View Full Version : Vintage Uke playing again!

10-23-2011, 05:14 PM
Hey all. When I originally joined this forum a few months ago, it was because I purchased 9 unplayable ukes pretty cheap. Out of the nine, I kept one that caught my eye. It is, what I thought was a 1930's Harmony, but now I'm not so sure. I think it's pretty old judging by the v-profiled neck and just the overall build of this uke. It may be a Reagan, but again, not sure now. No matter what it is, it's old and mine.

Anyhow, when I got it, this is what it looked like:

It's a solid birch uke with frets installed directly in the neck.

This poor uke suffered a failed attempt at a repair. The top and back had been re-glued with what looked like plain white glue. So, being the tinkerer I am, and so I can practice some more instrument repair, I went to work on this little guy...

10-23-2011, 05:18 PM
So, I first removed the back which was hardly attached at all. It was easily done with just the slip of a thin spatula:

Next, I had to re-glue and replace some of the perfling:

Then I removed the neck, which took some doing since it was held in with a dowel rod in the neck block. Thanks to one UU member, I cut the dowel flush with the neck block, and with a 90 degree angled drill attachment, I grabbed a drill bit the same diameter as this dowel, and drilled it out. And, since the neck itself wasn't glued to anything, the neck just fell right off after drilling out the dowel:

Hippie Dribble
10-23-2011, 05:18 PM
oooooh...the suspense...time for my medication again... :drool:

10-23-2011, 05:20 PM
The top was held on much better than the back. I just needed to reglue some of it back on. I sanded it the best I could to remove the old glue, mixed up some hot hide glue, and glued it back on (Hot hide glue is all I used on this project as that's how it was originally assembled)

Then glued the back on

10-23-2011, 05:21 PM
Then glued a new dowel in the neck, and glued the neck back on. I couldn't figure out a better way to glue it on than this, but it worked fine

10-23-2011, 05:22 PM
good to know this little guys life isn't over yet!

you have done a good deed today my friend.

10-23-2011, 05:26 PM
Thanks to another UU member who send me his Harmony bridge (which was a perfect fit, by the way), I went on to duplicating it out of maple
(New one on the right)

Then I prepped the area to receive the new bridge

10-23-2011, 05:28 PM
Then I glued it and clamped it without having the proper clamps. Basically, I used the only deep throat clamps I could get in the uke, I taped some hard wood on the bottom part of the clamps to go under the bridge area. Then, used three other clamps to apply pressure to the bridge itself. It worked out fine, and the bridge is holding just fine

Finally, a new ebony nut and saddle, and the uke is done as of this morning

10-23-2011, 05:29 PM
And a couple of glamor shots




10-23-2011, 05:36 PM
Wow, two replies already while I was writing everything up still. Thanks for the comments all. I'm glad to have saved this old one. I wish it was in better shape, and wish the glue the previous owner didn't get all over the place. In the second glamor shot, you can see the edge between the side and the back how the original glue discolored the finish. There is still finish there, but after wiping the glue off, that's unfortunately what I uncovered. There are other spots similar to it, but I wasn't going to refinish this oldie. I'm just going to leave it as is. It's not bad though.

For now, I have the black Hawaiian GHS strings on her to make sure this old uke can handle being played again. Once I'm sure she's okay, I'll probably go Aquilas. So far, I put in a couple of hard hours of playing on this uke, and it held up fine. Sounds pretty much like any other solid birch Harmony I've heard, which is actually just fine with me. I like the uke, and it's just a cool old example of a surviving instrument from whatever era it is from.


10-23-2011, 07:46 PM
You know, even if it doesn't look or sound the greatest, you still got a pretty awesome story to tell behind it... plus i think the wear and tear gives it some character... makes people want to ask "Where did you get this one?" and stuff like that :D

10-23-2011, 08:02 PM
Nice Job! Glad you brought it back to life. Aquila strings should really wake it up.

10-24-2011, 02:14 AM
Great job, that looks like a fun little instrument!

10-24-2011, 03:14 AM
Thanks for all the Photos. Great job. You are an Uke EMT!

10-24-2011, 03:43 AM
That's awesome! I'm going to have to try that someday... just gotta find the uke to do it on...

Doug W
10-24-2011, 12:05 PM
My wife says your Harmony is "insanely cute"!

10-25-2011, 05:15 PM
Thanks a lot, all, for the compliments. It's now Tuesday, and the strings are settling in nicely. The more I play the uke, the nicer it is sounding. Not sure if it's because I am breaking in the string, or if it's because I'm re-breaking in the uke, but she is sounding pretty nice.