1960s Harmony-made H912 Stella 12-String 000-Size Guitar

After seeing a Silvertone version of this guitar that I worked-on, a fellow asked if I had something like it, and lo-and-behold, a consignor of mine had this funk-tastic old 12-string doing time in the guitar-racks. So, I put it in my schedule, and now it's done and will be going to the lucky inquirer as far as I can tell. Hey presto! Instant Leadbelly for him!

While it's not really the same thing as the old '20s Oscar Schmidt 12-strings, these tailpiece-loaded Harmony 12-strings are really the only more-modern instruments I've played that regularly nail the vibe and tone correctly. They're built cheap, built sturdy, and built funky. They even have slotted headstocks so they look like they could've been plucked right out of the '30s with their faux-bound, stenciled-on trim and yellowy-green-brown sunburst finish.

I have to tell you, though -- before these see work to make them into proper instruments, every single one of these I've played without work has been a pile of junk. The neck angles are all bad, there's often loose bracing, and they simply can't play. What transforms them into competition for the "old guys" is taming all of their bad by giving them the attention they need to get there.

And -- after putting that time into it -- they reward you with the bombastic bangs, clangs, groans, and clanks you might want from an old "Stella 12." These guitars like to be hit hard and played with lower-note runs and fills. They're not pretty-sounding, shimmery, chordal-strummer-type guitars (though I suppose you could do that Pete Seeger-style on these) -- they're brute-force, bluesy, bang-clankers -- and I love them for it.

Work included: a neck reset, reglue jobs to most back braces in places, a new oversized main brace/popsicle brace to replace a broken original under the fretboard extension, fret level/dress, new bone nut, compensation and repair of the original saddle, seam repairs, cleaning, and setup.

Setup: the neck is straight and action is dead-on at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret. I have it tuned to standard pitch with custom extra-light gauges: 22w/46w E, 14/36w A, 10/26w D, 8/18w G, 12/12 B, 9/9 E. For a step down, regular "10s" are suggested while C-to-C-tuning could use regular 12-string "11s" or "12s" as desired.

Scale length: 25 1/8"
Nut width: 2 1/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 13/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2 7/16"
Body length: 19"
Lower bout width: 15 1/4"
Waist width: 9 1/2"
Upper bout width: 11 3/4"
Side depth at endpin: 3 7/8"
Top wood: solid birch
Back/sides wood: solid birch
Neck wood: poplar
Bracing type: ladder
Fretboard: ebonized maple or pearwood
Bridge: ebonized maple or pearwood, compensated saddle, floating
Neck feel: medium D/classical-like shape, flattish board with ~14-16" radius to frets

Condition notes: amazingly, it's all-original save for the new bone nut. Tuners are old and not great but work fine and are lubed. The finish has greened/greyed in areas but looks good. There's plenty of evidence of small usewear and bumps here and there throughout. It's been lived-in!

I never use the front row of holes on these old Harmony 12-string tailpieces. It's much better to let the strings ride under the front edge so as to avoid weird overtones and rattles. Note the individual string compensation at the saddle. Thank goodness for Dremel bits...