Stella Koa Grand Concert Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1920s)

Stella  Koa Grand Concert Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1920s)
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Item # 7685
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Stella Koa Grand Concert Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1920s), made in Jersey City, NJ, natural lacquer finish, koa wood body, mahorany neck with ebonized fingerboard, black hard shell case.

This guitar is a very interesting and quite playable example of a rare original Grand Concert size flat-top made by the Oscar Schmidt Company, creators of the signature instruments prized by fingerstyle blues pickers everywhere. It is branded "Stella", the classic name familiar to all pre-war blues fans, but was originally intended for a different audience: Hawaiian musicians. It is made of genuine Hawaiian koa wood and has the look and features of guitars made in the islands in the 1910s and '20s by builders like Nunes.

This Stella is fairly fancy-looking and is also a good quality guitar for this maker. The body has lovely grained koa on the back, sides, and top. The top edge and sound hole ring are decorated with the wooden "zipper" pattern binding used on actual Hawaiian ukuleles and guitars at the time. The original ladder top bracing is intact, with some small added braces for stability. Inside the sound hole is the classic yellow paper "Stella" guitar label that is often counterfeited these days; this one is genuine.

The guitar has typical Schmidt characteristics including squared-off kerfing under the top, a position dot at the 10th fret, a slightly canted heelcap, and a particular design of wide-ended pyramid bridge. The long 26" scale mahogany neck has a deep and chunky "V" profile. The typically angled slotted headstock is faced in rosewood without any markings and fitted with typical period openback strip tuners. This guitar was not a square neck conversion; when new it may have been offered for either regular "Spanish" accompaniment playing or the Hawaiian steel playing with a raised nut.

The sound is powerful with a lot of character. The koa adds a brightness without diminishing a rich and fairly even response to the tone. This guitar remains in far better and more original condition than most Schmidt instruments from the period. A good-playing and sounding example of a relatively rare and interesting Island creation from Jersey City.
 
Overall length is 40 1/4 in. (102.2 cm.), 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 26 1/4 in. (667 mm.). Width of nut is 1 7/8 in. (48 mm.).

This guitar shows some repairs, but remains in better and more original condition than most period Oscar Schmidt instruments. Over the years it has been refretted and almost certainly had the neck reset. Several small additional braces have been added under the top to help stabilize the instrument; Schmidt guitars, in particular early koa examples like this, have rarely survived the nearly 100 years since their construction without some added help. These are located on either side of the sound hole and in the area just in front of the bridge. Amazingly for a body made of koa from this vintage, there are no cracks at all, which is little short of miraculous.

The rosewood pyramid bridge is the original and has never been cut down; it does not appear to have ever even needed to be re-attached. The bridgepins and endpin appear original as well. Overall the finish shows fairly extensive checking with dings, dents, and scrapes and some light pick wear to the top. The upper end of the fingerboard has a couple of heavy dents, probably from Hawaiian playing with a steel long ago. The original openback strip tuners are still intact and functional.

This beautiful and very unique guitar has a lovely sound and is quite playable, although the unaltered original flat-radius fingerboard and bridge may take some adjustment for the player accustomed to more modern setups. This old Koa guitar still makes a wonderful Hawaiian style instrument as it was likely intended and is a fine fingerpicking and blues machine as well. Overall Excellent Condition.