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models 1211 models - images 17620 images

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

H1456 Monterey work on neck

micky : I just bought a Monterey... and have no idea what to expect !
Seriously, it was a spontanious thing, out of curiosity. it has a pressed spruce top, right? how do they sound? i know no details about this particular guitar yet, the auction endet two hours ago. here's a pic :

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

[...here deleted general discussion about the Monterey...]

[...some days later...]
micky : she's here, and she's got it all: bowed neck and a bad angle!
1911H1456 is the serial no., and the date stamp reads S 45. if i read correctly in the database, that means spring 1945, first year of production. not bad! does anybody know how long they made them with the wooden tail?
apart from the neck she's in nice condition, a beginning seam separation of the back at the waist, a couple of minor dings&scratches is all. and a row of small dents in the back of the neck, probably from an old capo. in answer to the deteriorating neck angle, somebody removed the rods and thumbwheels from the bridge (replaced them with toothpics...), any idea where i can get a replacement set?
i'm going to take the neck off and get it straightened before resetting it. frets are still ok. oh, and i love the neck profile. it plays comfortably even with the sky high action it has now (freddie green would like this) and sounds promising. as far as i can tell with the crappy old .011 nickel strings on there.
so far, so good...

Zhyla : >>>she's here, and she's got it all: bowed neck and a bad angle!
Yikes. That's surprising for a steel-reinforced neck. Sounds fishy. How bowed is bowed?
>>>in answer to the deteriorating neck angle, somebody removed the rods and thumbwheels from the bridge (replaced them with toothpics...), any idea where i can get a replacement set?
The rods are just simple threaded stock. In a pinch you can use appropriately threaded machine screws hacksawn to length. But it looks like Stew-Mac has some replacements. Hope they are the correct size: Stewmac bridges

fanfab4 : Joel makes bridges so he must have the rods and thumbwheels . Ask him .

micky : the problem is that the neck is really modern and slim, i'm sure that's why it is bowed.
i would be surprised if it's reinforced. wooden tailpiece but a steel rod? 1945? the relief is about 2mm or a little over. too much for my taste.
see, these ones in the picture have fat mahogany vee-necks, except for the es-150. especially the two regal makes on the sides, 7 piece, deep vee, indestructable. i was expecting something in that direction on the harmony, but it's more towards 1980s ibanez...

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

geo : >>>the problem is that the neck is really modern and slim, i'm sure that's why it is bowed.
thats weird Mick, mine is a fat neck from same period wooden tail, but mine is spruce over birch with big dots so maybe built differently all the way around.I didn't know Harmony made thin necks back then, wait, my 38 Cremona has a delicate but wonderful neck ? Go figure.

micky : so here are a few pics :

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

the irregularity on the back (lower bout) is indeed a sizeable long dimple, probably an irregularity of the wood.

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

and need i say more about the action?

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

oh, and thanks for the input about the rods and thumbwheels, i'll look into that.
looking at it closely, i'm beginning to suspect somebody may have messed with the neck, sanded it down on the back. but if that is the case, it must have been ages ago.

fanfab4 : If you look at a photo of the Gretsch 1456 in the database, which is the same model made by Harmony, you'll see one with the wooden tailpiece. Photos of the neck appear the same as your's Micky.

Sea Champ : Very cool looking guitar, micky. Spring '45...it was made in interesting times.
Yep, that's what you'd call a "bowed neck". Keep us posted how you make out with it.

micky : well, heat-pressing is what i have in mind.
and the gretsch neck looks really similar in deed, though i'm pretty convinced someone at least refinished the back of mine.

François : If the datestamp is a clear S-45, no doubt left, it was made in 1945. The wooden tailpiece, used only during the war effort restrictions on metal, was used from about 1942 to 1946, more or less & couple of years...
Now, I never asked myself if the metal restrictions may had affected the steel bar in the neck as well, but it could make sense, as this bars in the necks were large... a lot of metal there...
I never saw a fourties or fifties Harmony with a slim neck... I have many of them, perhaps I don't remember well, but I'd say every of them have either a thick V or C profile... And usually they don't ahve an annoying bow, more often acrtion problems come from a bad neck/body angle.

micky : merci pour l'information, francois. i imagine they tried to use as little metal on the instruments as possible, and with the beefier necks it's usually not a big issue. this one has been altered, 100%.

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie


[...one day later...] The neck is straight and ready to go back on. here are a couple of pics:

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

the perfect steamhole, from the 15th fret marker right into the pocket. i used my girlfriends kärcher steamer, very convenient.

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

ready for the barbeque:

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

almost done...

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

...and it's straight.

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

i used an alumium rod as a straightener. works.


harmony-mous : Damn, Mickey that's some mighty fine kitchen table kamikaze right there. In mid-september I had a gig in Lubeck.Wish I had stopped by at your house with a bunch of bowed neck Harmony archtops.

fanfab4 : Micky did one of the fret inlays fall out from heating the neck ? Also how long did you keep it clamped to the aluminum rod after removing it from the heat ? I think Francois let it sit a few days or so before taking off the clamps.
60 C is 140 F. How long did you roast the neck for ?

micky : the missing inlay is the one i removed in order to drill the hole for the steam. i removed the clamps shortly after the neck had reached room temperature. i see no physical reason why it needs to stay clamped. in the aria neck heater manual, they say remove the clamps when the neck is cool, and my vintage guitar guru does the same. and my neck didn't move yet, ~five hours since i took the clamps off.
oh, and i roasted the neck just untill it reached the desired temperature.

zhyla : Dang man, that worked like a charm. Can you elaborate more on your setup? What is this silver plate everything is sitting on? What is the temperature used? Any damage to the fretboard (oils boiling out, etc)?

yojb : Nice job! I am amazed a bar that narrow and 2 clamps did the job! Live and learn...

micky : bottom to top:

  • my stove (bauknecht ceramic stovetop)
  • a 25x25mm aluminium rod
  • the neck
  • two cheapass clamps
  • aluminium foil
the neatest gadget though is the infrared thermometer, very recommendable. kept my girlfriend amused for... minutes!
it's pretty simple. take neck, clamp on rod, put on stove, cover with foil. turn on two flames (one of mine is an oval twin zone flame, so the heated surface is pretty long and even), set almost to minimum. i fiddled around with the controls a bit, using the thermometer. the flames where 100-120°C, that slowly heated the neck to 70-80°C. then i turned the whole thing off, let the neck cool down, and voila. no detectable damage. i oiled the fretboard before the procedure. wait one clamp left a small dent in the back of the neck, obviously my padding was insufficiant.
>>>I am amazed a bar that narrow and 2 clamps did the job!
the bar is stiff enough... for that weak neck. ;)
btw.: meanwhile i put on loose strings, the setup seems really good. let's hope it stays that way when i tune her up tomorrow!

François : Wow ! Great kitchen work, please keep us informed on the final result in, say, ten days ? :)
(Btw, When Dave mentionned I had clamped a neck for days, it was a different experiment... It was for weeks, but without any heat, and for a very bowed neck. This neck suffered from being kept with strings tension, after the fretboard had poped off...)

micky : done. plays nice. looks good. sounds ok.

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

chicago 1945: prohibition was over. maybe that's why they installed the tailpiece a good quarter inch off center... :-)

billieg2 : You also have a S-45, second shift.... Nice work! If you ever see one with herring bone binding buy it. The sound wil knock you over, right George?

micky : it will encounter tough competition here... i'm really spoiled.

François : This looks excellent ! Your way to heat it really opens new possibilities... Please tell us more...

- Did you glued it back in place without any change to neck/body angle ?
- If yes, would it be possible to heat / straighten a neck still attached to the body ? Of course I understand this would cure a bow, not a bad neck/body angle.
- The most interesting point is the temperature, and how long to apply it. This infrared thermometer, how does it work ? Is there a probe, and where exactly did you measure this 60° ?
Sorry for all the questions. I'm very interested

micky : well, the idea actually came when i looked at my stovetop. it has a 25cm twin-zone oval flame next to a 15cm flame with only 9cm gap between them. so almost 50cm of pretty even heat distribution. i used the aluminium wrap to trap the heat, so i'd need a lower temp setting. the heat dials go to 10, i set them between 1 and 2, very low. i heated the neck just until the desired temperature was reached, about 15min. 70 to 90°C. the thermometer is infrared, point'n'click. i don't think it's super precise, but it seems to be good enough for the job. i frequently measured the temperature at various parts of the neck, plus the stovetop itself. the 60° in the pic was just a random reading somewhere during the process. i took the clamps off maybe an hour later, when the neck had reached room temperature.
it should work with the neck still on the guitar, but handling might be a bitch... i'd probably cover the neck end of the body with foil too, to protect it from direct heat.
in this case i adjusted the neck angle with a little scraping, sanding and the occasional shim. my first dovetail joint, tricky and annoing. but the kamikaze reports in the database helped a lot! needless to say, i undershot my goal by a little. the bridge could be 2 or 3mm higher. but it's ok the way it is.
did i miss anything? oh yes, FUCKIN RUBBER NECK!!! :hung: the neck was definitely sanded down and is not reinforced. as it is, .011s is the strongest i'll safely put on there. and i usually play .012 or .013 sets.


micky : update:
the neck seems to hold it's shape, the action is between 3 and 4mm, nice. i found a solution for the low bridge and the tailpiece resting on the top: i drilled new holes for the strings, so now they come up from under the tailpiece. result: the guitar sounds much better, more low end and clarity.

Harmony H1456 Monterey lutherie

harmony-mous : You keep surprising me Micky!

François : Very good trick ! :up:

micky : it doesn't change the cosmetics really. and takes maybe five minutes to do, that's what's best about it. ;)

harmony-mous : My wife likes to know what the exact model # is of your girlfriend's steamer.She wants one for cleaning and I did not even have to talk her in to it (I need a 'steam-the-neck-off'-device... ;)

micky : Kärcher SC 1020
the lower models don't have enough steam pressure or whatever. my girlfriend loves that thing. say hi to your wife from me !

october 2010

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