I bought the Harmony "Treble Clef" guitar in the photo for not too much money to try my first neck reset. It's in nice original condition with no cracks and ladder bracing. I decided it was best to take the fingerboard off to take some of the mystery out of the neck reset process. The neck has a non-adjustable steel rod which I've removed. I was considering widening the reinforcement rod channel about 1/16 " and putting in a StewMac Hot Rod truss rod in addition to doing the neck reset. I was going to drill a hole thru the neck block for the adjustment screw to protrude inside the body.
As I was working on the channel I realized the neck is a wide grained soft wood and definitely not mahogany or maple. I'm thinking this neck is doomed to being unstable due to the flexible nature of the wood used.
The best course to get a good playable guitar now seems to be buy a 14 fret mahogany neck from StewMac. The current neck has the same width at the body that the new neck has. I should be able to use the original fretboard. The tuners were crap so I'd get some good new ones.
Am I right to pitch the pine neck or should I stick with it and add the adjustable truss rod? This guitar will never be a collectors item since it was an inexpensive guitar when new. However it was a bright, responsive guitar with cheese cutter action that should be fun to play if it's set up properly.
Another option would be to put it back together the way it was with non-adjustable steel rod and use it for slide guitar. I don't play slide guitar but I could take the opportunity to learn.
Thanks in advance for input!
I assume you're resetting the neck because the action is high and, I'm betting, the heel is pulling up/out. You didn't say if the neck was actually warped or not. The neck material on these low cost guitars is weird but I've found that many of them hold up pretty well as long as the rod isn't loose. Since you have it out, take a look at the ends of the rod. The one's I've seen seem to be stamp cut so there is a bit of a edge pulled on the ends that can interfere with a good fit in the slot. The last one I did, required me to file the ends square because it was not laying flush in the slot and the ridge on the ends was pressing on the fingerboard at both ends. The fingerboard want back on completely flat after I did this.
I guess that I'm saying that, while not pretty, the neck usually can be made to work so you don't need to invest in a new one. BTW, I've found that the tail on the end of the neck is sometimes short and will not seat properly in the bottom of the dovetail slot in the body. It can be fairly frustrating trying to get a solid fit if it doesn't extend far enough. You will think you have a tight fit only to find that you heel is pulling up a day after you string it up. I did my first one 4 times before I figured out that I needed to add a bit to the end of the tail on the neck.
Those necks were usely made off bass wood and did the job alright. If it were me I would just put a trust rod in it and make it a bolt on neck. Just my two cents worth. Bill.......
Ah, either a H162 or H165 model. Probably poplar wood for the neck, which is why it is so beefy.
You could try a truss rod, but then you have to modify that neck, and why bother? I would either refit the original steel reinforcement, or better yet, retrofit some carbon fiber rods to straighten the thing out and lighten it up. I would not bother buying a new neck for this - it's a ladder braced cheapo guitar with a good top and good sides (and a Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard) that will always sound like a ladder braced guitar. I love these things, but the sound is not for most people.
I really really suggest going to http://harmony.demont.net/ for more info about these, great pictures, and lots of people screwing with these guitars and taking pictures. Yours is probably here;
PLEASE post pictures of the steel rod - I've never seen one!
Looks like you've already been given some great advice on this one.
I'll just add that i've found that the necks on this model Harmony are more flexible than I like. Medium gauge strings tend to bow the neck into a pretty serious back bow, so I usually string them with light guage.
Since you've already removed the fingerboard, I would second the advice you've been given to either add an adjustable truss rod or carbon fiber rods to stiffen the neck.
I've found this model and the H165 (all mahogany) to be pretty fun little guitars when you get the neck angle set well and the saddle slot in the right location.
Good luck and keep us posted.
Just discovered a significant crack on the back of the neck on a grain line that goes toward the truss rod channel. This is the thinnest wood in the neck. This guitar came from NC and has been in arid CO for a couple months. Dang. Gonna buy new neck and keep Ned's tip on fitting dovetail in mind. Thanks!
My first guitar repair attempt was making the neck on a Yamaha FG180 bolt-on. Turned out well. I wanted to do something different w/the Harmony. Thanks for the suggestion, Bill, and you're probably right about the neck being bass wood.
I appreciate the website info, Mark. Very nice. If I get this new neck right this guitar will find a home w/someone who appreciates the ladder braced top sound. Or I just might keep it.
John, thanks for your observations too. I'll try the hybrid approach w/non-original neck and adjustable truss rod and leave the 'superflex yoga neck' behind. Chances are this guitar will sound great if I don't screw things up. That's a lot less likely w/all of your input.
Well, if you are going whole-hog on this project, why not x-brace the top while you are at it? I've heard a couple of x-braced Sovereigns at a local shop, and they are marvelous. You are doing a giant pile of work, might as well do a bit more! Perhaps Harrison will have something to say about this.
Thanks for the picture of the steel rod. What a giant chunk of near-useless metal. Save that fretboard though - you can always surface it and use it for a uke or something in the future.
I've reset a dozen of these old Harmony's. The neck material is indeed poplar. It's a good wood and plenty seasoned as your guitar is late 50's early 60's vintage. I would consider adding carbon fiber reinforcement on either side of the truss rod if you plan to put medium or heavy strings on it. But with a set of light gauge strings and a properly set neck, it will play fine.
Don't buy a new neck for this. These guitars are perfect for learning repair work on, every lesson you take from it applies to any higher-end guitar you may work on later. Repair the crack, install a truss rod, reset the neck, take your time and have fun with it.
Thanks very much for your input, Mark, Rich and Griff. It's good to hear the original neck is likely still very usable. However, I think I'm going to try the mahogany neck at this point since it's the predominant wood out there. I'll put in the Hotrod truss rod w/peg head adjustment orientation and try to re-use the fingerboard that's in fine condition. As Griff makes the important point, I will definitely have fun w/it. I think I want to have an adjustable truss rod in this guitar. Work on this guitar is to prepare me for my next project.
I'm probably going to go 'whole hog' and X-brace the Kalamazoo Oriole I first quizzed this group about. The Oriole looks like it has a mahogany neck and it needs a reset. Didn't want the Oriole to be my very first try at a neck reset and goober it up. It will likely get the modern truss rod too. My goal will be to make this a good 'player' guitar too. But I'm digressing from the Harmony guitar.
Here's a rookie repair question. Isn't resetting a non-adjustable truss rod neck harder to get right than resetting a neck with the 'modern' 2 way adjustable truss rod? Isn't there less room for error when resetting a "reinforced" neck? I know I just need to get busy and do some of both types of construction, but I have this preconception that the adjustable truss rod neck is going to be easier to end up with a usable and hopefully optimum guitar action. Or is this just dumb and there is only one critical reset angle that is correct for both and I need to nail that exactly?
I'm really glad I took the fret board off the Harmony to work on and steam the neck loose. Hide glue is easier to get out that way!
Larry, you seem to have a very common misconception about adjustable truss rods. They are not a tool to correct the neck angle. They are designed to support the neck AND set the relief in the center of the neck. If a neck needs a reset, it needs a reset. For good results in your reset you need to take your time, make sure you know what you are doing and check your measurements as you go. If you don't get the angle right when you do the reset the neck you may not be able to make it as playable as you want.
I know that I've already said my two cents but I would like to point out that almost everyone here has suggested that you fix the crack and use the original neck. I don't know why you want to purchase a new one but you should be aware that you are probably making yourself a LOT more work to get this right. You are taking on one of the hardest repairs and it's very possible that you may need to reset this more than once before you get it right. I believe that making a "strange" neck fit will compound the complexity of the repair making it much more likely that you will not be satisfied with the results when you finish. In the end, it is your guitar and your decision but there are reasons that so many of us are recommending that you use what you have.
What Ned said - the truss rod only affects the curvature of the fretboard from end to end, not the angle of the neck relative to the guitar.
If you are looking for a learning experience, and this is not a money making proposition, then fix the old neck, or at least attempt to repair it until you cannot. Run some CA glue in the crack from inside the neck. Put in something really inflexible to stiffen the neck. Learn to set the angle on something that is already very close before attempting to attach a different neck to the guitar. You will learn a lot without dumping a lot of money into what might be a losing proposition. (And I will say it again, I love the sound of these ladder-braced guitars.)
I have one of these Harmony guitars all fixed up, and people give it that "Oh, whatever, it's a cheap guitar" looks, then they play it, and say "I know this should be unplayable, I know this should hurt like crazy, I can't believe how good this thing is!!". Nice action and very carefully cut nut and saddle make these things much better than they ever were when they were brand new, and the much-improved quality of modern strings makes these much better sounding and playing instruments than they ever could have been in the past.
If you are desperate to spend some money, I would suggest the StewMac neck reset DVD. It shows several resets and makes some really good points about how to angle the neck properly for guitars with smaller radii, such as these Harmony guitars. Really worth the money, unless you have some skilled luthier to apprentice to.
Thanks, Ned and Mark. I appreciate you taking the time and setting me straight on the structural issues. I understand much more clearly the value of the original neck in getting necessary experience and not complicating things needlessly. I'm not looking to throw money away and I'm not looking to make money on this guitar. The DVD should be great since I'm not an apprentice and I haven't figured out important aspects of this work on my own.
Once again, I appreciate your direct answers and the time you've spent getting important info across to me.