12-fret slot-head Stella $$$ question

KC

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So I bought a little all-mahogany Stella -- seems to have a Harmony serial number -- and the bridge cracked in half. Took it to the luthier and he fixed the bridge but says it needs a neck reset, which seems right. Action was quite high. He wants $400 for the reset. Will I ever see that money again? I have $100 in the guitar IIRC. Is this worth fixing?

Would post pics but it's at the shop. It's a charming little guitar. Sounded good, might play well with the reset. Opinions welcome.
 

schmee

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I dont think it's worth it. If you can file the bridge down to make it playable, that's what to do with that guitar.
 

toomuchfun

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Question - Why did you buy it, to flip or keep and play?

Options:

1. Get a raised nut and use for slide/dobro.

2. Have it reset and enjoy it.

3. I've seen in a repair book you can heat the neck (heat gun on low aimed at only the fretboard the entire length) for about 20 minutes without burning it, put 2 wood blocks, same size on the 1st fret and the fret at the neck heel, put a 2 X 2 piece over them and clamp the neck (protecting the underside) and slowly see if you can get the fretboard to break away from the neck. With a little overbend let it cool for a few hours and see if it's playable. I tried this with a garbage find once and it worked without cracking the neck. Heard a sound when the board let loose. Or see if your repairman might give it a try.This is an actual technique that was done in the past .

4. Learn a lesson and don't buy damaged guitars. You will remember it every time you look at it.

edit to add a pic of option 3.

neck_bending.jpg
 
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Freeman Keller

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OK, lets clear up a few things. There are two versions of "Stella" guitars - the Oscar Schmidt ones from t he 1920's and 30's and the Harmony versions up into the 1950's or so. Completely different animals. The Oscar Schmidt ones can be very valuable and are wonderful guitars - I happen to own a 1932 version. The old Stellas are also the iconic ladder braced 12 strings as played by Ledbelly, Willie McTell and so forth.

If you have a true Oscar Schmidt guitar have it fixed properly - reset the neck, refret, deal with any issues. If you want to get a better idea of what you have and what it is worth get Neil Harpe's little book. Here is mine

IMG_5750.JPG




Harmony guitars are different critters. They can still be wonderful but they are not the iconic Stellas of the old blues days. They were usually cheaply built and most have problems, including neck angle. Are they worth fixing - I think that depends on the condition and whether you have a personal connection to the guitar. I have reset several, they go easily and 400 is a good price. What you will have when you are done is a boxy sounding little guitar that plays the blues and roots music, but probably not worth as much as you've put into it. Here are three harmonies on my work bench - different models, nice guitars

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Let me add that you have received some advice that I do not agree with at all. We can discuss that more if you would like.
 

Ricky D.

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I think you are already upside down with $100 in a Stella. Not worth sinking a lot of money into one.
 

Dano-caster

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The Harmony Stella I tried to play was tuff and would still require some setup as a 12 string slider.I would say a 100$ wallhanging is not to bad as a piece of art...
 

Freeman Keller

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KC, the little Oscar Schmidt in my first picture is probably worth a grand to 1500 - it is very collectable and in good condition. It does need a reset which I have been putting off because of the MOT fretboard - its going to be very difficult to keep the heat from damaging it. Once reset however its going to be both funky and valuable.

Harmony Stellas on the other hand might be worth a few hundred in decent shape. I'm not sure I've seen a 12 fret slot head one but there were lots of models. (I happen to be partial to 12 fret slot heads). My council without seeing the guitar is to evaluate everything else - frets, braces, bridge plate, fretboard itself. If it is all solid I probably would go ahead with the reset (you've already invested in the bridge).

Don't expect huge complex modern sound, ladder braced guitars have their own sound. Think of all the great bluesmen and people like Paul Geramia and Alvan Youngblood Hart. One very good option right now is to put off the reset for the future, tune it to open G and you'll have a slide cannon.

Please don't shave the bridge, please don't try any tricks you might find on the internet. Trust your repair tech - if he knows how to do a reset then I would have him do it. 10 or so years ago a reset was 3 to 350, I've seen them as high as 750 today so 400 is reasonable. A Harmony is a relatively easy guitar to reset - the neck comes off cleanly (drill at a slight angle to hit the pocket) and the dovetails were well made at the factory. Here is one that crossed my bench

IMG_5528.JPG
IMG_5579.JPG
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IMG_5586.JPG
IMG_5591.JPG
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985plowboy

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All I’ll add is that the luthier with the best reputation around the New Orleans area quoted me $700 for a neck reset and said to expect there to be additional costs if they found any other issues during the process.
And hoss, once they start you are in for the ride.
 

zombywoof

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I have never run across either a Schmidt nor a Harmony Stella which had a serial number. If there is a number stamped under the neck block it is probably a Harmony model number. If a Harmony there also might well be a date stamp visible though the soundhole. It is easy enough to ID a Schmidt Stella though as they have quite a few distinctive features. It can get a bit tricky with very early Harmony Stellas though as when they acquired the rights to the Stella and Sovereign name from Schmidt in 1939 Harmony also acquired whatever stock of guitars and parts were there so pretty much sold either re-badged completed guitars or those out together using the stockpile of leftover parts. Confusing the matter further is prior to 1944 Harmony used the same Schmidt-style underlined Stella logo. I own one of these re-badged Stellas as well as an earlier Schmidt-made jumbo (the same one which appears in Neil Harpe's book) which coincidentally will be going out for a neck reset and some other repairs next week.

Although there are no pics I would assume what you have is not an all mahogany guitar but a mahogany shaded birch guitar. The only all-mahogany Harmony Stellas that I can think of were in the catalogs only between 1940 and 1943. They offered both a 12 fret slothead and 14 fret solid headstock version. I have a 14 fret version. In 1944 the Stella moniker was dropped and the 14 fret version became simply known by their model number H165. These are actually a whole lot harder to find than the Schmidt guitars.

Anyway, here are some photos which may or may not help.

Ca. 1940 rebadged Schmidt-made Harmony



Old style Stella logo on my 1942 Harmony H165 Stella

 
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KyAnne

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I think you are already upside down with $100 in a Stella. Not worth sinking a lot of money into one.
Agree! An old Stella with those Black Diamond "drugstore strings" about a half inch at the 12th fret would cut your fingers to the bone marrow. Hell no! My Dad had one and you had to use a pair of pliers on one of the tuning keys to turn it. It wasn't worth a set of tuning keys. I think someone gave it to Dad. It wasn't even worth a set of those Black Diamond Strings. LOL! Before you ask, we had no place other than the Drugstore to buy strings in those days. And.....they were singles. You chose. Probably 'round 1963 or 64.
 

zombywoof

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I keep coming back to the fact that Harmony did not make a lot of slothead Stella models. Most were solid pegheads. And those they did offer would date to probably no later than 1945. A picture though would make all that is murky clear. Without one it is pretty much an exercise in chasing our own tail.
 
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Freeman Keller

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I'll be interested too. There used to be a very good Harmony database at demont.net but it no longer seems to work.
 

zombywoof

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I'll be interested too. There used to be a very good Harmony database at demont.net but it no longer seems to work.

After Francois passed away the site passed into limbo. But a good portion of it has been archived. Again though, even among the first generation of Harmony Stellas a slothead would be a rare bird.
 
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