Some months ago, I purchased a cheap, old archtop guitar. It’s a 1957 Harmony. It wasn’t in great shape, but I knew that this particular guitar was made with all solid woods. I also knew that I couldn’t afford to buy a new expensive guitar. And I don’t really want one anyway. I want to restore (and customize) this old thing!
It’s not quite finished, but I’m getting excited. Here are some photos of the project so far:
The Harmony guitar is the one in the lower left. No offense, but I didn’t like the black and yellow finish.
I tore off the old fingerboard, after heating it with an iron. I’m replacing it with a new, natural ebony fingerboard.
Stripping off the old finish.
I have to reshape the neck joint. The angle was too low, a problem with a lot of old archtop guitars.
Removing the old plastic binding. I’ll be putting on some natural cocobolo wood binding.
When I was a younger film student, I made a short documentary titled “Il Contrabasso.” It’s about Brady Ward, an acoustic bass player, and his thoughts about the instrument. Here’s the film (about 4 minutes long):
As Brady mentions in the film, the acoustic bass, and really all acoustic instruments, have a quality that is soothing and natural, almost healing. For me, the acoustic bass is sort of the epitome of acoustic-ness. You add that acoustic bass sound, and the whole recording is suddenly four times bigger, organic and rich.
I suppose most musicians who specialize in a particular instrument have an irrational love for their instrument. I remember my piano teacher looking at me and, in a sober tone, explaining what to her was a simple, obvious fact. She said, “You know Geoff, the piano is actually the most beautiful instrument ever invented.” And that was that. It wasn’t an opinion. And it certainly wasn’t to be argued with. It was as if this fact had been proven by irrefutable scientific study. The earth is round, not flat. And it really doesn’t matter what other instruments you play. The piano is the most beautiful. Period. (By the way, I kind of agree with her.)
I’d love to hear about your favorite instruments and why you love them. Even if it’s totally irrational.
My daughter Lucy is learning to play the harp. She is, after all, a princess. Unfortunately, harps are very expensive. So I found a broken one for $200 and decided to try and fix it.
The harp was broken at the neck and my first attempt to fix it only held up for a month or so. That was just a quick fix, and it’s not too surprising that it didn’t hold. A harp like this exerts more than 1000 pounds of pressure on the neck.
So now I’m on attempt #2. This time, I’m reinforcing the break in the neck with some laminated hardwood. I also noticed some problems in how the neck/pillar joint was done (I don’t think it was glued), so I’ve taken it apart and will be re-doing that joint. I’ll post the results when I’m finished, hopefully along with some music from the resurrected harp.