9/20/2015

1920s Oscar Schmidt-made Stella Tenor Guitar




I don't see OS tenors of this size very often -- I mostly see the "size 5" short scale examples. This is a standard 0-size body in all-solid birch and sporting the cool blues-friendly decalcomania decorations I'm used to seeing on the 6-string version of this same model. In fact, considering the awkward placement of the bridge over the decal... I would have to guess that someone at the factory borrowed a 6-string body and simply popped a tenor neck on to make this one.

All that said, this is a nice-sounding box with a ringy, mandolin-ish edge to it. I think it's tuned down a half-step in the clip from standard (CGDA), though, so fair warning. No reason -- just tuned up by intervals quickly after adjusting the nut depth. This is a customer's instrument and it got the usual repairs necessary for these guys: neck reset, fret level/dress, new nut and floating bridge, general cleaning, and setup work. It plays spot-on and certainly has a great look to it.


I love the way OS managed to get their birch looking a lot like mahogany with that tobacco-brown finish. It's rather an art to get it so uniformly chocolate.


New bone nut and... replacement tuners! I pulled these late 30s/early 40s Klusons from my parts bin as I figured they fit the aesthetic. I didn't want my customer having to struggle with the worn-out old Champion friction pegs when this got to him. The straight-sided headstock makes using guitar-style tuners practical aesthetically, too.


Brass frets, celluloid dots...


The nice bit about this guitar is that it's crack-free and quite clean on the body.



I actually made a nice compensated bone bridge for this guitar at first but used the period trick of a banjo bridge instead. It got more of that "tenor guitar chime" sound that I was looking for and doesn't look as out-of-place sitting over the decal.

This guitar has a 23" scale rather than the 25" scale common to Stellas from this time and so it places the bridge in an interesting spot for bracing on the top. I think that, unfortunately, the lower GDAE (octave mandolin) tuning is simply not a very good option with the way this guitar is braced. It has a lot of volume and punch but the bridge being so high up means that it doesn't have as much bass as a regular 12-fret Stella 6-string.

Personally, I like tenor guitars tuned to open chords and I love the CGCG you get when dropping standard CGDA pitch to that. With the 14 frets free on this guitar that means you can capo around to other keys fairly easy.










1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this one, great looks and great sound! Thanx for sharing!