The Blind Willie McTell model - All Original Restored Condition, Great Character, Looks & BluesTone - "In the Workshop" for restoration & already "pre-ordered"!

Preliminary Announcement - initially photos are of this 1964 H922, as it arrived, prior to repair/restoration - I have another H922, more recently arrived, possibly from 1962 (VTG1556), has the same original model features, and more detailed description can be supplied on request, if I have not first had the opportunity to update the website.

Update - now reserved on Pre-Order for a customer in Shropshire!

Update - 22/08/2020 - Restoration Completed! Awaiting Collection. Meantime new set of photos added of completed restoration, with fitted L R Baggs Lyric pickup.

The last example of this very scarce & difficult to locate model I sold went to Perry Foster, Bluesman, Guitarist/Singer - "Big Daddy of British Blues"; "The Old Maestro" - http://www.perryfoster.co.uk.....restoration having been completed in February, 2015 from Perry's pre-order reservation just a couple of months earlier in the December....I have both Harmony Stella H912 & H913 12-string models, which are the successors to the H922, "in the workshop"....if you may be interested in one of these please contact me - Photos showing this actual guitar were taken before Repair/Restoration work commenced.

Apart from being in the ownership of one of this country's foremost & long-established Blues figureheads, the previously restored & sold H922 Stella had some other interesting recent history. In October 2014 I was approached by the prominent London based, Eagle Rock Productions, seeking the loan of that Stella 12-string for filming use in connection with their production in progress and titled "Legend of Lead Belly" film, aired on the 23rd February, 2015 on the Smithsonian Channel in America, and now available on their subscription channel.

Although with the longest production period, the H922 is not only the oldest, but the hardest to find of the three Stella 12-string models that Harmony made in Chicago in the years from 1940 through to 1971....during this period of over 30 years nothing really changed...size, construction, etc. stayed the same...just the paint job changed!

I am now finding that I regularly "pre-sell" my guitars, at the stage where I am still working on them, and although previously I had my doubts, this arrangement has now worked well in quite a number of cases, so I have decided to list some of the guitars coming through the workshop, in advance of them being fully ready, and welcome further enquiries.
Stock Number: VTG1524.

..........I don't often get to list these when already up & running and ready for sale...they tend to get reserved before we get there! At the time of writing I have four Stella 12 strings in stock, all waiting for me to complete work on them.

Basically, Harmony made Stella 12 strings are either the earlier Stella H922 (the Blind Willie McTell model!), made through from around 1940, when Harmony acquired the Stella name, up to about 1964, which was followed by the sunburst H912 to 1968, and then the natural/blond topped H913 to 1971....still the All Solid Birch, Ladder Braced 12 Fret to the body Stella with that classic slotted open headstock, still reminiscent of the early Stellas way back - designed to be tuned down for that characteristic 12 String Blues sound - and they are loud!

The original catalogues contains the following caution:- "A 12 string guitar should never be tuned up to regular 6 string guitar pitch, to avoid pulling up the top, or bowing the neck. Experienced players recommend tuning three or four half-tones lower." We have moved on of course since, with lighter string gauges, but it is still the case that these guitars were designed for that spine-tingling detuned sound, often achieved by tuning down to C, or other tunings that were commonly used.

In general terms the highly respected professional luthier I work with sees no problem in tuning 12 strings to concert pitch, but the increased tension is great, and these are vintage guitars! I generally fit two alternative stringing options - either with Martin Bronze Light gauge 12-54 gauge needed for the suggested C, or similar tuning, but which must only be used for lowered tunings, or Martin Bronze Extra-light 10-47 gauge, with which you might still want to tune to D and capo.

The model identifier & production date ink stamps are clearly visible. The date stamp reads S-64 indicating that it was made in one of the 1964 production runs. Although it is needing some typical restoration attention, as detailed in the "Condition" section below, the cosmetic finish & hardware condition is really very good for a 53 year old Stella.
I think you will see from the photos, the cosmetic condition of the finish to most areas is really very good for a 50 year old vintage Stella. Inevitably there is some marking and small areas of localised wear & finish loss, including to the painted edge "bindings" and seams.

The guitar has been fully checked-over in conjunction with the very well-respected professional luthier I work with, and work is proceeding, much of it in his workshop and all under his supervision. This will include re-setting the neck, after fingerboard removal for access to the joint, which will then possibly require hardwood veneer lining on the underside, before re-attachment, and may also require then re-levelling from above & re-fretting.

The tuning machines some typical age-related discolouration, but are working fine. The original tailpiece likewise shows only a small degree of discolouration, but is bright & sound. The original Ebonised floating bridge, with original saddle is in good shape.

I will update the restoration details following the progress of workshop sessions.
Action, strings & cases
When correctly set up, all the Harmony Stella 12-strings play nicely with the distinct "D" profile neck on the later models, as this one, but all with that 2"/approx. 51mm. nut width & 25 1/4"/642mm. scale length. I aim for a 12th. fret action of around 3mm., making it ideal for a mixture of both fretted and bottleneck play.

The sound of these guitars is typically loud and pokey, just as a Stella should be - a great Bluesy voice! It has "That Sound" in spades - even, woody, bright, clear, ringing tone!

As mentioned earlier, the usual stringing options are Martin Bronze XL 10-47 gauge strings, necessary if tuning up to or near concert pitch, alternatively Martin Light 12-54, only for lowered tuning, or a third option I used at Mark Braidner#'s request on the H912 restored for him completed around Christmas 2015 are John Pearse Heavy Gauge 13-56 strings, designed for C# tuning.

There is no case included with the guitar. I do have one or two period correct pressed fibreboard cases, or alternatively I may be able to supply a virtually unused Hiscox Liteflite hardshell case, offering much better protection, and if I can marry the guitar to a suitable case, I will be please to agree a combined price for guitar + case.


The approx. dimensions are as follows:-

Overall length: 40"/101cm.
Width: 15.25"/38.7cm.
Top Bout: 11.75"/29.8cm.
Waist: 9.5"/23.7cm.
Depth: Front: 3.375"/8.6cm.
Rear: 3.875"/9.75cm.
Scale:- 12 frets to the body 25.25"/642mm.
Nut Width: 2"/51mm.
Fingerboard 12th fret width: 2.375"/60mm.
Floating Bridge string spacing: 2.9"/62.5mm.
Tailpiece: string spacing 2.5"/57mm.
length: 4"/10.1mm.
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"Yes of course that would be no problem at all quoting for my last email. I meant every word of it and loving the guitar more and more the more that I play it. I must say that it really comes to life when I get the finger and thumb picks on, almost pianoesque if there's such a word and sounding great with the slide.".......and the original feedback verbatim.....

"I'm happy to report that the guitar arrived with me here in Belfast this afternoon.
It was exciting opening the box, I was like a kid at Christmas you could say and I wasn't disappointed when I opened the box up.
First impression was that the guitar looks stunning to me and I could have swore it said 'hello'!

I've now tuned it up, to the open 'C' that I had mentioned and have been playing away on it with it sounding better all the time as the strings bed in.
The action is all but perfect for me. It allows me to play slide easily and also fret the guitar in a conventional way very comfortably.
The neck is smooth to run along and not too wide, I wouldn't have the biggest hands in the world.
I can see the slight blemishes that you mentioned where the binding had separated after the removal of the top but that isn't really an issue at all.
The guitar is in great nick for it's age and I look forward to enjoying many happy hours playing it both at home and in a gigging situation (after fitting a pick up) and I will definitely get a you tube video or two up for anyone interested to take a look at!
Anyway thank you so much for your time and effort into restoring the guitar to such a high standard.
It has been a pleasure dealing with you too Bob. On the ball with your knowledge and concise assessments and always 'keeping me in the loop'. If anyone comes up to me and says to me 'I'm looking a vintage acoustic like that one can you recommend anyone?' I'll most definitely and gladly point them in your direction.

All the best with your future projects, I'm sure you have requests and instruments coming in all the time. I'll keep an eye on your website too and you never know in the future something might grab me! Meantime take care and all the best.


**** YOUTUBE ****

YouTube is well blessed with clips from players who really can play, on similar H912 & H913 Stellas....but the embedded clip here is a bit of a con....looks like an H922, dark 'burst & no scratchplate, but it is in fact a Silvertone (SEars) branded version of the later H912/913.....but BottleneckJohn on any Stella 12-string...not to be missed!

On the other details for the H912,currently also being restored, I have included links to a selection from "Guitarded71", Jim Perrett & "Deepriver100"....the latter not titled, but "She moves through the Fair", if I'm not mistaken - not Blues, but class playing to my ears - and note how he has the floating bridge angled back just a little to aid intonation across the strings - the other two videos for the Blues!

Anyway, while we are on my favourite source of bottlenecking....Bottleneck John, I have added 2 further links below to live session, and John's own custom 12-string "Stella" rebuild!
Useful links
Vintage 12-string jammin' & hollerin' the blues! - BottleneckJohn
Vintage 12-string guitar!! 1920/30's style..- BottleneckJohn
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