Dressing up an old Harmony

Here’s a great guitar that was brought in by our good friend Bob for some sprucing up. Get it…sprucing up?! Man that’s good comedy. The kind that makes you want to stop reading blogs. Anyway, these Harmony Sovereigns are great blues and roots music guitars with birch back and sides and solid tops of either spruce or birch.  This guitar was hampered tone-wise by an older wooden saddle that was installed in place of the original adjustable style with metal thumb screws on either end. It was also missing a truss rod cover and heel cap.

First thing we have to do is get some material large enough for the slot which originally housed the adjustable saddle. To do this, we’ll piece together 2 bone saddle blanks since we don’t have a solid block of bone around to cut to size.

Next we shape and compensate for intonation. This next pic is at a bad angle. The bumps look like waves in height, but they’re not. The shaping is just more extreme due to the width of the saddle. The saddle is cut with the B-string pushed back and the peak angled back smoothly from the G to low E. This compensation keeps the guitar in tune with itself up the fretboard.  A badly intonated guitar will play in tune in the open position but out of tune further up the neck.  Cutting these by hand requires some trial and error, but the finished result is always worth it.

Next we move on to the trimmings. For the heel cap and truss rod cover, we wanted to match the binding. The closest match was some salvaged pickguard material from an old Peavey T-15 that was close in color and nicely aged. It’s creme/black/creme 3-ply, but looked cool to us.

Although Bob didn’t commission our creative team (they’re ridiculously expensive and only work on Tuesdays), we did want to  make the cover look a little unique.

The color match is better than the pic above shows. I hope. When the original heel cap came off, it rounded the edge slightly, so we had to use a little filler to square up the new cap.  Our secret concoction of wood filler, black lacquer and super glue worked just fine.  We were able to wet-sand it smooth without disrupting the surrounding paint. It buffed out well without losing any of the original finish, which is very very thin. This was more of a utility fit than something that required full-on finish work, but we still wanted it to fit clean and look good.

Now there’s a happy Harmony. After restringing with a nice set of Dean Markley Lites, you could really tell the difference with the bone saddle.  If you listen really close, you can hear him playing Catfish Blues, tuned down a half step.

Thanks again Bob.


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