RESTORING AN ORIGINAL
I usually write about the restoration of higher end vintage instruments, but sometimes
the lower end can produce some high-value
examples, such as this 1962 Harmony H22
bass. Here’s how we freshened things up,
getting it ready for stage and studio.
Before removing the strings, I marked the
position of the rosewood bridge feet on the
body top with low adhesion blue tape (
Scotch-Blue Painter’s Tape for Delicate Surfaces).
This way I can quickly realign the bridge after
the restoration is completed. I removed the
chrome-plated tailpiece cover and discovered
a wonderful rosewood tailpiece underneath.
The strings were most likely original, as you
could see the old-school windings at the ball
end, and the string slots in the tailpiece were
Freshening up a 1962 Harmony H22 Bass
As a stringed instrument repairer and builder, I’ve always enjoyed building high-end
bass guitars that are juiced up on steroids,
and yet as a musician, I have found instruments over a broad range of price and quality to have value in certain musical settings.
When striking the E string on this bass, you
might think that it has the most undesirable
tone possible, but in fact, it gives you a gutlike string bass sound. It’s a cool tone that
takes me back to many vintage recordings,
like the song “Last Kiss” by J. Frank Wilson
and the Cavaliers.
Stewart MacDonald’s Preservation Polish (item
#3006) is my favorite when trying to remove
years of body grime, oils and silicones. The
polish does not leave the finish looking hazy
like many other polishes do. It really gets in
there and properly cleans.
This 1962 US-made Harmony has a Blue
Book value of $525 in 98 percent mint condition. The Blue Book is correct as far as the
market goes, but as a bass to have in your
arsenal of tones, I’m surprised that it hasn’t
become far more valuable. Even Steve
Winwood’s bassist used one of these in the
mid-sixties. The Harmony H22 reissue has an
MSRP of $999, and is now made in Asia.
A friend of mine recently turned me on to
microfiber polishing cloth. It’s very popular in
the automotive finishing business. This cloth
polishes as it cleans, streak free and lint free.
It holds the dirt and yet doesn’t absorb the
polish deep into the cloth, so we don’t use as
much polish as with highly absorbent polishing cloths. Even better, when the microfiber
cloth gets dirty, you just put it in your washing
machine. Once cleaned, it performs just as
well as it did new—maybe better.
Single cutaway semi-hollowbody; sunburst
finish with celluloid binding and white “bat
wing” pickguard; one DeArmond Gold Tone
pickup; 30” scale bolt-on neck; 20-fret ebonized maple dot inlay fingerboard; two-per-side Waverly tuners; adjustable rosewood
bridge; rosewood tailpiece; coil tap push-pull selector and white cupcake knobs. Serial
Number: F62M (F for Fall, 62 for 1962, M
indicates work shift number).
BGF Guitar Elixer ( brownsguitarfactory.com)
wood restorer is applied to the fingerboard,
bridge, and tailpiece. I had my assistant
Carson Lulic apply the Elixer to the bridge and
tailpiece with a Q-tip. The wood was looking
very dry and pale, but after conditioning is
soft and lustrous.
When I first took the bass out, I could see
that it was missing the white push-pull
knob for the coil tap switch. I emailed
Harmony to see if they had new old
stock (NOS) replacement parts, and also
checked eBay and found the part for sale.
Because of their chemical make-up, these
knobs stay whiter than the “cupcake”
knobs used for volume and tone.
Dirty sounding pots and electronics are
detected through plugging into an amp. I
clean pots using DeoxIt (StewMac #5027) with
the CTS Pot Cleaning Cap (StewMac #0291).
The Pot Cleaning Cap is a quick solution for
cleaning noisy hard-to-reach control pots without extracting them from a guitar or amp.
Even though it is a 30” short-scale neck, the
distance between the tuners and the tailpiece
requires long-scale strings, and I chose some
nice nickel flatwounds. We’re ready to bring
back that ‘60s tone!
John Brown, of Brown's Guitar Factory, is the inventor of the
Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full guitar manu-
facturing and repair/restoration facility, which is staffed by
a team of talented luthiers. He is also the designer of guitar
making/repair tools and accessories that are used today by
instrument builders throughout the world.