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View Full Version : Any thoughts on this vintage Stella uke?



Smeckman
02-22-2017, 03:15 PM
I'm a guitar guy who has taken a recent interest in ukes. Early 20th century Stella guitars are known to be excellent sounding for very little money. I picked this Stella uke up because I thought it might be good sounding and also because I've never seen one before. It needs a neck set so it's hard for me to tell how it really sounds. Any thoughts? Has anybody ever seen one of these? Thanks, here are some pics. https://www.flickr.com/photos/20784543@N03/albums/72157678422053142

Nickie
02-22-2017, 03:24 PM
The only thing named Stella I ever saw was a scooter.
http://www.genuinescooters.com/stella4.html

JJFN
02-22-2017, 04:12 PM
Stella also made a decent tenor guitar, at a reasonable price. I had one back in the late 60's and tried to tune at a higher key and the neck snapped. Good bye Stella. Always, liked it, see some on Ebay, but they are very old.

janeray1940
02-22-2017, 04:22 PM
It's a cool looking bit of uke history! Some interesting background on Stella instruments here (http://theukaholic.blogspot.com/2012/08/oscar-schmidt-ukes-old-and-new.html). 1920s-1930s, made by Oscar Schmidt (which is not the same company that makes OS ukes now), inexpensive and mass-produced.

river_driver
02-22-2017, 04:51 PM
Based on the logo I'd think 1920's. Body looks to be stained birch. Made by the Oscar Schmidt Company in New Jersey. Old OS ukes are common enough, but Stella branded ones don't show up as frequently.

(Stella guitars were popular in the days before amplification because they had a reputation for being loud. Lead Belly's 12 string was a Stella. Eventually when OS went out of business the Harmony Company in Chicago acquired the Stella name, and in the final indignity it ended up being used on bottom of the barrel 1970's Chinese crap imports.)

ksiegel
02-22-2017, 11:15 PM
I've got a Stella Banjo Uke - the cheap one with 8 tension hooks, an out-of-round pot, frets right in the neck with no separate fret board, and friction tuners (that someone identified a Champion tuners...)

I bought it as Wall Art at a pawn shop in Auburn, NY around 1978, and that's what it was, until about 5 years ago when I walked into the local uke group, and someone was playing ... a Stella Banjo Uke! That's when I discovered it was playable... within limits.

Intonation is fine for the first 5 frets. After that, forget it. The tuners probably need to be disassembled and cleaned, because they slip, and I don't dare tighten the screw any more than it is. I had to replace the bridge because I accidentally snapped it while trying to reposition it. There is rust and grime, and the original skin head is still on it.

I pull it out and play it every now and then, and it sounds just fine.


And, hokey-pokey not withstanding, isn't that what it is all about?



-Kurt

OhioBelle
02-23-2017, 01:05 AM
The only thing named Stella I ever saw was a scooter.
http://www.genuinescooters.com/stella4.html

I love Stella scooters! I have a Genuine Buddy :)

Griffis
02-23-2017, 02:14 AM
Smeckman, I think it's a really lovely old instrument. I have owned vintage Stella guitars and an old Stella-branded mandolin over the years. They varied in quality, but overall were good players after some work and cleaning.

I have never seen a Stella uke to my recollection, aside from banjo-ukes which I've seen a few of.

I really love the looks of it. Has some history behind it!

Can you tell if it's solid wood?

JJFN
02-23-2017, 04:12 AM
Stella also made a decent tenor guitar, at a reasonable price. I had one back in the late 60's and tried to tune at a higher key and the neck snapped. Good bye Stella. Always, liked it, see some on Ebay, but they are very old.

Just saw my exact model on the 'net, price $338. I paid 16.95., of course gas was 25 cents a gallon at that time.

stevepetergal
02-23-2017, 04:44 AM
Just saw my exact model on the 'net, price $338. I paid 16.95., of course gas was 25 cents a gallon at that time.

Yeah, sure. I doubt the seller will get 338 bucks. Yours is a lovely example of a "first-wave" copy of the Hawaiian instruments of the early 20th century. It's in great condition, as well. But I think you paid a fair price for it.

Smeckman
02-23-2017, 08:29 AM
Thanks everybody for your posts. I find it interesting that you all haven't seen many of these before. It makes me feel as though I have something pretty special. Yes, I believe it is made of solid birch. The quality isn't as fine as my Martin 2K but it's really cool IMO. I can't wait to get it up and running.

ukulelekarcsi
02-24-2017, 03:16 AM
Yours is probably the earlier variant of Stella ukuleles, made by Oscar Schmidt in New Jersey. The wood is mahogany, the shape more hourglass-like like the Hawaiian examples, the scale is a bit more like the longer scale Martin would start using. Here's a slightly more fancy version (rosette and checkered binding): https://antebelluminstruments.blogspot.be/2013/01/c1920-oscar-schmidt-mahogany-soprano.html

After 1929 the brand was sold and eventually ended up with Harmony in Chicago, who used the same logo but with very different woods, heels, headstocks, ... So that narrows it down to approx. 1915-1929.

Smeckman
02-25-2017, 01:45 PM
Thanks for posting that Ukelelekarcsi. That one is very similar to mine. I'm pretty sure that mine is made from birch. Interesting too is that OS used a dovetail joint. My uke has a very high bridge. Since this will require either a neck set or cutting the bridge down to lower the action, I am slightly tempted to cut the bridge. I guess I'll talk it over with my luthier first but these are not real expensive ukes and I don't want to sink too much money into getting it up and running.