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Thread: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

  1. #1

    Default Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    This is an all mahogany mandolin- the bridge looks like rosewood as is the board. Interestingly, it is not at all adorned- just painted bindings and it has lost its guard.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/20412998512...d2f6%7Ciid%3A1

    The same model- blinged up to the nines was sold as an S S Stewart by B & J .Here is the one that is high on the scale and quite a contrast to the Harmony branded instrument. Interestingly, this basic mandolin is the same as the two Monterey mandolins Harmony made at this time. It makes me wonder if there were a few mandolins left over from the S S Stewart order and they were finished in a basic way and sold branded as Harmony mandolins and they may predate the Monterey models.

    https://reverb.com/item/1885896-ss-s...hogany-lacquer

  2. #2
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    That's an interesting looking mandolin. The picture on the accompanying mandolin method looks more to me like a SOL.
    What do you think happened to the lower frets? Looks a little like residue from a mouse nest to me
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    I've never seen a Harmony with a slide on decal. It does look like a Harmony though.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Sue, it is impossible to speculate on that mark- something spilled on it or something else. I suppose seeing the inside of the case to check its condition might answer if there had been a rodent's nest.

    I have seen that decal on Harmony guitars from the late 30s and there were earlier versions. This may be silk-screen printed.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #5

    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    That's an interesting looking mandolin. The picture on the accompanying mandolin method looks more to me like a SOL.
    What do you think happened to the lower frets? Looks a little like residue from a mouse nest to me
    Sue, that’s almost certainly nitric acid corrosion from a decaying celluloid pick guard. The instrument’s nice condition probably meant very long storage in the case with nobody ever looking inside. No photos of the case interior are shown, but I’ll bet there is some evidence in the lid as well. That it had celluloid, rather than other plastics may indicate it’s earlier than the ‘60s, when I think the use of the material was pretty much ended. All celluloid decays eventually, sometimes with drama, but as the composition varies so much, there’s no good way to predict it, but when you see curling or discoloration, it’s time to dispose of the stuff.
    My question for the experts is whether or not this is likely a pretty good sounding mandolin.

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  7. #6

    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Richard, I have one from S S Stewart- two in fact made by Harmony but the top is spruce and they both sound great. I have an all mahogany mandolin made by OS and that sounds very good. I think you may be right about the pickguard breaking down.

  8. #7
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    This is an all mahogany mandolin- the bridge looks like rosewood as is the board. Interestingly, it is not at all adorned- just painted bindings and it has lost its guard.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/20412998512...d2f6%7Ciid%3A1

    The same model- blinged up to the nines was sold as an S S Stewart by B & J .Here is the one that is high on the scale and quite a contrast to the Harmony branded instrument. Interestingly, this basic mandolin is the same as the two Monterey mandolins Harmony made at this time. It makes me wonder if there were a few mandolins left over from the S S Stewart order and they were finished in a basic way and sold branded as Harmony mandolins and they may predate the Monterey models.

    https://reverb.com/item/1885896-ss-s...hogany-lacquer

    Not to hijack the conversation, but that Reverb link also includes a John E Dallas mandolin...whose work shows up here now and then.

    I've found Dallas's work to be quirky and interesting and well made (London, I believe) mandolins.

    This one is pretty beat up but looks like birdseye back and sides, or perhaps veneer of.

    I'll aim to get that linked in over on the "flatbacks of note" thread but will attache a couple photos here for posteriority.

    Reverb links can be funny. Hopefully this goes straight to it.

    Mick
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  10. #8
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Sue, that’s almost certainly nitric acid corrosion from a decaying celluloid pick guard. The instrument’s nice condition probably meant very long storage in the case with nobody ever looking inside. No photos of the case interior are shown, but I’ll bet there is some evidence in the lid as well. That it had celluloid, rather than other plastics may indicate it’s earlier than the ‘60s, when I think the use of the material was pretty much ended. All celluloid decays eventually, sometimes with drama, but as the composition varies so much, there’s no good way to predict it, but when you see curling or discoloration, it’s time to dispose of the stuff.
    Thanks, Richard. I've heard of that out-gassing before but never seen anything like that.
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Thanks, Richard. I've heard of that out-gassing before but never seen anything like that.
    Actually that is not bad, it could have been much worse.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Sue, it is impossible to speculate on that mark- something spilled on it or something else. I suppose seeing the inside of the case to check its condition might answer if there had been a rodent's nest.

    I have seen that decal on Harmony guitars from the late 30s and there were earlier versions. This may be silk-screen printed.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I think that is screen printed, that I've seen. The in the OP is definitely a slide decal of some sort.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

  13. #11
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    I would say off gassing killed those frets and the two missing strings and most likely stained the inside of the case as well.

    For posterity:
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    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

  14. #12

    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    I would imagine that fret corrosion could be dealt with very easily- likewise, the discolouration of the board. The mandolin has the same bridge type that showed up on that Stradolin that was for sale recently- it is on my two Harmony S S Stewart mandolins both of which have the original pickguard which is in good order on both. One is very battered but they both play and sound very good- one came in a super cheap chipboard case, the one I will picture in a hard case that one person on Steve Kirtley's site has reckoned to be Lifton made when he sold one but its origin is not known- but was a large part of my decision to bid on the mandolin which turned out to be really very good. As I wrote, the mandolin is late 30s but has different tuners to mine- which have saw-tooth Waverly tuners that are older than the time the mandolin was made- probably discovered in the factory- that style is seen in the late 20s early 30s on the higher end Harmony made flat top guitars. The mandolin has a "crown" tailpiece- not the "wrist rest" type on the mandolin in question or on that mahogany S S Stewart.

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  15. #13

    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    I am not sure if this is classified as a decal but it is quite common from the 30s. Mick, that J E Dallas mandolin is for those that have some serious skills, I think but very interesting!

    Click image for larger version. 

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  16. #14
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    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Thanks, Richard. I've heard of that out-gassing before but never seen anything like that.
    I have a mandolin which was almost as bad until I removed the pickguard - strangely, the guard itself doesn’t look too bad. It’s an Ibanez from 1976 so “cellulite” didn’t cease in the 1960s.

  17. #15

    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    I have a mandolin which was almost as bad until I removed the pickguard - strangely, the guard itself doesn’t look too bad. It’s an Ibanez from 1976 so “cellulite” didn’t cease in the 1960s.
    In America, cellulite wasn’t discovered until exercise, kale, and other horrors emerged in the 1970s.

    To change the subject, that birdseye Dallas is appealing, mostly because I have a soft spot for that maple mutation, which, in (non-veneer, solid) form is uncommon. I think the massive rift in the back could indicate solid construction, but sometimes a laminate will let go like that too. An excellent restoration project.

  18. #16
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    In America, cellulite wasn’t discovered until exercise, kale, and other horrors emerged in the 1970s.

    To change the subject, that birdseye Dallas is appealing, mostly because I have a soft spot for that maple mutation, which, in (non-veneer, solid) form is uncommon. I think the massive rift in the back could indicate solid construction, but sometimes a laminate will let go like that too. An excellent restoration project.


    Well...count me in for kale (a mainstay in my juicer) exercise and birdseye maple.


    I may be wrong but I haven't seen a JE Dallas mandolin for sale in the States before.

    I have long appreciate his design approach...mixing some Italian features with a clean line geometry.

    I'm tempted by this one and have the Reverb site saved in my browser.

    But at $3C it's still too pricey for me as a reclamation project.

    10 years ago I wouldn't have hesitated, but I still have repair projects from 8 years ago...and 6 years ago.


    I'm going to let it ride a bit and toss in a ringer 'offer'. Who knows? I would be surprised if it sold for that price.


    Mick
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  19. #17

    Default Re: Late 30s Mahogany Harmony

    The pristine but corroded Harmony went for $130, which on my scale was no bargain, having about three more interesting auctions coming up soon, and less time for restoration. Did like the color, though.
    The Dallas, rare but long listed, probably couldn’t return the restoration cost, but is supposedly playable. Perhaps a PickStarter campaign to make it beautiful for posterity?

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