The Bluesbox Collection

1920's "FrankenStella" Hybrid Guitar (Oscar Schmidt/Des Lauriers)

This guitar is basically an experiment on my part. The spruce face, and maple sides are from a 1920's Stella (Oscar Schmidt). The pick guard shown here is from a 1930's round-hole archtop. I installed the pearl dots to fill the mounting screw holes. I originally received this guitar in pieces. The back was broken, and there were parts of it missing, the neck was detached and badly warped. At first I just salvaged some parts off of it (nut, tailpiece, bridge, tuners) and put what was left in storage.

A few month ago I was showing one of the other guitars in my collection to a guitar builder friend. The guitar in question was a 50's Kay acoustic flat-top with a bolt-on neck. I was not happy with the instrument, and my friend suggested that I could get more volume out of it by shimming the neck to change the angle. This would force me to raise the bridge height, thus increasing the string-break angle - which would make the guitar louder. I did some experimenting along those lines, but since the guitar had an 1/8th inch plywood body, it wasn't really having much effect. I then remembered the old Stella. I pulled it out of the closet and went to work. First I removed the old back and tossed it, then I built a slotted block into the top end to receive the bolt-on neck. I cut the old neck off, leaving the heel in place, and glued it back into the dovetail joint. I then carved a new back for the guitar and reassembled it with the Kay neck. I was still disatisfied with the results, however. The new neck was not really very straight and didn't have a truss rod to adjust. So I went back to eBay and spent the next several weeks searching for a suitable neck. I eventually found one, off an old Des Lauriers guitar.

This shot shows the neck-to-body join. As you can see, the body turned out to be asymetrical, so although the join seam is centered on the body, the neck bolts don't quite line up. The new back is made from African Mahogany, which I purchased from Stewart MacDonald Lutherie Supply. I stained the rim slightly reddish to better match the new back. The neck is one-piece poplar, with a rosewood fingerboard. I refinished the neck itself, but left the old fingerboard alone. I faced the peg head with an overlay of tortoise shell. These open-back tuners came with the neck. This shot shows the results of the neck angle adjustment. At the saddle break, the strings are lifted about 5/8" off of the face, so the set up is more like an arch top then a flat top. This gives the guitar a very punchy, loud sound. The neck joins the body at the 13th fret instead of the traditional 12th, but the sound is still very characteristic of traditional Stella tone - with a sound hole pick-up, this guitar is one of the best sounding blues axes I own. This shot through the sound hole shows the label I manufactured for my "hybrid creation".

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