Harmony Stella H1204. A Blast from the Past.

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Harmony Stella H1204 H933)Since I’m not North American born there’s no wonder that I’ve never heard about Stella guitars before.
It was quite a revelation for me.
The guy on Youtube.com had explained it. And it’s as genius as it’s so obvious.

Delta Sound.
If you want an authentic Delta sound you don’t need to get an expensive National Dobro or something like that.
Robert Johnson and Leadbelly and many other pioneers of Blues just could not afford any expensive guitars.
At least at the beginning of their career.
They often played cheap Stella guitars.

A Bit of Stella History.
Before the 40’s Stella guitars were manufactured by Oscar Schmidt company. And nowadays those became expensive collectibles.
But later (1939) the Harmony company bought the Stella brand. They marketed Stellas as cheap beginner/student instruments.
The 40’s and 50’s had no truss rod. Only starting at early 60’s Harmony started to build and mark necks as “steel reinforced”.
But it still was not quite a truss rod as you cannot make any adjustment.
The instrument was built from birch. What was quite unusual choice even for that times.
All: top, sides, and back. All wood!
And that’s what made a very special “woody” sound.

In my case it’s Stella Harmony H1204. Made in 1968. At least the stamp inside of it reads as “F-68”.
It actually looks exactly like famous H939 or H933. And I’ve heard some story that many of them were supplied to Sears at that time.
This is my guess for the first “S” in the model stamp.
“Like new”. Of course, there are some dark stripes on white colored edges. But overall state is next to perfect. As many of those cheap guitars it was spending most of its life in some closet. That’s what preserved it from aging.

nut_shift It would be too good to be true to get the vintage guitar in the next to perfect state just for $75. Right?
So here comes the problem: the nut was shifted down (see the image). I have marked the place of the shift with the red color. So the lowest string was going right upon the edge and was practically unplayable at the first frets.
Luckily it is a minor problem. The main challenge here is to remove the nut from the place without damaging any part of the neck.
Firstly I tried to slightly hit the extended part from side with the hummer: it didn’t work.
Moreover, there is more chances to hurt the edges around the nut.
So here’s what I did:

  1. Strings removed.
  2. I have found some wooden bar and placed it on the top of the neck upon the frets and resting against the nut.
  3. 3. I carefully kicked the wooden bar on the opposite side with the hammer: the nut came out quite easily.
  4. 4. I’ve put just 2 drops of the white Carpenter’s glue into the trench then placed the nut back properly adjusted.
  5. 5. The last step: put a clamp for a couple of hours or more if you can.

Unfortunately I don’t have a set of images or even a video clip of the process.
But the last image presents the final stage and all used tools.

Cigar Box Guitar: Nice Looking vs. Ugly but Working.

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Few weeks ago there was some interesting discussion in the FB group “Cigar Box Guitar Builders”.
Someone started it with the statement, kind of: “I don’t like the idea of using any expensive guitar parts on cigar box guitars.
Because there were no expensive parts at the times when first CBGs had been created.
And the creators never had money for these parts. As well as for real instruments.
Actually this was the point and main reason why cigar box guitars have been appeared on the edge of 19th and 20th centuries.

I personally have mixed feelings about this subject.
On one side I like to browse the eBay for really cheap “Made in China” pickups (I remember I bought the standard single coil pickup for just $0.99, free shipping. And it worked well).
And it’s an amazing feeling: it looks like a box but sounds like a real electric guitar.
And I believe that it can be a real fun: volume control, tone control, pickups switch etc.
I myself have built one and I like it:
P-Bass Cigar Box Guitar

As I said before there were no electric parts when first cigar box guitar was invented.
So there is always a feeling of something weird happening in CBG world when I see a luxury shiny CBG piece with the price tag well over $400.
I repeat I’m not against it.
It just feels not right to me personally.
That’s why I tried to make another instrument, a CB Ukulele.
It looks like this:
Cigar Box Ukulele: Frontend.

The only part I had to buy is an input jack. Well and those 2 screened grommets but these were the leftovers from another projects.
Those 3 pickups-bobbins are hand made. Here are more details on it.

So, yes. It’s fun to make “next to professional” CBG instrument.
And no. It’s another fun to make some stringed instrument which is built from any garbage at your home.
And it should not be a cigar box. Any suitable box (or can) can be used.

My first CBG was built from tea box lid and bottom:

CBA – Cigar Box Amp for CBG.

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I had this idea for a long time. So long that I started to notice that some other CBG hobbyists started to make them. The guitar amplifiers made from the cigar boxes – cigar box amp. 

And my idea is to build a very basic SMALL amp which can operate on a 9V battery.

So, here what I had for this project:

Small Cohiba cigar box: from some point of time my local cigar stores started to give away the cigar boxes if the are smaller than a certain size.


2 Watt speaker from the old computer audio system:



Acoustic Guitar Aging Device.


It a well known fact that with the time the acoustic guitar sounds better and better.Acoustic Guitar Aging Tool
There are 3 conditions for that:

  1. It’s an instrument of  good quality. In other words it has to be all wood instrument and not the cheap laminate one.
  2. The guitar has to be well treated and preserved.
  3. You have to play it A LOT


“DIY” Android Tripod

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All the guitar players (and not only them) sooner or later are trying to make the video clip of their own.
Either for the Youtube so just for fun.
And nowadays the smartphone cameras have such a quality that you might prefer to use it instead of the price video cam.
You can even make a full HD recording using the majority of the modern smartphones.

Now, the first question: “Why to make your own tripod when you can by a cheap one on eBay?”
Well, and what if you already bought something cheap on eBay and it didn’t work?
So, here’s the story.

1. Rotating Car Air Vent Mount Holder.

Car Air Vent Mount Holder

Car Air Vent Mount Holder

I bought this one on the eBay.ca just for $4.
I wanted to replace my old heavy Tomcat GPS.
But it has turned that way that to the moment of the delivery I had to change my car. Which has the GPS on board.
Therefore, this holder was not needed any more.

Things I Buy on eBay for Making Guitars

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It’s been for a while since I’ve started to buy things on eBay for my guitar projects.
I can not claim that everything what I look for has the best price over there.
For example, some electrical parts: potentiometers, knobs, piezo transducers and other stuff I can find at the local electrical store much cheaper than anywhere else.

Another consideration. I don’t buy any tools on eBay anymore. Yes, they are cheap. But it’s mostly a garbage and waste of your money.
With a little exception. A caliper. See in my list below.

Another limitation. I live in Canada. Our customs limit for the tax free parcels is $20. Otherwise you pay not only the sale taxes but also the brokerage fees.
But we are talking about self made hobby instruments. Right? So it should not be a big problem. Just keep this in mind and consult with your customs regulations if you are not in Canada.

So here is what I usually buy on eBay without any problems:

  • single coil pickup
    Single Coil PickupIt will cost you between $3 and $4. Usually takes up to 3 weeks to deliver but the shipping is free. Not very good quality but overall quality is OK. Plus I always do the shielding which helps a lot with the buzzing sound elimination



Cigar Box Stomp Box Wiring

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Every time I check how people find my site on the Internet I always check the most popular keywords.
And in most of cases the winner was this one: “wiring for cigar box guitar stomp box”.
Or something similar.
Funny, but looks like people are mostly interested in building the stomp boxes rather then cigar box guitars. 🙂
And after a small research I’ve learned the following thing: mixed terminology.
Most of these visitors were actually looking for the EFFECTS stomp boxes.
And what I have on my site it’s FOOT DRUM stomp boxes!

Nevertheless, some of those visitors are REALLY looking for the DIY foot drum stomp boxes.
I have 2 items of this type:

  1. Piezo Stomp Box – my first stomp box ever.
  2. P-Bass Stomp Box – the stomp box equipped with the Precision Bass pickups.

And while the first one doesn’t have too much in terms of wiring the P-Bass one does.
I didn’t event something special here.
As you can guess I’ve just found the wiring diagram for the p-Bass guitar on the Net.
For those of you who are not familiar with the electronic diagrams I’ve got very nice drawing at: buzzardsbass.com

Here you go:

P-Bass wiring diagram

The good thing about this drawing is that you just learn it carefully and solder the parts according to it.
You will need:

  • capacitor – 0.047mF
  • 2 potentiometers – 250Ko
  • 1/4″ standard audio jack
  • the wires to solder

That’s all that’s it.

As for the p-Bass pickups I’ve bought the pre-wired set on eBay for about 4$-5$.

Let me know if you have any questions about it.

And the best of luck!

For more details on the cigarbox stomp box itself visit the P-Bass Stomp Box pag itself.

DIY Harp Mic.

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Recently I started some sort of cleaning in my basement.
I have collected too many electronic devices which are obsolete. Telephones, CD players etc.
And TONS of power supplies!
Much more then the devices. Because when some device gets broken and I just put it into recycling bin. But I ALWAYS keep the power supply having the idea it might be re-used with any other device or somehow… That never had happened.
Until now.
Now I’ve find some parts of the power supplies can be re-used. The coils of wire inside the transformers can be very good for the magnetic pickups.
But that’s another story.
As for now, I want to share my another invention. DIY Harp Mic.
I often see the harp players with those “green, blue etc. bullets”.
They (bullets microphones of course) look really antique. Despite the fact it’s just a re-build.
So I started thinking about making something similar but from the stuff which collects the dust in my basement.
Long story short. More

Diddley Bow.

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I know, I know. It’s not a real instrument.

  1. It’s a lot of fun for me personally.
    – When you take a stick and an old string, and some magnet and few meters of wire… and you make it sound like a hell. Well, that’s fun! 🙂
  2. You can do a lot of quick and dirty tests and experiments and you always learn what is the best for you from it.
    – Originally I was using the regular piezo element from the buzzer as many CBG folks do.  But apart from the CBG I just can’t really shield it inside Diddley Bow. As you can guess – a lot of the feedback noise. So I decided to upgrade it with my new discovery: magnetic pickup made from the old broken headphones and the sewing bobbin.
  3. And finally it’s a well known tool among blues stars. Check this out:

So, why not to give a try?

Cigar Box Ukulele exercise.

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This is about another “leftover” project.
Time by time, while shopping for the cigar boxes I collect the small boxes if they are nice looking and free (my favourite price).
I also had 3 tuning pegs and a 2′ poplar plank which left from the 6′ plank used in P-Bass Cigar Box Project

It’s not enough for another cigar box guitar. Mostly about the small sizes. So I decided to build something small. Ukulele. Cigar Box Ukulele. That’s how I named it.
Firstly I just have put all those three components together. And here’s what I’ve got.
Cigar Box Ukulele
And I still have a very strange feeling that I should of been stopped at this step.
I even know now why. But that’s later.

So I had proceeded making it electric. At the same time I was experimenting with DIY CBG pickup.
As a result, here’s how the instrument face looks like:
Cigar Box Ukulele: Frontend

Looks quite busy. Right?

And the worst of all is the ugly hole for the pickups.
There was a reason behind this issue. Originally I was going to make the pickups from the ferromagnetic buttons that you may find in many of the fridge magnets. But they are weaker and bigger in size. So I’ve ended up with the neodimium magnets from the old broken headsets. Read this for more details…
And that’s what making me think that I’d better left this ukulele just an acoustic thing.

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