Harmony H174 Setup

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Harmony H174 Setup

Postby wcookjr » Tue Dec 02, 2014 2:46 pm

First off, I'd like to say thanks to all those who gave me advice when I was looking for a guitar like the one Jerry played here about 6 months ago. It payed off in helping me get my hands on a Harmony H174 in great condition for around $100. It plays well and sounds good considering the strings it has on it (which may be the ones it was originally strung with back in '63). The frets are a lot smaller than I thought they'd be, which is fine for my small hands. Makes the 2" nut width a lot easier on my fretting hand.

It only NEEDS the strings to be replaced, but I think I'd like to replace the tuners and get the action lowered a bit as well. I've got some LaBellas on the way, but if anyone could tell me just how low to have the action lowered or if you've changed the tuners out which ones seem to work, I'd appreciate it.
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Re: Harmony H174 Setup

Postby Norm » Wed Dec 03, 2014 3:05 am

Re: the tuners...
Your best bet is to go to a well stocked music store and seeing what they have to offer that actually fits since they come on plates and are not necessarily a one-size-fits-all. I personally prefer metal buttons since the plastic ones sometimes deteriorate over time but I'm not up on exactly what's available and that is just my personal taste. But you need to start with what actually fits the guitar.

As far as the action is concerned, on a nylon stringed guitar it is really a matter of personal taste and how the guitar responds to your attack. If you get it too low and play too firmly the strings will slap the fingerboard or buzz. Jerry Reed favored a low action, Chet did not.

Something to keep in mind is that the more firmly you can play the guitar the more the guitar itself will give back. After all, its tone and volume depends on how much resonance the string energy forces to the top of the instrument.

What is more important is to be sure that the neck and fingerboard are set as good as they can be. This might require the eye of a good repairman. That guitar was never a high end instrument and wood changes over time.

Like a luthier once said:

"never trust anything that used to be a tree..."
...that's how it looks to me...The opinion expressed above is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of this station. Your mileage may vary...

Audio samples: http://www.youtube.com/user/acountrygent/videos
That should do it.
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Re: Harmony H174 Setup

Postby PhilHunt » Thu Dec 04, 2014 2:43 pm

Those H-174's are a crap shoot. Some of them already had low actions and were set up well. Others had somewhat high actions. This was due to saddles on the bridge being really tall. Sometimes just a matter of taking the saddle off and sanding it down fixes the problem. Other than that, you have to get the neck reset. I wouldn't reset the neck unless you plan to put a Prismatone on it.........which at this point I don't think you can even get a Prismatone. I think Sam has ceased production, I could be wrong though.
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Re: Harmony H174 Setup

Postby Eddie Estes » Fri Dec 05, 2014 10:48 am

Which is a shame. If Sam or someone could get the Prismatones mass produced with quality they would sell like hotcakes.
It is still a great pickup and I feel as good as any nylon string pickup ever made.

Eddie Estes
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Re: Harmony H174 Setup

Postby wcookjr » Fri Dec 05, 2014 3:48 pm

Well I'm not so sure the neck needs a reset anyway; it seems to be pretty inline with the bridge & saddle. I would like the action to be lowered though. As for the tuners, I may just try to remove, clean, and oil em and see if that fixes em.

As for the prismatones, I might be willing try getting a kickstarter up for Sam or something to hopefully raise some money and get him started
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Re: Harmony H174 Setup

Postby Texican65 » Mon Dec 22, 2014 9:55 pm

Hey good buddy. I've got a number of 173s, and 174s...most junk...a few are worthy just in the fact they're pretty much Baldwins. I have a '67 Baldwin 801 also. A few of them I have used as practice guitars in the shop...a little kamikaze luthiery. I've fiddled with making my own cut-aways, replacing frets, mending broken bridges and making new saddles, fixing broken braces. Most of these old Harmonys need serious attention with the neck, either leveling, refrets, or resets. They were crappy mass produced guitars right out of the factory, but they are made of some sweet woods that is worth BIG BUCKS on a new guitar today. I've experimented with the action too, trying to get it close to how Jerry might have had it. 2mm is the sweet spot for me. Its gonna buzz and spit....but it also gives that funky Jerry sound if you know how to use your hands. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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Re: Harmony H174 Setup

Postby albdamned » Sun Sep 20, 2015 10:15 pm

Hey guys. Nice thread. I just started a similar H174 thread and I could also use help with similar issues (setup, pickup install). Check it out if you get a chance.


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