Stella Gets a Facelift

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Project by CharlieM1958 posted 06-08-2013 09:48 PM 1887 views 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been playing around with the idea of working on guitars. This old Stella Harmony child’s guitar was laying around in a closet, so I decided to experiment with it.

I was surprised by the beauty of the wood used for the back…. the top was not nearly as figured. I have no idea what either species is. I used a red oak stain to add some color. I was originally going to finish the whole guitar in natural, but when I started sanding the neck, I realized it was poplar, and would have not looked good in anything but black.

I used rattle-can lacquer for both the black and the clearcoat. This was really my first time using lacquer, and I learned quite a bit. I was originally planning to go for a super-high glass, but when I started sanding and rubbing out I realized I probably had not built up enough coats. It would have been easy enough to keep adding more coats, but I saw enough to know I was on the right track, and there was really no point in wasting a lot more time adding lipstick to this little piglet. Plus, I sort of liked the gloss level as it was.

I forgot to take before photos, but the last photo is one I found on the internet that is pretty much a dead ringer for what I started with.

This was a fun project, and I definitely see more guitar work in my future.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

19 comments so far

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4461 days

#1 posted 06-08-2013 09:56 PM

Looks like a winner. So are you thinking about a build from scratch?

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4613 days

#2 posted 06-08-2013 10:34 PM

I’m definitely not ready to go from scratch, Bill. I’m thinking more along the lines of repairing damaged guitars, or maybe a kit build.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Karson's profile


35188 posts in 4796 days

#3 posted 06-08-2013 10:39 PM

Great job Charlie.

Some nice finishing.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Napaman's profile


5530 posts in 4472 days

#4 posted 06-08-2013 10:41 PM

you forgot to take pictures! LOL…i have done that!

Either way—-what an amazing restoration. I really like the job you did…and hopefully you learned a lot!

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View amagineer's profile


1415 posts in 2992 days

#5 posted 06-08-2013 10:45 PM

Charlie: You really brought out the grain in the wood. When I decided to build a string instrument I was bit skeptical, so I decided to build a Mountain Dulcimer, which is not as hard as a guitar. With a little research and chatting with the people at “McSpadden Dulcimers”, who by the way are very helpful, I built my first Dulcimer. You can see it in “my projects”. I have since built other string instruments.

-- Flaws are only in the eye of the artisan!

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11591 posts in 3824 days

#6 posted 06-08-2013 10:54 PM

That’s a fine looking geetar, Charlie. Great refinish job.
You guys that build stringed instruments have my admiration!

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 3035 days

#7 posted 06-08-2013 11:11 PM

Charlie, VERY NICE resto. Many a child had a guitar like that as a nice first “real” guitar (meaning it will stay in tune long enough to play a song). It sure looks better than it did. Good job!

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View SPalm's profile


5333 posts in 4277 days

#8 posted 06-08-2013 11:29 PM

Hey Charlie, that is a wonderful restoration.

I too have a lot of admiration for the luthiers out there. What a neat segment of woodworking.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4043 days

#9 posted 06-08-2013 11:48 PM

I had a Stella several years ago – it had this twangy,
un-nuanced sound that was great for old timey
blues sounds. A lot of the old blue recordings
were done on Stella guitars (they are ladder braced),
which were sold through Montgomery Wards
and thus available to folks of modest means throughout
the South.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4613 days

#10 posted 06-09-2013 12:05 AM

Thanks, Guys.

With a new set of Elixer lights, it doesn’t sound half bad. Intonation is not very good as you move up the neck, but the action is pretty decent.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View fernandoindia's profile


1081 posts in 3339 days

#11 posted 06-09-2013 12:43 AM

Good job Charlie.

Before attempting any restoration to my guitars, I´ll need a couple of

-- Back home. Fernando

View majuvla's profile


14541 posts in 3263 days

#12 posted 06-09-2013 05:39 AM

Incredible work.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View NonnoTony48's profile


85 posts in 2358 days

#13 posted 06-09-2013 12:02 PM

Woowww Beautiful work, congrats.

Cheers Tony.

View sedcokid's profile


2735 posts in 3994 days

#14 posted 06-09-2013 12:31 PM

Great Job Charlie!!

Thanks for sharing

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View Roz's profile


1707 posts in 4181 days

#15 posted 06-09-2013 05:02 PM

I use to have a Stella. Sounded like a Cigar box, but it worked. You gave the old girls a contemporary look. Nice job charlie. I have been thinking about guitar making too.

-- Terry Roswell, L.A. (Lower Alabama) "Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans."

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