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Harmony Top Bulge?

Q: Hello! I have a ladder-braced 1972 Harmony Sovereign H6364 that is showing the normal signs of an older guitar that might be in need of a neck reset. However, it's not as "unplayable" as most similar guitars I have seen/played. There are no loose braces, but the top is bulging pretty much around the bridge area. I have thought about this, the bridgeplate doesn't seem to add much support at all, it's made of a thin piece of spruce. So here is my question:

Do you think it would be a good idea to reinforce the bridgeplate, by gluing a thin piece of maple right on top of the the old bridgeplate? Wouldn't that help stabilize and maybe help the top to flatten out a bit? Or do you have any other suggestions?
I really appreciate your help!
- Thanks ,Andreas

A: Guitar tops are never flat. Most modern guitars are made with a slight arch. Even the guitars with unarched tops flex forward the first time you put strings on them. Also, if there are no loose braces or bridge to reglue, it is nearly impossible to make a top flatter than it wants to be. In my experience, any complaint about a bulging top is an indication that the neck needs to be reset. When you see a guitar with a too high action, your eye is drawn to the bulging top. A logical, but wrong, conclusion is that the top bulge is the problem. The shape of the top is irrelevant if the neck is aimed at the bridge properly. You need a neck reset.

The bridge plate on that guitar should be maple, not spruce. Both are white woods but the string balls would chew through spruce instantly. Look with a bright light and a mirror. If the string balls have disappeared up into the hole and are seated against the bottom of the bridge, it's a spruce bridge plate and should be reinforced or replaced. I've never seen a spruce bridge plate on a Harmony, but stranger things have happened. Your guitar has a pin bridge, but most Sovreigns had "through pull" bridges, so the bridge plate didn't have to hold string balls. In that case, spruce would be the best thing to use. Maybe they put the wrong bridge plate on yours. The best fix is a "doubler," a piece of 1/8" maple, or rosewood, that will cover the holes with 1/4" of slack beyond the holes. Replacing the bridge plate without removing the back is a fool's errand. The strongest, longest bridge plate wouldn't straighten the top much. So, you want to go small and light.Minimally solve the "string balls through the top problem" adding as little weight and stiffness as possible.

Steve Mason

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