Prepping a low-end vintage instrument for studio use
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.
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 gut-like 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.
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.
Classic Features 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).
Freshening Up 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 manufacturing 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.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.