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Hello everyone, I recently bought a 1963 Harmony Master from eBay on impulse for $100. Now I have to fix it. I'm 16 years old, I got no job, and almost zero experience with repairing guitars. The only thing I've ever done is set up my other guitar's action with a knife and sandpaper, and that's not really a repair. I gonna go ahead and apologize that my questions are so basic and boring.

 

I see only a few problems with this guitar; it's got 2 cracks on its left side and needs a neck reset. I've read enough online that I think I know what to do to fix cracks. It's got a little f-hole crack (easy repair, I think I can do it on my own), a much larger crack a few inches to the right of that f hole (a little harder, but I think I can handle it) And it's in desperate need of a neck reset. I've read lots on how to do this too (I sort of understand how to perform one).

 

I have several questions:

Crack questions -

1. What kind of clamp should I use?  Frank used violin clamps for an f-hole crack, but will they reach the bigger crack which is closer to the middle?

2. Are there any alternatives to using clamps? They are really really expensive ($58 for a set of 4 on Stewmac) and I don't have that much money.

3. How do I open up the big crack a smidge to clean it?

 

Neck reset questions-

4. Is the 15th fret where I should drill a hole? I know that's how it is with many flattops, but this is an archtop. (The 14th fret is the first fret to meet the body so I think it is, but not sure.)

5. Alright, here's the big one. I understand how to get the neck off, but what exactly do I do after it comes off? I've read all of the articles I can find on neck resets, but after chiseling off the glue, it gets too complicated, and I don't get it. Can someone please please explain what I need to do to the neck before reattaching it? 

 

Again, I'm sorry if this is boring for you, and you've seen it a billion times.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

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Andrew, Conratulations on your impulse buy. Unfortunately and as you probably guessed this guitar will need some expensive repairs to play properly. And the level of expertise to do the work correctly may best be left to a good luthier in your area. On the other hand it all depends. If you want to tackle the job as a learning experience and it's not a big deal to you if it actually gets fixed then you'd only be out 100 dollars and the cost of some tools. Either way it's all time and money. My advise is hang on the wall and start saving money. Read repair books. Study with a luthier as an apprentice, or go to some training classes. Any job worth doing is worth doing right. Take your time and think.

Another option is to sell it and get your money back...

Good luck,
Greg
Hah! I remember thinking about bidding on this guitar.

So, that neck. Is it already coming out of the dovetail? Are there gaps around the heel and the side of the guitar? Can you see movement, or actually create movement by firmly trying to move it around in the joint, preferably without breaking the neck off?

How do you know it needs a neck reset? Being an archtop, you might be able to do a lot of tweaking before you get to actually doing a reset. Is the neck straight, and is the fretboard straight? Is there a bend, which way is the bend, and where is it? And how are the frets - are they in good shape and snug in their slots, or are they worn out and coming loose? Are they brass?

As far as the cracks go, here's a question - where in the country did the guitar come from, and where is it now? I had a Goya come to my house in California from the midwest with cracks you could slide a pick through - after a month on a dresser in my nice humid bedroom (which has the master bath and shower attached to it) the cracks sealed up completely, and I just had to do a tiny squeeze with a clamp to get them to glue shut invisibly. If the guitar came from a different part of the country, you might try just letting it sit and acclimate for a month or two. If the cracks get worse, then start using a guitar humidifier. If they close up, your glue up job becomes really easy. The environment MIGHt affect the neck slightly as well, so you can see what that does for it.

So, my advice for now, after all that windbaggery, is set down safely in the room you sleep in for a month, and see how it looks then. You have PLENTY of time, which is the greatest luxury to have when it comes to repair.
Yes, I think the neck is coming out of the dovetail. There's a pretty big gap around the heel, but no movement. The other questions i'm not so sure of. I forgot where the guitar came from, so I'll have to check back on it. I think I'll upload photos next time, because I'd imagine its hard for you guys to fix something you can't see. Gotta find my camera first.
It's important to be careful pulling these joints apart, The neck is usually a soft wood and it is not uncommon to leave part of the dove tail in the slot if you pry on it too much.

I'm not about to tell you not to try it but a neck reset is a major thing. I would suggest that you take your time on the cracks and read everything you can find on neck joints and making wood joints. Dove tails are not only used in instruments. You may find that some other wood working sites may have information about making these joints that may help you understand this one better. Concentrate on the sites that focus on hand work rather than machine made joints. You have LOTs of time to prepare before you try to tackle any of it. Don't let the excitement of it trick you into doing thing too quickly.
Andrew, try contacting any luthiers in your area to see if one might walk you through these repairs- many craftsmen are very willing to help an interested young person get started with advice, demonstrations, and use of tools-they helped me, and I in turn have helped others. Good luck!
Andrew

Sounds like the neck joint is loose. If you have some movement in the joiint & want to play it drill a hole through the neck for a long screw. Then just through the neck , bore a larger hole then use a strap button as a washer for the screw and pull the joint up tight. Dont use glue but just the screw. It will take around a 3 to 4 inch svrew. I do this to a lot om guitars that come to me and it can be $10.00 job against $65.00 for a cheep neck set.
Pratice on this junker so the next one is easier. I have bought all junk guitars I find at garage sales for almost no thing and learned a lot.

Ron Frazier
Thanks everyone for your replies, I've read all of them, and I think I'll heed your advice and wait off before attempting the repairs. I'm gonna start racking up money for tools, and I'll go around looking for some junk guitars to practice on. I think I'll ask for tools for Christmas, so around then is when I'll start these repairs. That'll give me 4 or 5 months to prep. Whenever that time comes, i'll post pics so you guys know what I'm talking about. I really like this guitar (it's a Harmony with binding!) so I'm gonna take it easy.
Making clamps and tools will save you a ton of cash. The neck is more than likely poplar wood. Sometimes the fingerboard is as well. If the FB is poplar. I would consider replacing it with rosewood and nickel frets. This way you can also straighten the neck (if needed) and even add a truss rod or center support. The dovetail will probably be a loose fit with lots of brown hide glue inside. Heat the FB extension to lift it off the body. Then work the dovetail out with some heat, wiggly, and twist action. It might just pop out with a sharp blow to the neck heel? Obviously, be careful here. Sounds like the guitar has a solid top? That is a bonus. You may have to pop the back to properly fix the top cracks? Taking it apart is the easy part; but you'll see what you have to work with, and a fair deal with yourself to get it done. Good Luck. Tom
StewMac has a video/dvd on resetting a neck. Its about $50. seeing this done where you can watch it over and over will be very helpful I think. After you can probably frind someone who would be willing to by the dvd from you. My biggest advice is when you get around to steaming it out, steam a little, then remove steam while working it loose. if needed, steam somemore. If you steam too much at once there is a chance that you will loosen parts you don't want to loosen.
here is the back removal and re glue and steam reshape.

keep in mind that I have no clue how this will turn out and I'm am posting my experience you we can all find out while only risking one guitar.

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