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Another Fixer Upper Found Me


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Right on the heels of my 1940s Regal 12 string trash can find another abused and unloved orphan came looking for a home. This time it be a late 1930s Schmidt "Westbrook" Stella. Interesting guitar in that I am almost convinced that this was one of the unsold instruments that Harmony acquired when they bought the Schmidt Company in 1939. While the neck and body were without a doubt made by Schmidt, the tailpiece and bridge just scream Harmony. There is a neck reset and some other minor repairs in the guitars future but it is playable enough as is so I can enjoy it for a bit. And for less than $50 I can't complain. These guitars epitomize the pre-War blues sound.


Yowzah- the hits just keep coming. Now if I can only find a 1930s Gibson needed somebody to help it out for under $100 my life would be complete.





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I encountered the same serendipity when I was into radio controlled gliders.

People would tell me about their dusty orphans in the attic or garage.

I received 4 gliders that were assembled and one new in the box kit.

I was able to fly them all but found they crashed on their last flight.


Now, to get into offering orphaned guitars a good home.

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So, ZW, how do you find these things? I know this didn't just show up on your doorstep with an "adopt me, please" sign around its neck.



Sometimes a guitar somebody found in an attic or somewhere does show up generally with a "you want to buy it" attached. Normally it does not pan out though.


I am trying to be more discriminating about what I take in than I have been in the past. I am wanting guitars that are harder to find and that after all is said and done I will have invested no more than 1/2 of what the thing would normally sell for. In the case of my Regal 12 string, a vintage store would ask 5 to 6 times what I will have in it.


Best place I have found to snag these things though is the back room of Mom & Pop stores where they stash guitars they took in on trade but do not feel are worth getting fixed up.


For me, finding them is not the hard part - it is recognizing what you found. Lack of labels, logos and model or serial numbers or headstocks with one of a hundred different logos slapped on there by the jobbers over the decades makes sorting the guitars out from one another not the easiest task on the face of the planet.


This last one has a "Granada" logo. As far as I know the Schmidt company never made a guitar with this house brand. But Harmony did. And as I said, I have seen that exact same bridge and tailpiece on countless guitars made by Harmony between 1934 and 1940. But the guitar also has an angled neck joint. The Schmidt Company was the only one to do this. Add to that the square top kerfing and domed back and it was not hard to put all the pieces together and come up with Westbrook Stella (Westbrook was the house brand of large west coast distributor Schmidt made instruments for during the mid- and late 1930s). Point is, if I was not able to recognize these features, I probably would have passed the guitar up thinking it was just another of the countless old Harmonys out there. Even then, I went to the one guy who knows Schmidt guitars better than anybody to confirm I had what I thought I did. While I have a good working knowledge, I am in no way an expert on these things so it never hurts to get somebody who really knows their way around these guitars to chime in.

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Good on you zombywoof. For those that haven't tried it, you'll likely run across one these kind of fixer-upper guitars eventually. And it's actually a pretty fun project. I tried my hand at it a few years back on an Alvarez PF90S that I saw in the local classifieds. It was in bad shape and cheap. But a little pre buy research revealed it was a solid top/solid back guitar worthy of checking out. It was in even worse condition than advertised, but with a little haggling I got it dirt cheap. Especially since I was reportedly the only one who exhibited any interest in buying it.

Then I bought a guitar finishing kit online at around $120. that included everything you need from various grits of sandpaper to all the finish prep, paints and final finish sprays. I went for a Tobacco Sunburst finish to cover up some previous owner applied top imperfections. And to do so had to go with a significantly smaller burst than desired. Had to put a new bridge on it as well. Also put on a tiger strip pick guard. After all was finished I had it pro adjusted by my luthier. Up close it's a decidedly obvious amateurish job with few runs etc. But it was fun and and great learning experience. And it's MUCH better than it was and is now a great playing & sounding guitar.




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