25/10/2017 - Preliminary Announcement - ready to go "In the Workshop" for restoration & available to "pre-order"!
Photos are of the guitar, as it arrived, prior to repair/restoration....the sharp-eyed will notice that the stringing is incorrect....it will be sorted!
Harmony Stella 12 strings, have become something of a crusade....for a hard-to-come-by guitar, I have done quite a few now. In addition to the same model H912 I am currently restoring for Perry Foster, another quite recent notable one was th one completed just before the beginning of last year, sold on "Pre-order" to Mark Braidner in Belfast - https://markbraidner.bandcamp.com/releases - "Mark Braidner specialises in finger style blues and slide playing"....
....AND THE FEEDBACK!
"Yes of course that would be no problem at all quoting for my last email. I meant every word of it and loving the guitar more and more the more that I play it. I must say that it really comes to life when I get the finger and thumb picks on, almost pianoesque if there's such a word and sounding great with the slide.".......and the original feedback verbatim.....
"I'm happy to report that the guitar arrived with me here in Belfast this afternoon.
It was exciting opening the box, I was like a kid at Christmas you could say and I wasn't disappointed when I opened the box up.
First impression was that the guitar looks stunning to me and I could have swore it said 'hello'!
I've now tuned it up, to the open 'C' that I had mentioned and have been playing away on it with it sounding better all the time as the strings bed in.
The action is all but perfect for me. It allows me to play slide easily and also fret the guitar in a conventional way very comfortably.
The neck is smooth to run along and not too wide, I wouldn't have the biggest hands in the world.
I can see the slight blemishes that you mentioned where the binding had separated after the removal of the top but that isn't really an issue at all.
The guitar is in great nick for it's age and I look forward to enjoying many happy hours playing it both at home and in a gigging situation (after fitting a pick up) and I will definitely get a you tube video or two up for anyone interested to take a look at!
Anyway thank you so much for your time and effort into restoring the guitar to such a high standard.
It has been a pleasure dealing with you too Bob. On the ball with your knowledge and concise assessments and always 'keeping me in the loop'. If anyone comes up to me and says to me 'I'm looking a vintage acoustic like that one can you recommend anyone?' I'll most definitely and gladly point them in your direction.
All the best with your future projects, I'm sure you have requests and instruments coming in all the time. I'll keep an eye on your website too and you never know in the future something might grab me! Meantime take care and all the best.
I am now finding that I regularly "pre-sell" my guitars, at the stage where I am still working on them, and although previously I had my doubts, this arrangement has now worked well in quite a number of cases, so I have decided to list some of the guitars coming through the workshop, in advance of them being fully ready, and welcome further enquiries.
I have two other Harmony Stella 12-string models "in the workshop", another H912 and an H913....exactly the same construction guitar, but with natural finish top....if you may be interested in one of these please contact me.
Stock Number: VTG1516.
..........I rarely get to list these when already up & running and ready for sale...they tend to get reserved before we get there....I already have one going through the workshop, which has already been reserved by a long-standing customer, but this one might be your opportunity to "pre-order" one yourself! I do have a couple of further Stella 12 strings in stock, also waiting for me to begin work on them.
Basically, Harmony made Stella 12 strings are either the earlier Stella H922 (the Blind Willie McTell model!), made through from around 1940, when Harmony acquired the Stella name, up to about 1964, which was followed by the sunburst H912 to 1968, and then the natural/blond topped H913 to 1971....still the All Solid Birch, Ladder Braced 12 Fret to the body Stella with that classic slotted open headstock, and floating bridge/tailpiece configuration, still reminiscent of the early Stellas way back - designed to be tuned down for that characteristic 12 String Blues sound - and they are loud!
The original catalogues contains the following caution:- "A 12 string guitar should never be tuned up to regular 6 string guitar pitch, to avoid pulling up the top, or bowing the neck. Experienced players recommend tuning three or four half-tones lower." We have moved on of course since, with lighter string gauges, but it is still the case that these guitars were designed for that spine-tingling detuned sound, often achieved by tuning down to C, or other tunings that were commonly used.
In general terms the highly respected professional luthier I work with sees no problem in tuning 12 strings to concert pitch, but the increased tension is great, and these are vintage guitars! I generally fit two alternative stringing options - either with Martin Bronze Light gauge 12-54 gauge needed for the suggested C, or similar tuning, but which must only be used for lowered tunings, or Martin Bronze Extra-light 10-47 gauge, with which you might still want to tune to D and capo.
The model identifier ink stamps is clearly readable, but the usual factory date stamp is not visible, so we are not able to give it a precise year dating, within the production period of 1964 to 1968. Although iin the workshop for minor overhaul work, as detailed in the "Condition" section below, the cosmetic finish & hardware condition is really very good for a 50 year old Stella.
The guitar is all original, except that the scratchplate it arrived with is a hand-made replacement, based on the original shape, but not quite correctly shaped/finished. I will check my stock of parts, as it is possible that I have an original scratchplate, but if not I will be working on this one to make the shaping & appearance as near as possible to how the original should be. However, I think you will see from the photos, the cosmetic condition of the finish to most areas is really very good for a 50 year old vintage Stella. Inevitably there is some marking and small areas of localised wear & finish loss, including to the painted edge "bindings" and seams.
The guitar will be fully checked-over in the next few days in conjunction with the very well-respected professional luthier I work with, and work will be carried out in his workshop and under his supervision. It is understood that the neck joint was reset about 7 years ago by a very well-known guitar workshop in the South of England.
Visible confirmatory evidence of this is detectable by the expert eye, but not evident orherwise. It appeared at first that the guitar would only require a minor overhaul and to address mainly set-up matters (see "Action etc." section below), but further investigation has revealed that the excess relief in the fingerboard, which initially appeared to be a question odf adjusting the trussrod, cannot be corrected without some "surgery", as the trussrod head has broken off. Not a complete surprise, having had to replace the trussrod for the same reason on at least one Stella H912 in the past! The trussrod will be replaced, as we have successfully done before!
We will also examine & hopefully reinforce the slightly distorted area of the top around the soundhole, and in relation to this examine & possibly supplement the timber reinforcing cleats which were fitted to the underside of the top for the crack repair, assumed to have been carried out at the same time as the neck reset. The crack itself is entirely stable, not very noticeable....you should just be able to see it in the additional photo, #6, I think, just to the treble side of the fingerboard extension, and again very slightly at the rear edge of the soundhole, just above the scratchplate.
The tuning machines show very little of the usual age-related discolouration, remaining particularly bright, and are working fine. The original tailpiece likewise shows only a small degree of discolouration, but is bright & sound. The original Ebonised floating bridge, with original saddle is in good shape, but as discussed below, in the "Action, etc." section, there may ba a need to increase the height of the saddle. Trussrod cover retains the original "Made in U.S.A." logo, and appears sound, apart from possible very slight edge crack alongside one of the fixing screws.
I will update the details following workshop session with the luthier next week, if the diagnosis differs from the present intial assessment.
When correctly set up, all the Harmony Stella 12-strings play nicely with the distinct "D" profile neck on the later models, as this one, but all with that 2"/approx. 51mm. nut width & 25 1/4"/642mm. scale length. I aim for a 12th. fret action of around 3mm., making it ideal for a mixture of both fretted and bottleneck play. The present action is too low at 2.25mm./2.5mm., even with the excess relief in the fingerboard and strings are muting/buzzing, due to fretting out at the 12th. fret.
Once the trussrod is replaced and a better straightness achieved ion the fingerboard, the action will lower further, and we will corresopondingly raise the bridge/and/or saddle, which will be allto the good in terms of sound performance! The sound is typically loud and pokey, just as a Stella should be - a great Bluesy voice! It has "That Sound" in spades - even, woody, bright, clear, ringing tone!
As mentioned earlier, the usual stringing options are Martin Bronze XL 10-47 gauge strings, necessary if tuning up to or near concert pitch, alternatively Martin Light 12-54, only for lowered tuning, or a third option I used at Mark Braidner#'s request on the H912 restored for him completed around Christmas 2015 are John Pearse Heavy Gauge 13-56 strings, designed for C# tuning.
As is the guitar was recently re-strung (yes, I know the photos show the pair of "G" strings reversed!) with D'Addario EJ39 Phosphor Bronze strings (.012-.052), only suitable for lowered tunings, but will consult with the buyer regarding anticipated tunings and string it up accordingly.
The presumably original soft, covered fibreboard, case is included. It remains inbasically serviceable condition, but inevitably shows a degree of wear & tear. Alternatively I may be able to supply a virtually unused Hiscox Liteflite hardshell case, offering much better protection, and if I can marry the guitar to a suitable case, I will be please to agree a combined price for guitar + case.