unknown vintage baritone and high action

santoser

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I took a chance and got an older baritone of unknown make. Of course the seller said "probably a harmony" because EVERYTHING is a harmony. Looking at the photos, the removed sticker impression sure doesn't look like Harmony to me. (but I know next to nothing, I'm using google image search)

The uke looks a lot like some 1960s silvertones I've seen photos of, but again, the sticker label impression isn't a match.

I love the sound- I mean, this sounds so much more alive than anything I've played (except the pono nui) - and I love all the old details, the radiused brass frets, the arch bottom. I like the binding, too, though the red is subtle. Don't actually like the tuners, but they seem to work well enough (the strings are still settling in, though.

Any ideas what this is?

And the high action- 1mm at the first fret and 3.6mm at the 12th fret. the neck looks straight. If you see the photos, maybe the bridge (the whole bout under it) is high? I don't know that's fixable. I can lower the saddle some, but not too much or the angle of approach from the string tie will get super shallow. There is room to lower the nut a touch, but I fear that the bridge is the problem and there's no fix for that that I cam imagine ..... unless you can non destructively remove the bridge, sand it down a bit at an angle, and reattach it. with 60 year old glue.... so I'm completely non confident in that.

Probably doesn't matter- I'm sure this is a $50-$80 used vintage department store cheapie. But I was really surprised at the sound (and it is playable, just ...really high and kinda hard to practice some things consistently on). If this is someone's unicorn, let me know.
 

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Not sure how many photos you can put in a post....


here's a few more.
 

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Hmmm, be interesting to see what others say . . . it does look rather Harmony-ish. The binding especially reminds me of a harmony.

Regardless, it looks like it is in great shape! And if you like the tone it looks like you found a winner.

I lowered the action on an old vintage Conrad. It was easier than I thought . . . It still is high, but any lower and the strings buzz. But as I only paid $35 for it, I'm not complaining.

Good luck with your modifications!
 
You have hecka saddle left. Get the action right and then worry about break angle. I have a floating bridge on an old Silvertone guitar and it makes cool noises still.

I've heard folks talk about drilling through the body for increased break angle.
 
Nearly identical to my Harmony baritone, its label indicates 50's/60's. But, the label is MUCH smaller than what was on yours.
I also have a Harmony soprano label indicates 30's/40's.
 
You have hecka saddle left. Get the action right and then worry about break angle. I have a floating bridge on an old Silvertone guitar and it makes cool noises still.

I've heard folks talk about drilling through the body for increased break angle.

I'll pull the saddle (if I can) and save it and file down a new one to start with, for sure. I don't know how much room I have to work with but blanks are cheap.
 
Start at the nut, because that will make the most immediate difference to playability on the lower frets.

Hold each string down between frets 1 and 2 and check the space between that string and fret 1. If it's more than the thickness of a piece of printer paper, deepen the nut slot.

You might find that's all you need if you mainly play the lower frets. Classical guitar action can be 4mm or so at the 12th, so 3.6 is not impossible.

If you decide you want lower action at the 12th, you can calculate how far you can go. To reduce the 12th fret action by X you need to reduce the saddle height by 2X. It looks as if you could drop the saddle 2mm, giving you 2.6mm at the 12th - that seems about right for a baritone. Or you could aim for 3mm, a 1.2mm reduction.

I'd do this in stages because on that style of bridge, reducing the saddle also reduces the angle where the strings break over the saddle. You don't want that less than around 15 degrees. To go lower you'd have to modify the bridge - doable, but a bit tricky.
 
I'd suggest fret leveling prior to saddle or nut adjustments. I have no idea what brand it is though. It's cool looking. Appears to have good bones. Probably no adjustable truss rod? Likely a 50s era Harmony is my guess.
 
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So there's no gap between the strings and the first fret when pressing down between the first and second frets. lightweight paper is a bit tight on string 4 (low D wound, so maybe no surprise) and not tight but in contact on strings 3 through 1. So I think the nut is good.

I might look at unwound strings, too. with the brass frets. Not sure what strings by mail has for options in baritone. But with brass frets i might as well. Also see if something else plays nicer or not. It sounds fantastic as it is

break angle is 20 degrees at the saddle so i can work that height a little bit but not too much.

frets all seem even except a bit on 15 and 17.

The only "symptomatic" problems I'm having with the high action- other than figuring out finger position on the first 5 frets a bit better- is getting Amaj to work with my fat fingers and the angle on the D string- it's harder to get rid of buzz than on the other baritones.

I guess I'll hit the saddle a bit (small bit) and just play it a lot. I still just hate these tuners, but they seem (assuming the strings are stretching in still) to stay put.

see if there's anything I want to do about the slight checking happening to the finish, maybe
 
Sounds like a plan.

But I'd leave the finish alone. It's almost impossible not to make it worse unless you are a true finishing expert. Checking is part of the aging process, so keep that history.
 
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