Stella Gets a Facelift

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Project by CharlieM1958 posted 314 days ago 864 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


14243 posts in 2567 days

#1 posted 314 days ago

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


15544 posts in 2719 days

#2 posted 314 days ago

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


34796 posts in 2901 days

#3 posted 314 days ago

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. Southern Delaware †

View Napaman's profile


5275 posts in 2578 days

#4 posted 314 days ago

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


1383 posts in 1098 days

#5 posted 314 days ago

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

4787 posts in 1929 days

#6 posted 314 days ago

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

2071 posts in 1141 days

#7 posted 314 days ago

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


4617 posts in 2383 days

#8 posted 314 days ago

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


6757 posts in 2149 days

#9 posted 314 days ago

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


15544 posts in 2719 days

#10 posted 314 days ago

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


1054 posts in 1444 days

#11 posted 314 days ago

Good job Charlie.

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

-- Back home. Fernando

View majuvla's profile


2892 posts in 1368 days

#12 posted 314 days ago

Incredible work.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View NonnoTony48's profile


84 posts in 464 days

#13 posted 314 days ago

Woowww Beautiful work, congrats.

Cheers Tony.

View sedcokid's profile


2651 posts in 2099 days

#14 posted 314 days ago

Great Job Charlie!!

Thanks for sharing

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View Roz's profile


1655 posts in 2287 days

#15 posted 313 days ago

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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