View Full Version : Vintage Ukuleles - 1930 Harmony Ukulele

12-25-2008, 12:02 PM
Hey y'all I am visiting family down here in Tennessee and my Grandpa apparently used to play the ukulele a bit and my mom kept it. I attached some pictures here, its not currently playable but still feels solid (though one of the tuners broke). Anyone else have any cool vintage ukuleles?

I left the pictures at their high resolution for better clarity so I apologize if they're slow loading...

Front (http://i66.photobucket.com/albums/h251/iamblinkin/img_1429.jpg)
Head (http://i66.photobucket.com/albums/h251/iamblinkin/img_1431.jpg)
Back (http://i66.photobucket.com/albums/h251/iamblinkin/img_1432.jpg)

12-25-2008, 12:41 PM
sweet looking uke, good luck with it!

Howlin Hobbit
12-25-2008, 09:25 PM
Is it not playable just because of the broken tuner or are there other issues?

12-25-2008, 09:27 PM
Broken tuner is one problem, though it was replaced with a similarly carved piece of wood (recently). However, the tuners seem to have some problems holding tension and detune rather quickly. Also, the strings are like 40+ years old so who knows about them too :P...

12-26-2008, 03:27 AM
That's a really pretty uke! Do you think your relatives might be willing to restore it a bit and make it playable again?

12-26-2008, 04:36 AM
Yeah my mom's interested in restoring it as long as it can retain the same style tuners. So that's the only limiting factor really.

12-26-2008, 07:41 AM
I have a similar uke! It might be a little newer, but it's a Harmony with tuners that look like that.


I plan on replacing the tuners so the thing will actually stay in tune. So if you need some authentic ones for your uke, let me know. :3

12-26-2008, 07:45 AM
Yeah my mom's interested in restoring it as long as it can retain the same style tuners. So that's the only limiting factor really.

If your not too worried about it totally historically accurate a new set of grovers would probably do the job just fine and look approximatly like those.

12-26-2008, 09:28 AM
Do those tuners not keep your Harmony in tune Haole?

12-26-2008, 09:32 AM
I can't seem to get them just right. Either they're too loose and they slip, or they're so tight that they're impossible to turn with one hand. :O

12-26-2008, 09:37 AM
Yeah that's kinda what's happening w/ this one...hmm guess we'll have to see, I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to replace them w/ new style tuners.

12-26-2008, 10:33 AM
When you say old style, do you mean peg tuners like a violin would have? A luthier should be able to do that. Or do you mean schaller tuners with the cotton in them?

I've learned that a good guitar luthier can work on a uke, it's just a question of finding a uke-friendly one in your area. Good luck!

12-26-2008, 02:26 PM
Not violin-style pegs; just standard friction tuners that are old and a little temperamental.

iamblinkin, the tuners on my Harmony might be in better shape, so if your mom wants to keep it authentic, I'll hook you up. :3 Otherwise, I suggest Grover or Gotoh friction tuners; they're usually under $20 and will be a significant upgrade, but won't ruin the vintage look. I'm leaning towards those for my own Harmony.

12-26-2008, 04:40 PM
That's a good one. I'm pretty sure it's from the 50's or 60's. That's when they put those one piece finger boards on them. I have a Silvertone (made by Harmony) from '61...
and a Harmony Baritone from the 50's. Notice the label on the headstock is the same as yours...

I also got a 30-31 Kamaka recently ...

I also have a 1927 Slingerland Maybell Banjo-Uke.
What can I say, I'm a sucker for the oldies. That's one of the things I love about Ukes. They last much longer than guitars.

Have you tried tightening the tuners on yours? That might be all it takes. I hope you put it to use, they sound great. Good Luck!!

12-26-2008, 04:44 PM
Here's a good page on vintage Harmonys.


12-26-2008, 04:48 PM
peg heads are not a problem at all. I think it just might be the age of them that is the problem. yes you can get replacement pegheads in an instant. peg heads are very reliable if you know how to use them. As Howlin' Hobbit says: if you pinch the peg instead of trying to twist it, you can get an exact tune out of it if you want too. it just takes patience and practice using them. I like to see peg heads on soprano and concert ukuleles, it just makes them look more vintage. anywho, to answer your question, yes you can get them replaced.

12-27-2008, 02:57 PM
These work?
http://cgi.ebay.com/vintage-ukulele-tuners-Harmony_W0QQitemZ260337855007QQihZ016QQcategoryZ16 224QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Some old harmony tuners that look just like the ones you have.

12-27-2008, 04:48 PM
Wow thank you so much this has been quite the response. :) Thank you for the ebay link I will look into it. Excellent pictures of some other vintage ukes too! Thanks for sharing!

Howlin Hobbit
12-27-2008, 05:14 PM
What you have there are the infamous Harmony "Dodge tail fin" tuners.

The eBay thing looks like a good bet. But someone earlier mentioned the tightness of the screws and that's essential on any of these type of friction pegs. You want to use the screw to tighten them just to the point where they hold the tuning. Not so tight that it's hard to turn them and not so loose that they slip.

When tightening/loosening the set screws, go no more than a quarter turn at a time. Test. If not right go another quarter turn. Go no more than a quarter turn at a time.

Note that this is an ongoing process. No matter what quality tuning pegs you have on your ukulele, if they're this kind of friction pegs they'll need the occasional tweak.

05-28-2010, 06:46 PM
nice uke, looks like a 1950 model by the label

05-28-2010, 06:49 PM
nice uke. looks like a 1950 by the label. check out this cool link: http://www.catfish1952.com/harmony.html

05-29-2010, 01:20 AM
Here is a Harmony Banjo Uke from the 1930s. I restored it because it was unplayable when I first got it. I replaced the tuners with geared, because the original were completely trashed. I lowered the action, and got a new maple/ebony/Bone bridge. I made a new bone nut, polished and leveled the frets, and made a 5/16" solid mahogany resonator, and I love playing it. I ponder on all the people that have played this all those years, and where are they now? Are they still alive and play a Uke?

http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs550.snc3/30110_129145910434541_100000173975723_346808_17372 96_n.jpg

11-25-2012, 02:43 PM
I have the exact same Uke as the one that started this thread (repost of pic here). Anyone know anything about it. What's it made out of?.....and it's too early for plastic what are the tuners made out of? Apprecaite it. Thanks.


11-25-2012, 02:57 PM
I'm glad you are enjoying your Harmony, they are fun old ukuleles. Those ukuleles, of that vintage were made of laminated wood....so, in other words, plywood. It doesn't make them bad, lots of good laminate ukuleles now as well.

Harmony was a prolific builder, and they literally made a million of them. Your ukulele is not rare, and if you want to play and enjoy it, your best bet is to replace the tuners, as those old "shark's tooth" tuners are, in my opinion, the worst of old tuners. I am sure your mother wants to keep things original because we are all told, don't alter anything old, but this is the type of thing that if you don't get some working tuners, it will never make music, which is what it was meant to do. You can improve the function of the old tuners by putting a small flat washer between the plastic of the tuner button, and the wood headstock. Then put a bit of lubricant on the thread of the screw before you reinstall. This usually does the trick.....

I've got a handful of vintage ukuleles.....Regal, Martin, Favilla, Gibson, Kamaka, Harmony.....all fun in different ways.

07-14-2013, 02:25 PM
Here's me - 1954 playing my Eminee ? Artur Godfrey? Flamingo? plastic uke. I was 12 - got the uke in '52 or '53 with the Chordmaster attachment, then 'graduated' to chording myself. Anyone know what this long gone uke was??? It appears to have two extra sound holes in the top, and some sort of decal or ? between the sound hole and bridge. I'm baffled! THANKS! - Johnny Long, Hendersonville NC55892

mm stan
07-14-2013, 05:20 PM
Check out elderly music, they have some tuners will do the job..
good luck...