4/16/2012

c.1920 Oscar Schmidt "Stella" Flatback Mandolin





These Oscar Schmidt instruments from the 20s really are kick-butt rides for the cash. This all-birch, plain-Jane mandolin shouldn't sound anywhere near as good as it does, but it does. It must have something to do with those Italian and Portuguese immigrants running through the Ferry Street factory!


My work on this guy included hairline crack repairs to the top, seam reglues, a neck reset, fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup. I also shimmed up the bridge a little and installed a new bone topper to replace the broken original one.


Fun "Stella" branding on the headstock.


Pearl dots, rosewood board. The neck is extra comfy and feels similar to a Martin or Vega mandolin neck shape vs. the more U-shaped Chicago style mando necks.


Fun decal.


Tailpiece is simple and works. I've stuffed some foam under the top edge of it to mute overtones.



The binding around the soundhole is real. The "binding" on the top is just a sanded-and-finished top edge. This style of faux binding/edging is seen on many of the popular 12-fret Stella blues guitars of the time.

The fretboard extension dips slightly down from the rest of the board after the neck reset, but doesn't really effect playability that much. I don't know many folks who play old A-style flatbacks regularly going above the 12th or 15th fret. That said, the action is spot on and fassssst.



Some of the seams have crept a little at the side/back joints but it's all stable and ready to go.




Nice tobacco burst all over.

The tone on this mando is not as I'd expect from a birch instrument -- it's not tubby at all and has a nice, balanced, punchy sound.



Original tuners have been lubed.


Because of a slightly poorly-fitting neck joint pre-reset, after reset I had to smooth out the join's seam a little with some backfill.

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