A Few Stella Guitar Myths and Factoids
1. All "A. Galiano" guitars were made by Oscar
Untrue. Although many Galiano guitars were
relabeled Stellas made by Schmidt, a fair number of them were made by independent Italian
American luthiers such as Antonio Cerrito, Raphael Ciani,
and Joseph Nettuno. Still others
were purchased from various large Chicago factories like Kay, Regal
2. All instruments with an "underlined" Stella
logo were made in Jersey City.
Untrue. After buying out the bankrupted Oscar
Schmidt Company, from 1939 until about 1942 Harmony
continued to use the old underlined Oscar Schmidt logo on their
"Stella" instruments. Some of these instruments were made from remnant
parts acquired after their buyout of the Schmidt organization.
Others were entirely made in their Chicago plant.
3. One can always identify an Oscar Schmidt-made guitar
by the shape of the kerfed lining inside the instrument.
Untrue. It is commonly believed that only
Oscar Schmidt used a combination of square kerfing along the top
and beveled along the back, therefore this is the key to
identification of genuine Oscar Schmidt instruments. It is true
that most guitars and mandolins that Schmidt produced have square-shaped kerfed lining along
the top edge and beveled along the back. But not all of them
have this feature. There are more than a few Schmidt instruments
that have square along both surfaces. And we have seen others
with beveled in both the top and back position, a feature most
often seen on very fancy koa
wood models. Conversely, it is worth noting that other
manufacturers occasionally mixed square and beveled kerfed
linings on their instruments.
4. Harmony-made Stella guitars are made of
Untrue. Until the 1970s, the Harmony Company
used only solid woods for just about every acoustic flat top
instrument they made. Their Stella instruments were made from
solid slab-sawn birch, which to the untrained eye often has a grain
pattern that looks rather like "plywood". Harmony Stella guitars
usually have a poplar neck with a dyed maple or birch
fingerboard. High-end Harmony flat tops feature solid mahogany and
solid spruce components.
5. Stella guitars are ladder braced because it is a cheaper way to build a guitar.
Although "x-bracing" is somewhat more labor
intensive than ladder-bracing, this was not the primary reason
Stella guitars were made using this bracing technique. The work force at the Oscar Schmidt
factory in Jersey City was to a large extent comprised of
European-trained craftsmen. The guitars they produced were
ladder braced, not because it was the "cheap" way to build a
guitar, but because this was the customary way steel stringed
guitars were built in Italy, France and Germany until the
mid-twentieth century. Italian-American makers such as Antonio
Cerrito, Raphael Ciani and Joseph Nettuno made many great
guitars using the same bracing patterns in use by the Oscar
Schmidt factory. Also consider the esteemed Selmer-Maccafferi guitars
made famous by Gypsy jazz great Django Reinhardt. These
distinguished French steel string guitars are all ladder-braced
and are very highly regarded! And they command hefty prices on
today's market. Like the Stella and Sovereign guitars,
Selmer-Maccafferi guitars owe much of their distinctive tone to their
From time to time we will
update this feature with more Stella Myths and Factoids.