Stella Decalcomania ca 1935
Stella Decalcomania ca 1935 | $1650 | The Oscar Schmidt company was founded in 1879, and by the 1920s it was quite prosperous. But Schmidt's death in 1929, and the economic destruction brought on by the depression resulted in the sale of the Schmidt factory. By 1935, the company was owned by John Carner and trading as "Fretted Instrument Manufacturers Inc." This guitar was built at the time of Carner's ownership, since it bears the "Stella Fretted Instrument M'f'rs Inc." label. Instruments labeled as such are actually quite rare today, likely due to the transition time period of the company, and the effects of the depression. As one would expect, the guitar shares many of the Schmidt era hallmarks including the body contour, square kerfing, flat head tuner screws and the decalcomania ornamentation. What's different is the position dot at the 9th fret instead of the 10th, a thicker and seemingly harder finish, and, most interestingly, the inlaid 'rope' purfling on a decalcomania, birch-topped guitar. There is a very similar example in Neil Harpe's 'Stella' book. The top ornamentation coupled with the dramatic sunburst make for a quite attractive little guitar!
The body is solid birch, bound in white celluloid and 'rope' perfling on top. The sound hole sports a gold decal rosette, and there is a decal strip running down the center of the back. The fingerboard is possibly maple painted black and the neck is a very modern-ish 'C' shape. The head stock is embossed 'Stella' in gold script. The bridge is not the expected 'floating' style with the fret wire saddle. It's likely a replacement with bone saddle. The tailpiece was replaced with a shorter version to allow more down tension to drive the top. The original remains with the guitar.
This a concert-size guitar, measuring 13 1/4" across the lower bout. Scale length is 25". The fingerboard measures 1 3/4" across at the nut and string spacing is 2 1/8" across at the saddle (which is notched, therefore, the spacing can be widened if desired by a player). The guitar has had a neck reset, and action is set at 6/64". Frets are very good.
The only repair to report is a glued crack running out from under the fingerboard extension to the sound hole. The finish shows some nicks and dings from use and age and there is some wear on the back of the neck. Otherwise, a very solid and attractive guitar.
This is one of the better sounding birch boxes we've played, likely aided by the extra down force from the bridge/saddle mods. The guitar projects quite well, and is very strong in the mid-tones colored by the 'birch bark', which gives a sort of hollowness to the tone. With nice action and comfortable neck carve, it's easy to play. A great little blues box for sure! Comes with a new hard case. Check out the sound clip.