You can never have enough guitars

Harmony Stella S1204. A Blast from the Past.

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 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 S1204. Made in 1968. At least the stamp inside of it reads as “F-68”.
It actually looks exactly like the 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 the overall state is next to perfect. Like 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 the side with the hummer: it didn’t work.
Moreover, there are 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.

Small video clip to demonstrate the sound of the Stella H1204.

2 Responses to “Harmony Stella S1204. A Blast from the Past.”

  1. Jeffrey Doar says:

    That was my first guitar, my parents bought it for me for when I was 9 years old, Christmas 1967. It was $30 with soft case from Sears. I played it until my fingers bled, but I never really appreciated it. It was hard to get in tune and would not stay in tune. The tuners eventually would not turn. I am ashamed and regret that I destroyed it (when I was 20) when the tuners would not move any more. I could have just, should have just gotten some nicer tuners for it.. I would love to hear a sound sample from your Stella, thanks.

    1. admin says:

      Hi, Jeffrey.
      I’ve finally made it!
      Here it is. A small video clip for you.
      Take a look:

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