John McDonald
  • Male
  • Portland, OR
  • United States
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  • Dave Hanna
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  • William F.Eden

John McDonald's Discussions

Fretwire storage
6 Replies

I've never been completely satisfied with my method of storing rolls of fretwire.I would love to see some photos showing how others organize and store theirs. Continue

Started this discussion. Last reply by Hesh Breakstone Jun 23, 2016.

CA uses/misuses
20 Replies

I was recently talking with a guitar repairman who has been in the business over 20 years and was surprised by the kind of jobs he would regularly use ca glue for. Headstock break repairs, acoustic…Continue

Started this discussion. Last reply by Andrew Mar 20, 2014.

Favorite inspection light
7 Replies

I'm looking to buy or make a better inspection light for acoustic guitars and mandolins. I've been using a regular sized fluorescent light bulb, but would like to find something as bright or nearly…Continue

Started this discussion. Last reply by John McDonald Mar 13, 2014.

Advice on cleaning off ancient masking tape
4 Replies

I need to fix a side crack on this old parlor and was hoping someone could advise me on the best way to clean off this old brittle masking tape. Also, I know a lot of you guys are well versed in…Continue

Started this discussion. Last reply by Ned Knepp Oct 31, 2013.


John McDonald's Page

Comment Wall (3 comments)

At 1:24pm on December 7, 2011, Dave Hanna said…


You were asking how to remove the top braces.

I don't attempt to save the braces at all.  Many of the Harmony Sovereign braces are cedar not spruce. They one reason why their guitars need a neck reset at a rather young age.  The braces are not worth saving.  I buy new quarter sawn spruce brace material off ebay.

First thing I do is use a big pair of end nippers to cut out the braces.   The nippers just slice through the entire brace.  The operation is similiar in a gross sort of way to removing frets.   I make sure no pressure is transmitted to the top during this operation. 

Myt technique is to chisel out enough brace material to allow me to set my TR-6 with a custom made U-shaped base on to the under side of the top.    I try to keep chisel work on the top to an absolute minimum.  With a 1/4 inch two flute carbide bit I rout away all the brace material I can get to. 

After all the routing I clean up the remainders with a very sharp 1/2 inch straight chisel and a 1/2 inch crank neck chisel.   The crank neck gets my knuckles off the top so I can scrape away the remaining brace material and all left over glue.

From start to finish brace removal takes several hours.  I  take my time and work carefully and thoughtfully because I don't want to damage that top.  Many Harmony tops are cedar which breaks in every direction seemingly by just looking at it.   

I like the Hitachi TR-6 router becuause it has a small u-shaped base plate.   It also comes with a excellent and very flexible roller guide system that beats any other router system I have tried, including purpose made router bits from StewMac.   The Hitachi TR-6 roller guide attachment is still available as a NOS spare part.

Another problem with the Harmony guitars is very cheesy saddle material and design.  I use a home-made router guide and a Dewalt DW611 router with a PorterCable guide to cut a 3/32 saddle slot.  I don't even bother to remove the original saddle -- just rout the old one away.   It's not worth saving.  

All of the above work is work-bench stuff requiring a firm work surface.   All of the next steps are vastly simplified using what I call a guitar table.    For work on Sovereigns, Icut 3/4 plywood into the profile shape exactly matching the H1260.   This plywood shape also has a 6 X 10 inch extension sticking out were the neck block would go with the guitar body resting on the profile.   Then I cut a slot for the saddle so I can work on the guitar body upside down.   To use the guitar table I bolt the extension to my work bench.   In this way the guitar table sticks out or cantilevers out over the floor.  If you catch my drift here you can see that this system simplifies gluing braces,  replacing the back, and cutitng and installing back binding.  

i use inner tube strips to hold the back on during gluing and to install the back binding.  To make the strips cut the inner tube along the circumference of the inner tube.  This provides the longest strips  THen join all the strips using slit joints.   (no knots.)  Since nothing sticks to the rubber, the inner tube material makes excellent binding and back hold down strips.  In fact, I can generate so much pressure wrapping the guitar body that the sides are indanger of crushing.  So, before attaching the back, I add 1/6 mahogany supports all around the sides perpendicular to the top and bottom glue blocks. 


By the way, no offense intended, but before  spending alot of time on a major rebuild, I would consider putting all that effort into a quality instrument.  The only Harmony worth working on is the H1260.  Maybe an H1203 or similiar.  All the rest of the smaller Harmony guitars are total junk.   I suppose they are good for practise..   When you finish an H1260 correctly you have a fantastic guitar.   I know, I am on my 8th and every rebuild turned out a great sounding instrument.  The X-bracing and that huge top make all the difference.   It surprises me everytime I finsh one.;


At 1:31pm on December 7, 2011, Dave Hanna said…

Mossman!!  I met Stew Mossman once at the Winfield KS flatpicking champion ships.  Great guy.  Just sold my last Mossman to a guy in New York city.    I flat pick Taylors exclusively now.   Can't beat 'em for price, value, quality and tone.   Now if I was half way decent picker I'd have something.

At 7:57am on March 14, 2013, William F.Eden said…

I have retired from building and repairing now but still am very much Interested in what is going on in the buisnes.IF ever I can be of any help to anyone I wouldl be glad to try.and lend a hand.Bill...............

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