Friday, August 24, 2012

Vintage Harmony ukulele repair project

 I went with my wife and daughter to the antique store yesterday and stumbled upon this vintage Harmony soprano ukulele.  A little info about the harmony company taken from

The Harmony Ukulele Company went out of business in 1975. Their name, however, is a familiar site to anyone who plays the ukulele. For the greater part of the 20th Century, this name was synonymous with ukuleles for most people. They made both traditional
ukuleles and banjo ukuleles, which were popular with some performers of the time. The ukuleles are very much associated with the 1950s and 60s, as well, when there was a burgeoning interest in Hawaii. The island was, at this time, enjoying a surge in popularity for its music and as a vacation spot for the masses.
All that fame meant there was money to be made and, eventually, the ukulele was created to cash in on the fame. The ukulele market was actually the entire reason that the company took off the way it did. Founded in the late 1800s, the company was bought out by catalog shopping giant Sears Roebuck and Co. The purchase was made in 1916 precisely because the ukulele had become popular and Harmony provided a way for Sears Roebuck to sell the instruments. They were popular with many performers at the time, but there were few serious performers in the mainstream consciousness.
There are numerous players who have probably strummed a Harmony ukulele. They are, however, prized for their collectability more than they are their playability. These instruments are considered among the most desirable among those who collect and some of them can command very impressive prices. This company was in the ukulele business for so long that there are an incredible amount of instruments available. The interesting thing is, however, that the basic Harmony ukulele remained relatively unchanged throughout much of its manufacture. The basic, plywood Harmony has become something of an icon in numerous different ways.
This ukulele makes a find collector’s piece, but the fact that they will inevitably become more and more rare makes them relatively poor choices for a main instrument. Because their playability is not remarkable, it makes more sense to take care of these instruments like the historically-significant ones they are. These instruments were not particularly expensive and, in some cases, they may be found in a forgotten corner of a closet and turn out to be worth quite a lot of money now. These instruments are more of the novelty type, but are important parts of ukulele history.

 As noted, they aren't the best players, but sometimes you just have to save it!  Who knows?  Maybe a few repairs and some new strings will really make it sing.  Twenty dollars for a little piece of ukulele history ain't a bad price, so I decided to bring it home.  From my "extensive research" (10 minutes of googling) I have determined that this particular model (RB-3525) comes from the 1970's.  I guess it would have to be pre 1975 since that is when the company went out of business and sold the name. It's in pretty decent condition.  No cracks or splits.  Just a few scratches, dings, and general wear from what has probably been years of changing hands and being beat on by young children (something that my own 2 year old has made me well aware of)....we can only imagine what it's been through over the decades.

It needs a new nut, new saddle, some new tuners, a little bit of clean up, and some new strings.  I'll be posting each step here so if you're interested in fixing some of these issues with your uke and aren't sure how to go about it, then stay tuned!   Hopefully, I can be of some help to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment