The Amateur Luthier

Cataloging my experiences and encounters repairing and restoring guitars

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About Celluloid originally referred to products made from cellulose nitrate but now is used to refer to similar, more stable chemical compos...

About

Celluloid originally referred to products made from cellulose nitrate but now is used to refer to similar, more stable chemical compositions of plastics. It was one of the first industrial thermoplastics and revolutionized the world when it became widely produced. Originally designed to provide a cheaper alternative to ivory but later was used for film and a variety of purposes including imitating other expensive materials. It eventually fell out of favor due to its extreme flammability and dimensional instability which caused it to shrink and distort with age. It still remains a staple of the guitar world due to its widespread usage in vintage instruments and the community's desire to use and repair with authentic materials.

Tortoise shell imitations were one of the more common materials used in old instruments for pickguards and appointments and they varied wildly in design and color. Many modern tortoise shell imitations are simply printed designs on opaque or transparent plastic which is often unsatisfactory for restoration work and can look cheap. Proper imitation tortoise where colors are added to a transparent sheet can still be purchased and can even be purchased in cellulose nitrate but they can cost more and cellulose nitrate usually requires a hazmat fee to ship.

The art of making quality imitation tortoise was likely passed from worker to worker in these factories and has likely been lost to the ages but people have relearned the process and continue to make pretty darn good replicas. The purpose of this research is to document the historical processes that were used and what chemicals were involved. 

The Process


[1]
The first method comes from a 1907 book by Friedrich Böckmann entitled "Celluloid" which discussed the process of creating, working, coloring, and uses for the material. It is the book to read if you are interested in making celluloid but I highly recommend not doing so unless you have a concrete bunker far away from anything valuable. Most of the celluloid factories have burned down, if that's any indication. I've included an excerpt which discusses the process of creating imitation tortoise shell with celluloid. 

They first produce a sheet of clear, polished celluloid and dye it yellow with a solution of picric acid and a aniline brown. The exact parts unknowns. Then red spots are added via another solution of aniline brown and fuschin dye.

[3]
A 1904 book entitled "Cellulose, Cellulose Products, and Artificial Rubber" by Josef Bersch described a very similar process and describes the use of a paintbrush with the aniline brown and fuschin dye solution to add the spots.
[2]
An article written for "Textile Colorist and Converter Vol. 44" entitled "The Dyeing of Celluloid" by J. F. Springer in 1922 describes the process as well. The spots in the celluloid are colored via "various Sudan Browns and Reds" dyes. Another process involves using laminating sheets of colored celluloid and passing them through a heated press which, likely paired with an alcohol solution, bonds them together. This would create celluloid tortoise which likely has a more three dimensional and layered appearance compared to dying a clear sheet.

Finally the article mentions the "very best of all methods" which involves hand coloring individual sheets which results in a product that is "almost impossible to distinguish" from the real thing. It doesn't elaborate any further.

[4]

An excerpt from "Workshop Receipts: For Manufacturers and Scientific Amateurs, Volume 4" written in 1917 describes the celluloid imitation tortoiseshell. It first involves taking celluloid in a paste medium and mixing a part with brown aniline dye, mixing another part with yellow dye, and kneading them into a part of clear celluloid. 


Sources

[1] Celluloid by Friedrich Böckmann: https://books.google.com/books?id=2ok6AAAAMAAJ
[2] Textile Colorist and Converter Vol. 44: https://books.google.com/books?id=5qs7AQAAMAAJ
[3] Cellulose, Cellulose Products, and Artificial Rubber by Josef Bersch: https://books.google.com/books?id=pe5QAAAAYAAJ
[4] Workshop Receipts: For Manufacturers and Scientific Amateurs, Volume 4: https://books.google.com/books?id=cs9MAAAAYAAJ


History Fender doesn't have the same legacy in acoustic guitars as they do in the world of electric guitars and so their early acoustic ...

History
Fender doesn't have the same legacy in acoustic guitars as they do in the world of electric guitars and so their early acoustic instruments are often forgotten. You could buy a cheap acoustic from Fender as far back as as the 1950s but it wouldn't be until the early 60s that you could buy an acoustic that was built in the Fender factory. These were not well received at the time but aren't terrible instruments and those models inspired Fender's current line-up of acoustic instruments. .

To preface, the first Fender-built acoustics were introduced in 1963 and featured bolt-on necks (often with Stratocaster headstocks) paired with bodies that had an aluminum rod running parallel to the strings connecting the neck and tail blocks. On their official website, Fender has an article called Beaches, Stages and the Silver Screen: A History of Fender Acoustic Guitars which covers these models. These guitars are most closely related to what Fender is producing today and many of the model names were recycled. But fans of the Tim Armstrong "Hellcat" guitar might notice an unusual shift in design and that is because Fender did not build the instrument that it was based on.

For background, the Harmony Company was based in Chicago, Illinois and was one of the world's largest producers of musical instruments until it's dissolution in 1975. A significant portion of Harmony's business was through selling their instruments to distributors who would resell them and allow for smaller stores to tap into the growing musical instrument market. Many Harmony instruments don't even have the Harmony name on them as they were often built and sold unbranded or custom ordered with a company's chosen brand name painted onto the instrument.

Fender first sold unbranded Harmony instruments in the late 1950s and in the late 1960s commissioned Harmony to build a line of Fender-branded acoustics that blended the styles of the Fender-built acoustics and the regular Harmony lineup. To the best of my knowledge, these instruments were only offered between 1969 and 1971 before Fender shifted to Asian-import acoustics in 1972.

The purpose of this article is to document these Harmony-built instruments and provide a cross reference for model numbers.

Fender F-1000 / No.150 (1956-1959, 1969-1971)
aka Harmony "Stella" H-929 or Harmony H-150
Image Credit: Reverb - Two Losers Vintage


First appearing in the late 1950s as the No.150 "Student Spanish Guitar", the Fender F-1000 was the cheapest acoustic you could buy from Fender and one of the cheapest from Harmony. In the early days, it appeared at the end of the Fender catalogs like a footnote and did not bear the Fender name. Later it received its own Fender model number and finally had the Fender name on it's headstock.

It is based off two Harmony models; the H-929 Stella and the H-150 (which was likely it's early namesake). The headstock profile is identical to both models but it blends design features from both with pearloid dots in a dyed fretboard, large two-tone sunburst, trapeze tailpiece, and a modified pickguard.
  • Neck: Poplar
  • Fretboard: Ebonized Maple
  • Top: Solid Birch
  • Back and Sides: Solid Birch
  • Binding: Painted
Fender F-1010 (1969-1971)
aka Harmony "Stella" H-949

Image Credit: Reverb - Galloway Originals

    The Fender F-1212 is a rebranded Harmony H-949 which was their budget version of their popular Harmony H-162. It has the Fender designed headstock, custom rosette, custom pickguard, and Fender styled bridge. 
    • Neck: Poplar
    • Fretboard: Ebonized Maple
    • Top: Solid Birch
    • Back and Sides: Solid Birch
    • Binding: Painted
    Fender F-1030 (1969-1971)
    aka Harmony H-165 Folk

    The Fender F-1030 is most closely related to the Harmony H-165 all mahogany folk guitar. It has a unique Fender headstock shape, pickguard (pictured model lacks it), and bridge. It has a larger, painted rosette than the H-165 typically has. This model was the originator of the Tim Armstrong "Hellcat".
    • Neck: Mahogany
    • Fretboard: Indian Rosewood
    • Top: Solid Mahogany
    • Back and Sides: Solid Mahogany
    • Binding: None
    Fender F-1050 (1969-1971)
    aka Harmony H-1203 Sovereign
    Image Credit: Myself

    The Fender F-1050 is a rebranded version of the Harmony H-1203 Sovereign acoustic guitar with a unique Fender headstock shape, pickguard, and bridge. 
    • Neck: Mahogany
    • Fretboard: Bound Indian Rosewood
    • Top: Solid Spruce
    • Back and Sides: Solid Mahogany
    • Binding: Black and White Celluloid
    Fender F-1060 (1969-1971)
    aka Harmony H-1260 Sovereign Jumbo
    Image Credit: Reverb - Spacetone Music

    The Fender F-1060 is based on the H-1260 Sovereign Jumbo which is an incredibly popular model even today. It is a jumbo dreadnought instrument. It has a Fender headstock with an inlaid tortoise celluloid veneer, custom pickguard, and custom bridge.
    • Neck: Mahogany
    • Fretboard: Bound Indian Rosewood
    • Top: Solid Spruce
    • Back and Sides: Solid Mahogany
    • Binding: Black and White Celluloid
    Fender F-1070 (1969-1971)
    aka Harmony H-1270 Jumbo

    Image Credit: Reverb - Michael's Gear Emporium


    The Fender F-1070 is essentially a Harmony H-1270 jumbo 12 string guitar. It has a Fender headstock with an inlaid tortoise celluloid veneer, custom pickguard, and custom bridge.
    • Neck: Mahogany
    • Fretboard: Bound Indian Rosewood
    • Top: Solid Spruce
    • Back and Sides: Solid Mahogany
    • Binding: Black and White Celluloid

    Value
    The extremely helpful website GuitarHQ.com has documented many of the Fender-built instruments and has assigned them all a collectibility rating of an "F". I believe that rating doesn't accurately reflect the market value of these instruments on their own and is skewed because of the comparisons to the value of similar Fender products from that era.

    As the market shifts and values change, always consult Reverb.com's "Sold Listings" to see what people are actually buying them for. At the time of this article's writing, this is what they are going for.

    The Fender-built acoustics vary but I've seen them go from $500 to $2000 depending on the model and with earlier models or rare colors selling for more. The King and Kingman are the most desirable.

    The Harmony-built acoustics tend to stick pretty close to their Harmony-branded counterparts but it isn't unheard of for them to bring a little bit more money from people just wanting a vintage Fender-branded acoustic. They can go from $150 up to $800 depending on model and condition. 

    Robert Lehrmann Sales Agent  3125 S. Jefferson Ave. St. Louis, Mo. Label from a '20s Gibson L-1 About Robert Ervin Lehrmann was born in ...


    Robert Lehrmann Sales Agent 
    3125 S. Jefferson Ave. St. Louis, Mo.
    Label from a '20s Gibson L-1
    About
    Robert Ervin Lehrmann was born in 1879 in Germany to Amelia and (father's name unknown) Lerhmann. They immigrated in 1890 to the United States. In the 1900 census, Robert's occupation was listed as an "actor" and in 1910, he was listed as a manager of a stationery business [1][2]. He married a Missouri woman named Hilda sometime in the teens and by the 1920 census was teaching music out of his house [3]. The 1920 census lists his birthplace as Ohio which I believe to be in error. The census records for 1930 are unavailable but in 1940 he was a banjo player in an orchestra [4]. He had no children and died in 1948. According to the University of Illinois archives from the Hunleth Music Company collection, Lehrmann was the director of the Gibson School of Music (1889-1937) [5]. 

    Robert acted as a salesman for Gibson during the 1920's and many of the Gibson instruments from that era around St Louis feature his label. The label is typically placed atop the factory labels and often partially obscures them. The building on the label was demolished at some point and is currently an empty lot

    Sources

    St Louis Music Supply was founded by the Kornblum brothers in the early 20th century and they distributed a variety of instruments from d...

    St Louis Music Supply was founded by the Kornblum brothers in the early 20th century and they distributed a variety of instruments from different manufacturers. My interest in them comes from my location (just outside of St Louis) and that I've already acquired four guitars that were sold by them, one for each decade between the 1930s and 1960s. 

    I've been searching for a couple years for St Louis Music Supply catalogs and found these pictures but have yet to find any that I could purchase, scan, upload for others, and use as reference material to figure out the years and dates behind my instruments. St Louis Music Supply used the Custom Kraft brand name primarily and that is my focus.

    If you have found one, please shoot me a message

    Guyatone and Zen-On Plastic Guitar Bridges Teisco has nothing to do with these but people often incorrectly  refer to any  vintage Japa...

    Guyatone and Zen-On Plastic Guitar Bridges

    Teisco has nothing to do with these but people often incorrectly refer to any 
    vintage Japanese guitar as being made by "Teisco" so its worth mentioning

    About

    A weird chapter in the totally bizarre world of 1960s Japanese-built electric guitars is the molded plastic bridge which appeared on instruments by two distinct manufacturers. Both bridges are molded from an off-white plastic and do remain fairly sturdy; I haven't had any issues with them crumbling or chipping. Tonally, I haven't A-B'd them against a traditional metal bridge but all 3 instruments I've had with these bridges sounded a little more 'thumpy' than I expected.

    You can find these on Ebay and Reverb for about $30-40. It wouldn't be a bad move to start reproducing them but that's beyond my capabilities

    Guyatone

    Guyatone produced electric guitars for major guitar manufacturer Suzuki. The company also produced their house brand Guyatone. Badged guitars produced by Guyatone include Barclay, Broadway, Coronado, Crestwood, Futurama, Howard, Ibanez, Ideal, Imperial, Johnny Guitar, Kent, Kingston, Lafayette, Marco Polo (electrics only), Montclair, Omega, Orpheus, Prestige, Royalist, Saturn, Silhouette, Silvertone, Vernon, Winston and Zenta, an impressive amount of names produced by a single company. [1]
    Guyatone plastic bridges can be easily identified by their softer angles and compensation. They are also less wide than the Zen-On bridges.


    Zen-On

    Little known Japanese manufacturer who was out of business by 1968. Zen-On made electric guitars with the house brand Zen-on badge, as well as Beltone, Morales and Zenon badges [1]
    Zen-On plastic bridges are distinguishable due to the sharp angles and drastic compensation for the strings. They are also wider than the Guyatone counterparts.



    Sources

    About I was unable to source any information about the company  Employees Bertha "Bertte" Sofo, was a secretary with the ...

    About

    I was unable to source any information about the company 

    Employees

    Bertha "Bertte" Sofo, was a secretary with the company in 1940 [1]. A public notice of a marriage between her and  businessman William Hauser, in 1946, listed her as an "exec" at the company [2].

    Sources

    [1] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89MB-PPRP?i=3&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AKW1X-1MQ

    An original flier from a 1950s Kay Archtop with the Kanti-Lever truss rod system I went ahead and transcribed the letter for your rea...

    An original flier from a 1950s Kay Archtop with the Kanti-Lever truss rod system

    I went ahead and transcribed the letter for your reading pleasure.

    HOW TO USE YOUR "KANTI LEVER" ADJUSTABLE GUITAR NECK
    Your new guitar is equipped with a balanced tension neck. The purpose of this adjustable feature is to enable you to keep your guitar neck in perfect alignment at all times.

    Having been made very thin to permit fast, tricky progressions, the wooden neck is subject to atmospheric conditions. These atmospheric conditions, plus the tension of the strings, tend to warp or bent the necks. In addition, the alignment of the neck is affected by a change in pitch, change of strings, and a change of bridge height. You can now keep your neck in perfect alignment with Kay's ingenious "Kanti Lever" reinforcement inside the neck. Built around the lever principle, with a specially alloyed steel truss rod and a positive screw adjustment, this neck is now virtually fool-proof.

    Your guitar neck was perfectly aligned when it left the factory. Should any further adjustment be needed, you can do it yourself with the handy "T" wrench that was included. Insert the wrench in the hole in the heel of the neck (where the neck joins the body) turn the key to the right (clockwise) to adjust the neck back; turn the key to the left (counter-clockwise) to bring the neck forward. Ordinarily, a turn or less will put your instrument back in perfect alignment. Do not readjust the neck unless it proves necessary. Be sure your guitar is in tune before readjusting the neck.

    Dating Harmony Guitars Harmony guitars are fairly easy to identify and date yet there still remains a lot of unsolved questions for the ...

    Dating Harmony Guitars

    Harmony guitars are fairly easy to identify and date yet there still remains a lot of unsolved questions for the average collector which I am attempting to answer here.

    The single best resource on the internet is the DeMont Harmony Database but it is no longer updated.
    I am attempting to bridge the gap where he stopped and with what we know today.

    I cite my information as best as I can but there are points that are common knowledge among the Harmony community or are observations and conclusions that I have reached from my work.
    Pictures are mine unless otherwise cited.

    If you are unable to identify your instrument, use the Contact Me button above and I'll do my best.

      Branding

      Harmony instruments have their name on them more often than Kay instruments do but there is still a significant number of these instruments which do not sport the name of the manufacturer. Many Harmony instruments have a brand name which was given by a retailer who purchased the instrument for sale as a house brand in their own shop. You can find Harmony guitars branded Airline to Heathkit to Wizard and more!

      I have compiled guides on identifying these instruments and who sold them.

      My original article (which includes pictures) of the various brand names that Harmony guitars appeared under can be found here:
      Harmony Guitar Brands and Aliases (not updated)

      My current list (which does not have pictures but is updated) has even more brand names that Harmony guitars appeared under.
      Department Store Guitar Brand List

      Headstock Variants

      Quintessential Harmony headstock shape
      [1936-19??]
      Slender-waist
      [1930s]

      Thin, small nub
      [1940s]
      Kay-esque single point
      [Late 1960s-1970s]



      Tuning Machines

      Harmony guitars primarily used Waverly tuning machines on their models throughout the lifetime of the company. Kluson tuners started appearing in the 1940s.

      My guide to identifying Kluson tuners can be found here
      My guide to identifying Waverly tuners can be found here

      Bodies

      Harmony acoustic instruments are praised for their use of solid woods. They require more care than laminate guitars (to prevent cracking) but provide better tone.

      Carved vs Pressed

      Most Harmony archtop guitars have heat pressed tops which are formed in molds to make the archtop shape which produces a good sound but is nowhere near as desirable as a true carved top. 

      There do exist models where the bracing is carved out of the same piece of wood as the top.

      Necks 

      • Poplar is the most common wood used 
        • Often finished in a brown lacquer to mimic mahogany
      • Mahogany 
        • Appears on higher end flat top models like the Sovereign series 
        • Also appears on mid to high end archtops as early as the 1940s. 

      Neck Reinforcements

      Double bar reinforcement slots on a 30s archtop
      • Pre-1940s - Single or double rectangular steel bar
      • 1940s - Often none
      • 1950s-1970s - Single rectangular steel bar

      Truss Rods

      Harmony unveiled the Torque-Lok dual-rod truss rod system in 1956 which was paired with their Slim-Line neck for 'professional' and 'fast' playing.

      Unfortunately the design has flaws. As tension is added to the rod, the nut is forced downwards into the channel but the upward pressure which makes adjustment difficult. The rod also stops short of spanning the full length of the neck which reduces its, already weak, effectiveness.
      1950s Harmony "Torque-Lok" Truss Rod
      Half removed for demonstration


      Fretboard

      • Brazilian Rosewood
        • Continued to appear on mid to high-end models far into the 1960s
      • Ebonized hardwood (maple, birch, etc)
        • (Read my Article here about the process)
        • Very common on low-end models throughout Harmony's history
        • Ebonizing process causes the wood to 'dry rot' which reduces its strength and leaves it brittle and prone to cracks and chips.
        • Very unpleasant to refret. 
      • Indian Rosewood
        • Started appearing in the 1960s as a cheaper alternative to Brazilian
        • More porous and differently colored than Brazilian Rosewood 

      Position dots

      Inlay materials are typically real pearl up until the 50s when celluloid "pearloid" becomes commonplace.
        • 3/16" white dots in an alternating 1 and 2 dot pattern appeared in the 1930s
          • Kay also used this pattern and dot size
        • Ornate stenciled designs can also be found
          • Painted on, typically, with white lacquer

      Frets

      • Composition
        • Standard nickel frets are the most common
        • Brass frets appeared in the 1940s
      • Size
        • Thin, short frets were common before and during WWII
        • I cover a variety of exact fretwire dimensions on my article Vintage Fretwire Dimensions

      Stamps

      Harmony guitars are, in most cases, very easy to identify via their comprehensive stamping and dating system. Ink stamps are typically found on the back of the instrument and are visible through the f holes or soundhole. It is not uncommon for the stamps to be poorly inked, faded, or obscured.

      Harmony date stamps variants
      Image Credit: UNKNOWN
      Please contact me if you made this so I can applaud you
      • "F-##", "S-##"
        • Means Fall or Spring which refers to the season in which the instrument was built
          • It does not mean First or Second half of the year
          • The existence of "FL" date stamps and of Christmas-exclusive models bearing "F" stamps (for Fall) supports this conclusion
        • "##" refers to the year in which the instrument was built
        • If followed by a letter or letters, that indicates the quality inspector of the instrument that approved it. 
        • "Made in USA" appears in the 1950s
      Harmony H-54 built in the Fall of 1951
      3585 has no known meaning and can be ignored
      Image Credit: Ebay
      • ####H####
        • Preceding numbers are likely a batch number and have no discernible meaning
        • Following numbers are the model number of the instrument and can be easily researched
          • Harmony did reuse model numbers so keep that in mind
      1938 Carved Top Stamp
      Image Credit: Reverb - Tommy
      • Carved Top
        • Often printed in red ink, indicates a high end model with a carved (rather than heat pressed) arch top

      Labels

      Harmony guitars typically don't have any paper labels glued inside them from the factory. Most paper labels are from the distributor like B&J which had their own serial and model number labels. Starting in the 1960s, select models had labels which were visible through the soundhole or f-holes.

      • "A Quality instrument handcrafted by The Harmony Company"
        • Appears on 70s Harmony guitars, a few USA but mostly Korean built
      • "Special Notice This guitar is designed for nylon or gut strings do not use steel strings"
        • Appears on 60s-70s classical guitars

      Pickups

      Harmony purchased their pickups from outside suppliers and, to my knowledge, did not wind their own.

      DeArmond-Rowe

      Harmony pickups were built primarily by DeArmond-Rowe Industries which constructed the famous "hershey bar" and "gold foil" pickups (not to be confused with later Japanese gold foil pickups). If your Harmony has electronics, chances are that they are DeArmond. 

      Luckily, DeArmond units are well documented and typically have a date stamp on the back of the instrument in Month Day Year format like MAR 18 1966. This will align very closely with the date of construction of your instrument

      The best resource for DeArmond pickups is https://www.musicpickups.com/

      Gibson

      Gibson P-13 pickups are often referred to as the precursor to the famous P-90 pickup and were built in the 1940s and 1950s. There is a rumor that Gibson sold Harmony a "boxcar" of pickups via train and Harmony used that stock until they ran out. Nobody knows the specifics but we do know for sure that Harmony used Gibson pickups (and Gibson wiring harnesses on lap steels) in some of their instruments.

      1950s Gibson P-13 Pickup (no polepieces) on an H-56 Roy Smeck
      Do NOT confuse these pickups with Speed Bump pickups from Kay or pickups from Alamo. Too many people falsely attribute these pickups to each other but they are not associated in any way except appearance

      Common Issues 

      DIY repairs are the quickest way to damage and devalue an instrument
      Always consult with a reputable luthier (not a guitar tech) before performing any work
      Never ever use super glue, epoxy, gorilla glue, or Titebond III
      Guitars that are 'repaired' with these are often beyond saving
      • There are cracks in the wood
        • This occurs when an instrument is exposed to a climate different than the ideal (70 degrees Fahrenheit and 45-50% humidity) and the wood has shrunk
        • Do not try to fill the cracks with glue or put clamps on the guitar to press it together
        • Your guitar needs proper humidity and cleats
      • The neck heel is pulling away from the body
        • Do not shove glue in there or drive a screw through the heel
        • Your guitar needs a neck reset 
      • The frets have large divots in them
        • Frets are like tires on your car, they need replacing after being used a lot
        • Your guitar needs a refret
      • The strings are buzzy or the neck is bowed
        • Most Harmony guitars lack adjustable truss rods (or rods that still work) and so forward bow cannot be easily repaired.
        • Your guitar needs a fretboard planing and refret or more ideally a truss rod installation
      • The strings are too high off the fretboard
        • As string tension and climate shift the wood in a guitar, they inevitably need the neck to be steamed off and a new angle carved relative to the body.
        • Your guitar needs a neck reset
      • The bridge is lifting and coming off
        • Many bridges are glued directly onto the lacquer which causes them to lift and raise the action. 
        • Do not use glue to fill the gaps or drive screws into the bridge to bring it back down. The only fix is to remove the bridge, prep the area, sand the bridge to match, and reglue it.
        • Your guitar needs a bridge reglue and often a bridge plate patch
      • There is no sound coming from the electronics
        • This can be a variety of things from dead capacitors, dirty potentiometers, shorted wires, and even dead pickups.
        • Don't replace any vintage components unless you absolutely have to
        • Your guitar needs an electronics evaluation and cleaning

      1944 Kay K-60 Catalog Excerpt Image Credit:  VintAxe The Kay K-60 was a top of the line archtop model built by Kay craftsmen and reta...

      1944 Kay K-60 Catalog Excerpt
      Image Credit: VintAxe
      The Kay K-60 was a top of the line archtop model built by Kay craftsmen and retailing for $65. Michael Wright's book "Guitar Stories Volume 2" has some of the most complete model information and dates about Kay guitars but his date range for this model is incomplete. He mentions both the K-60 and K-62 as being built from 1938-1939 but my research in old catalog scans show that they were available as late as 1944 and as early as 1941. It is not present in the 1948 catalog. Assuming that Wright came to his number via a resource I did not find, I think it is safe to assume these guitars were built from 1941 through 1944 with earlier models possibly existing

      They are jumbo archtops meaning their lower bout measures around 17". They use quality woods like actual flamed maple for the necks, Brazilian Rosewood slab fretboards, and plenty of real pearl inlays. The tops are carved spruce with laminate flamed maple back and sides.

      Expect quality hardware like open-back Kluson tuners with or without the stamped shafts. The tailpieces are also quality and quite ornate, I have not been able to discern who made those. Note the bridge on these instruments is a unique "ribbon" design which flares outward towards the tailpiece, on the bass side, and towards the neck, on the treble side. And the celluloid pickguard is incredibly thick too.


      1944 Kay K-62 Catalog Excerpt
      Image Credit: VintAxe
      The K-62 is identical to the K-60 in nearly every way except that it is finished in a clear, natural lacquer instead of sunburst. It may or may not also have a painted stinger on the back of the headstock.

      This model number may have been reused for Kay guitars with the antenna fretboard inlays but that instrument is not the focus of this article.


      I get tired of scouring through VintAxe.com trying to find the exact manufacturer I'm looking for in some unknown catalog that I've ...

      I get tired of scouring through VintAxe.com trying to find the exact manufacturer I'm looking for in some unknown catalog that I've forgotten. This is just my list of manufacturers and unusual catalogs of where to find some examples for my own reference

      This does not give you access to the website, you still have to pay.

      1927

      1928

      1931

      1932

      1940



      Inventors Harry Stanley was born in January of 1895 in Harrison, Ohio to Franklin, a blacksmith, and Mary Stanley [1]. In 1920, Harry wa...

      Inventors

      Harry Stanley was born in January of 1895 in Harrison, Ohio to Franklin, a blacksmith, and Mary Stanley [1]. In 1920, Harry was working as a blacksmith likely with his father [2]. He continued in that field and was listed as a laborer in a steel mill in 1940 [3]. He died in 1966 [4]

      Vincent J Moir was born in 1902 in Ohio to a railroad worker Joseph Moir and wife Josephine [5]. In 1930, he was a proprietor of a shutter awning company and in 1940 worked in the laundry industry with a key-tag checking system [6][7]. He died in 1987 [8].

      The exact circumstances that brought these two men together is unknown and neither appears to have had ties to the musical instrument industry. I have searched high and low and been unable to find any documentation connecting this two men to either Waverly or Kluson. But their innovation is an important part of guitar history and can be seen on the earliest Fender instruments.

      The Patent

      aaaaa

      The objective of their patent was to propose a solution to two issues which guitar manufacturers and players were suffering from...
      The first was that the advent of metal strings meant higher tensions than gut or fiber strings which led to strings slipping out of tune.
      The second was that the ends of the metal strings were incredibly sharp and prone to cutting or stabbing the player of the instrument.

      Incomplete set of Saf-Ti-String tuners

      Their solution was to design a tuning machine that accepted the sharp end of the string and protected the player from being injured. This tuner had a slot cut into the end of the post and a center hole drilled. Two variants were designed, one with a square slot and another with a triangular slot which became smaller as you approached the base. The string would then be cut to size, inserted into the post hole, and wrapped through the slot and around the post. The sharp angle of the slot would lock the string in place and prevent it from slipping as the string was tensioned. This would hide the string end, protecting the player, and also help keep the instrument in tune.

      Production

      Original Saf-Ti-String tuners have the patent numbers and the design name stamped around one of the screw holes. So far I have not found any 'patent applied for' labelled sets. They appear as 3-on-a-plate sets.


      These tuners follow common traits of Waverly tuners including the style of the worm's gear carve, the worm brackets, and the gear itself. The square plates also hint towards a Waverly origin. The button shafts have a spear shape like Klusons. Their exact origin is still uncertain.

      Note the Waverly-esque brackets holding the worm

      Guitar Prod. Co.

      Guitar Prod. Co. was a stamp used on tuners found on some Oahu instruments
      Early Saf-Ti-String Design on Guitar Prod Co tuners
      Image Credit: Ebay - Lawman-Mike

      Oahu tuners with later Saf-Ti-String posts
      Image Credit: Reverb - Yooptone Music

      Kluson

      The patent was set to expire in 1953 but I believe Kluson purchased the rights prior to that date. Kluson began producing "Safe-Ti-String" tuners as early as the 1940s and they were available for most all models of tuning machine that they sold.

      The modern incarnation of Kluson currently produces these tuners but refers to the design as the 'safety post' in their modern literature. 

      1950 Kluson Catalog Photo
      Image Credit: Reverb - Izzy's Vintage Guitars

      Kluson 'no-line' tuners with Saf-T-String posts
      Image Credit: @notaluthier

      Later Patents

      Harry and Vincent also patented a set of classical tuners in 1935 using a modified version of their earlier Saf-T-String patent.

      Classical Saf-T Tuners
      US2094685A [10]

      They also patented a metal bridge for acoustic guitars in 1936 which commonly appears on Oahu-brand instruments.
      Metal Bolt On Pyramid Bridge
      US2029135A[9]

      Sources

      About John Edward Klucikowski was born March 8th, 1893 in Germany to Polish parents Joseph Klucikowski and Mary Schwab. They emigrated to...

      About

      John Edward Klucikowski was born March 8th, 1893 in Germany to Polish parents Joseph Klucikowski and Mary Schwab. They emigrated to the United States in 1898 and came to settle in Carlinville, Illinois. Only their two youngest siblings were born in the United States . His father died and was buried in 1904 leaving Mary to raise her 4 sons, Frank, John, Tony, and Joseph, and 3 daughters, Agnes, Theresa, and Mary [5]. In 1910, at the age of 17, he was a receiving clerk [6]. Later John was employed as a machinist with instrument manufacturer Lyon and Healy according to a 1917 draft registration card [8]. 
      John Edward Klucikowski (undated)
      Image Credit: Kluson.com
      Shortly after, John had 'Americanized' his name and began using the surname Kluson [4]. According to the present day owners, WD Music, John founded the Kluson Manufacturing Company as a machine shop in 1925 [9]. In 1942, he lived at 2454 N. Springfield Avenue in Chicago, Illinois and was employed by Kluson Manufacturing Company which was located at 3830 N. Kilbourn Avenue in Chicago, Illinois [1].

      Kluson factory (undated)
      Image Credit: Kluson.com

      He died in April of 1956, at the age of 63, and was buried in St Joseph Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois [2][3]. He does not appear to have married or have had any children.

      His company folded in 1981 after losing big clients to newer tuning machine manufactuers and was later bought by WD Music who currently makes reproduction machines.

      If you know of a Kluson Manufacturing Company catalog or any documention relating to the company, I am very interested in purchasing it. Please contact me 

      Sources

      [1] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-6733-PWY?i=3367&cc=1861144&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AV1K7-Q5H
      [2] https://www.archives.com/search/death/record?Location=Illinois,%20USA&LocationId=16&FirstName=john&MiddleName=e&LastName=kluson&LastNameExact=True&UniqueId=4704790:60901:953&resultsurl=%2Fsearch%2Fresults%3FFirstName%3Djohn%26LastName%3Dkluson%26Location%3Dillinois%26LastNameExact%3DTrue%26MiddleName%3De
      [3] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6XTS-KCM?i=1196&cc=1503083
      [4] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS1R-D8KT-L?cc=2968245&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AQPTN-LRQS
      [5] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-67S7-FWZ?i=381&cc=1452409&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AQ2Y9-RZ1Y
      [6] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRJR-N7Q?i=4&cc=1727033&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMKZY-76C
      [7] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QPTN-LRQS
      [8] https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-81WY-99MS?i=597&cc=1968530&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AK68Y-D16
      [9] https://mmrmagazine.com/issue/kluson-at-90-iconic-tuner-and-replacement-parts-supplier-has-remained-a-go-to-brand-for-nearly-a-century/

      Vintage Fretwire Dimensions This is my log of fret crown dimensions from vintage instruments that I have refretted Crown heights can ...

      Vintage Fretwire Dimensions

      This is my log of fret crown dimensions from vintage instruments that I have refretted

      Crown heights can be rounded up to compensate for playwear and previous fret leveling
      I've tried to find a similar sized wire for each entry, always double check before ordering
      All frets are nickel-silver unless stated otherwise

      Kay

      1940's Archtop 

      CW: 0.068"
      CH: 0.037"
      Most Similar To: 

      1940's Archtop

      brass
      CW: 0.122"
      CH: 0.034"
      Most Similar To:  

      1950s Archtop

      brass
      CW: 0.100"
      CH: 0.032"
      Most Similar To:  StewMac #146

      1950's Archtop

      CW: 0.105"
      CH: 0.040"
      Most Similar To:  StewMac #149

      1954 K-150 Archtop

      brass
      CW: 0.114"
      CH: 0.027"
      Most Similar To: 

      1960 K6970 Swingmaster

      CW: 0.094"
      CH: 0.028"
      Most Similar To: 

      1960's K573 Speed Demon

      brass
      CW: 0.083"
      CH: 0.029"
      Most Similar To:  StewMac #148

      1960's Vanguard

      brass
      CW: 0.104"
      CH: 0.028"
      Most Similar To:  LMII FW27

      1960's K6104 Flat Top

      CW: 0.106"
      CH: 0.035"
      Most Similar To:   LMII FW27

      Harmony

      1930's H-1390 Archtop

      CW: 0.064"
      CH: 0.031"
      Most Similar To:  LMII FW68

      1945 Archtop

      CW: 0.068"
      CH: 0.031"
      Most Similar To:  LMII FW68

      1969 H-1230 12 String 

      CW: 0.101"
      CH: 0.034"
      Most Similar To:  LMII FW27

      1970 Fender-branded Sovereign

      CW: 0.099"
      CH: 0.039"
      Most Similar To:  LMII FW75

      1971 H-162 Flat Top

      CW: 0.096"
      CH: 0.034"
      Most Similar To:  LMII FW75

      Other American

      1920s Lyon and Healy Parlor

      CW: 0.051"
      CH: 0.036"
      Most Similar To:  

      1930s Regal Arch Top

      CW: 0.045"
      CH: 0.038"
      Most Similar To:  

      1930s-50s Gretsch Model 50 Archtop

      CW: 0.099"
      CH: 0.028"
      Most Similar To: 

      Import

      1960s Kawai Electric

      CW: 0.075"
      CH: 0.045"
      Most Similar To: 

      1960s Guyatone Electric

      CW: 0.100"
      CH: 0.036"
      Most Similar To: 

      1966 Hoshino-Gakki Electric

      CW: 0.059"
      CH: 0.030"
      Most Similar To:  

      1968 Hagstrom Viking II DeLuxe Semihollow

      CW: 0.070"
      CH: 0.022"
      Most Similar To:  

      1970s Univox Coily Semihollow

      CW: 0.093"
      CH: 0.030"
      Most Similar To:  

      1970s Aria Acoustic

      CW: 0.095"
      CH: 0.036"
      Most Similar To:  

      1970s Yamaki 12 String

      CW: 0.085"
      CH: 0.039"
      Most Similar To: