Preliminary Details - now updated & showing photos of the guitar, on completion of restoration.
- and quickly Reserved as pre-order for a customer on the Essex coast, pending completion of the restoration.
- 30/03/2018 - Sold - Restoration completed and collected by buyer....."I’m a happy ol’ boy."
There is limited information on the "La Habanera" model on the Harmony Guitars Database, which reads....
"All birch, black and red body, open head tuners, "pearlette" fingerboard. "La Habanera" dance from "Carmen" pictured on top. A later model have a plain head, "crystaline" painted fingerboard. A spruce/mahogany similar model was available under model # 209 from Sears & Roebuck catalog (see Supertone brand)."
....but it is just the last sentence which identifies this guitar, in the absence of any internal labels, or the usual internal Harmony model & date ink stamps. I can possibly detect slight markings which may have been these, but the inside face of the Mahogany back is so dark, they no longer show.
This is an unusual and interesting guitar, which if correctly identified, was one of the number of models Harmony reproduced/re-worked for Sears under their Supertone brand. I have only seen one, in the hand, before and that was the more basic all Birch model, and despite the Harmony Guitars Database giving a dating of 1931, if I recall correctly that other example carried a 1935 date stamp, so it would not surprise me at all if this one also dated from the mid-1930s.
Stock Number - VTG1370.
This superb vintage guitar is the fixed bridge type, rather than the floating bridge/tailpiece configuration so frequently used on parlor guitars in the 1930s.
It has great looks, lots of vibe and historic all-American character - a superb sounding parlor blues guitar, which can be set up for finger-style or for bottleneck playing - an iconic Chicago made, 12 fret-to-the-body, parlor Blues Guitar - uprated, high-end, all solid Spruce top & Mahogany back & sides, ladder braced construction, with not only the deco/stencil depiction of "La Habanera" dance from "Carmen" pictured on top, but also intricate banded, multi-coloured marquetry purfling to the black/cream edged top & soundhole bindings...a really attractive adornment to a high-quality guitar!
The guitar is more true to the original parlor size, than he slightly larger template which carried forward to the post-war "parlors" which Harmony made, particular the many variants of the Stella, with the same 615mm./24.25" Scale Length, but a 47.5mm./1.875" nut, wider than the more typical 44.5mm./1.75" of the later "parlors", same overall length of 36.25"/92.7cm., narrower 12.75"/32.4cm body width lower bout and upper bout of 9.125"/23.2cm., but slightly longer body length of 18.25"/46.4cm., body depth front - 3.125"/7.9cm., rear - 3.625"/9.2cm.
If you are an acoustic blues player and wonder why that top line guitar you bought doesn't sound authentic when you play blues like those of Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell, or Blind Lemon Jefferson, I can tell you why it doesn't and never will! All of those guys and many others from the 30s through to the 60s played Birch bodied guitars, some of them with Spruce tops, some all Birch, but it is the Birch which gives that unmistakable sound. No guitar made today, American or otherwise can give you that sound, for Delta and Country Blues!
If you want a fully functioning, great sounding piece of American musical history, this is it - a really exceptional addition to any collection of Blues/Vintage Guitars.
I have not been able to unearth any photos of this uprated Supertone version of "La Habanera", but as far as I can tell, this guitar is all original, except for the machineheads/tuners....see below. This originality has been maintained as far as possible in the restoration process, but it was clear that some replacements were needed. These have been carried out in materials/design as close as possible to the original.
Following inspection with the luthier I work with, it was clear that the original fingerboard was not only separating from the neck, but also so heavily worn as to be beyond restoration, and that the original bridge which was split also needed to be replaced. A new Ebony fingerboard was made, and a replacement bridge individually purpose-made in Rosewood to the same pattern as the original.
The overall condition is pretty good for an 80 year old guitar. Inevitably there is overall cosmetic wear and ageing, including loss of finish/colour to areas, mainly to the top below the soundhole....honest play wear & ageing! The stencil decorated areas show some surface finish crazing and slight finish/decor loss in places, as you would expect.
In part structurally things were pretty good also, but some fairly significant repairs were required, particularly to the body. There were small cracks in the side/ribs of the guitar, and a very slight opening of the rear seam, therefore we clearly needed to remove the back, both in order to securely re-glue it, but also in order to open up access to repair, or really mainly reinforce, the side cracks, in order to prevent them becoming more serious.
This part of the restoration did expand when it became apparent following removal that the very thin back panel did also require considerable repair, insetting patches of Mahogany veneer to stabilize it. In addition to gluing in Mahogany reinforcing braces to the side ribs, the extra work in turn also required removal and re-gluing of the braces, to complete a much sturdier carcass. The back was re-fitted, but it is never possible to 100% accurately re-align these seams, and this factor plus the stabilization repairs which has been needed to the back panel itself, made it necessary to add a black binding to the back seam, where there originally was none. This in turn lead to the need for some finishing restoration.
The neck joint was checked and found to be stable & may indeed have been reset in the past. The original heavily worn fingerboard was removed and retained for the buyer. Replacement fingerboard was made in Ebony and fitted, inlays were then installed to replicate the original characteristic design, black/white 2-ply bindings replaced, and new frets then installed. The original bone nut, with added Maple fillet to adjust to the new fingerboard.
Although certainly contemporary to the guitar, the 3-on-a-strip tuners/machineheads were found not to be original, having slightly smaller than standard post spacings for which minor mounting adjustments had been made previously. I had already suggested that replacement with the appropriate model "Golden Age" repro set produced by Stewmac could be the best option, and it turned out that the buyer already had the correct units, which he posted to me & I fitted.
It had been hoped to keep finish restoration to a minimum, but as indicated earlier, following the need to add binding to the back seam, some fairly extensive finish restoration was required, and although not normally keen to re-finish vintage guitars, Colin Keef's expertise at completing partial re-finishes that don't look obvious was called upon, and the back sides & back of the neck were refinished, and look superb as show in the updated photos. The majority of the work was done in Colin's workshop, and restoration was completed entirely under his expert supervision.
Following completion of the restoration, including fingerboard replacement & bridge & saddle replacement, the set-up has been completed with the anticipated action of 2.5mm. to 3mm. at the 12th. fret, which I reckon is ideal for a Stella or parlor "all-rounder", good for Bottleneck play, but with fretting aided by the shorter scale length and consequent lower string tension, therefore ideal for a mixture of finger-style and bottleneck play.
Additionally it could also be used for full-time slide with a nut riser costing no more than a few pounds. The sound is typically loud and pokey, just as a Stella should be - a great Bluesy voice! It has "That Sound" in spades - even, woody, bright, clear, ringing tone! At the buyer's request, it has been strung with Martin Retro Monel Light 12-54 strings, and really sounds tremendous - and loud!
Included is what appears to be the original pressed fibreboard case, with old but temporary stitching repairs to seems, other damage & non-functioning catches.