1968 Barclay Guitar

1968 Harmony-made “Barclay” Parlor Guitar

This is a 1968 Harmony-made “Barclay” parlor guitar. It’s basically a rebranded Harmony Stella H-929, branded for the house brand of the Unity Buying Service mail order company. This all solid birch guitar as a rich tone and the lowest action of any guitar I’ve played.

Barclay guitar on bench

Scale: 25 1/2″
Upper bout: 9 1/2″
Waist: 8 1/2″
Lower bout: 12″

This guitar was made in Chicago, and is dated by the “F-68″ stamp in the soundhole. These all-solid birch guitars (every guitar that Harmony made in the US until 1975 was all solid wood) take on a punchy tone as the wood ages, and the midrange is silky and smooth. This one has pretty decent bottom end for such a little guitar, too, even though it is ladder braced. The neck is a super comfortable C shape, and it is in pretty good shape for a 50 year old players guitar. It has a few knicks here and there. It has a new set of D’Addario EJ11 Light strings (11-52) and it intonates perfectly up and down the neck. Action is just a hair under 1/16” at the 12th fret, with no buzz. You look at this thing and it frets. It’s amazing.

The big repair I had to do on this guitar was to reattach the fretboard to the top of the guitar. It had come completely loose from the soundhole to the neck joint, meaning that under string tension the neck was flexing upward, resulting in very high action *and* pushing the fretboard down into the top of the guitar. This also knocked the brace under the fretboard loose. I clamped the tail of the guitar to my bench, and then put the neck under slight tension under a long clamp, as a sort of “cheater’s neck reset.” Then I glued the fretboard and brace in place and the neck held at the perfect angle, with the action fixed. Because of the fretboard issues and the extreme dryness this guitar lived through, it had a crack from the soundhole up and under the fretboard. I repaired the crack and installed a small cleat underneath to give it extra support. This guitar also spent a lot of time in a case with damp sponges, getting the wood rehydrated. The guitar also had a crack on the bass side just below the waist, which I glued and cleated as well. The top was also separating from the sides in a few places, which I glued back up.

Then I leveled and dressed the frets, touched up a few knicks with dye, and buffed the whole guitar out. You can see the dots are sprayed on, as is the decorative “purfling.”

Dots are sprayed on

The guitar plays like a dream, although the fretboard issues have left it with a slight bulge on the treble side of the soundhole, just under the plastic white pickguard. Once I intonated the guitar I attached the bridge with small screws, since these little bridges are easy to knock out of place while playing. (I’ve since switched to securing bridges with bookbinder’s double-sided tape.) There is some wear where the bridge had been in the past, and it was never where it should have been.

Here’s a sound demo of the Barclay, with my poor playing.

Right now, this is the guitar I’m playing, but it may be listed for sale eventually.

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