Found: An Old Stella Harmony 12-String Guitar

I was cleaning out the attic today and noticed something: a 12-string guitar. Sure, I’d seen it there before – it used to belong to my oldest brother Mike (the same brother who had that first banjo I would strum on as a young child). Today, though, I saw it with the possibility of fixing it up. It was awfully dusty and had six strings on it, which looked to be too heavy a gauge. The frets were also in need of some rounding off, as playing it was difficult due to their being so squared up. (Later, Mike told me that the frets had been filed down and hadn’t been rounded off afterwards.)

I got this old 12-string Harmony Stella out of the attic, dusted and cleaned it up, did a little fret work on it and put on some light gauge D’Addario EJ38 strings.

Now it sounds very nice; better than I ever thought it would. It also plays well; just a little more than the usual neck bow, so the neck hasn’t been overly warped down through the years. It looks pretty decent as well with its classic sunburst pattern. But then, it’s a rather old American-made instrument from the early 60s or so –good quality, even though it was an entry-level guitar back then.

My brother must have practiced on this guitar extensively, as there are noticeably deep rub marks on the neck from making G, C and D chords; the D chord was made with the thumb over the top, I can tell. Also, I’ve never seen this on a fretboard before, but if you sight down the neck in good light, you can see small indentations between the frets where fingers rubbed against the fretboard. This guitar has been played a lot. In this photo, you can also see a large worn area on the body just below where the neck joins the body.

Well, I had to go google ’12-string Stella Harmony guitar’, and yes, they have a great reputation! These guitars were made from solid wood and were perhaps the best quality instruments that Harmony made under the Stella label. This was the same type guitar that Blind Willie McTell used for his 1956 last sessions.

I’m glad to have this quality vintage guitar back amongst my other instruments now.

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About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Systems Engineer and part-time banjo and mandolin instructor. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play Scruggs and melodic and am working on becoming more advanced with single string. I'm also working on 4-finger banjo, which is way off the beaten path. I would like to see more jazz techniques integrated into bluegrass situations; counterpoint, especially. So long-term, that's what I'm doing. I'm also very keen on astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, christian homeschooling, martial arts, organic gardening and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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