Monday, April 9, 2012

Harmony H1203 Sovereign - Back to You Part 1

back to you
it always comes around
back to you

Although I have not done any work on the Sovereign since last July, I have been giving the remaining repairs a lot of thought over the past few months.  Before I put this project aside last summer, I had the great satisfaction of getting to play her a few times.  I temporarily shimmed the neck joint enough so that the string tension would hold the neck in place, fit up the new bridge saddle, and put on a fresh set of D'Addario EJ15's.  As expected, she had a mellow, muted tone, even with a set of strings known for a warm, bright, and well balanced tones.  Her shallow neck profile and narrow fretboard make playing a pleasure for me, and I was amazed at how good her intonation was all the way up to the 14th fret.  Early in July of 2011, I made a trip up to Maryland to visit and play with some friends and fellow amature musicians.  I considered bringing her up with me, but decided it was too risky without her back properly secured.

With the mild spring weather and some time on my hands this past weekend, it was time to get back to the repairs.  After removing the strings, I slid the neck out of the joint and gave it a look over before setting it aside.  I was pleased to see the neck and front bracing repairs I made last spring were holding up well.  But, the 50+ year old back panel was showing lots of collateral damage from my repeated removal and re-gluing techniques.  Removal at the end block this time proved to be very challenging, and I could not avoid some new but minor panel and back brace breakage this time.

The last time I reattached the back, a crack near the widest part of the lower bout developed, resulting in a piece splitting off.  This time, taking the split piece off resulted in breaking it into two pieces, and another structural crack occurred near the first one.  The new crack runs perpendicular from the edge and past the brace nearest the end block.

Given that I am still struggling with a way to bend the sides enough to reuse the back panel, this damage is telling me it may be time to replace the back.  Unlike that first acoustic repair I made, when I replaced the top and back panels with red luan plywood, I want to keep true to the construction of this old guitar’s solid tome wood.  Fortunately, eBay is a wonderful source for finding such things, and I have already found a new two-piece Honduran mahogany back to use if necessary.  Before going that route, I'm making one last attempt at salvaging the back.  When the glue dries on all the brace and panel repairs, I'll start cleaning up the singed hide glue mess I made when I detached the back panel. Meanwhile, there's plenty of interior and edge glue cleanup to do on the rest of the body.

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