow I hope to have it strung up and a little recording of it.

fanfab4 : Did you use glue on only the joint or under the fretboard extension as well ?

Zhyla : A little bit under the fingerboard extension. This particular extension only contacts the top for about 1.5" - basically just over the neck block. Before the reset that wasn't the case.

I think gluing that part is mainly to prevent unwanted vibrations.


All strung up and everything looks good. I had to shim the nut because the guitar has frets now :) - the maple veneer worked great for that. I also had one buzzing fret which I sanded down a little bit. Otherwise no surprises.

Sounds good, plays easy, life is good. I like how I can do hammer ons again on the lower frets, before the frets were so thin that there just wasn't any sustain at all. There was some damage to some of the finish around the neck joint but it wasn't too bad. And those fret dots got a bit messed up. But overall it went well and I am very thankful. I'm also extremely impressed with this guitar now that it's reaching its full potential. I think archtops would be more popular if they sounded like this.

So this concludes my batch of guitar repair jobs. Full size photos with little bits of the description I posted here can be found in this flickr set. Both the parlor and the H950 I want to find new homes for. My next project is building a tube amp - I have tubes and transformers all ready to go. After that, who knows, guitar repair is a lot of fun and there are always interesting junkers popping up.


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