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Thread: Stella Mandolin

  1. #1

    Question Stella Mandolin

    I just inherited my grandfather's mandolin. It is a Stella bowl back probably made by Oscar Schmidt from reading other forum posts. It literally sat on my folk's piano for 50 years. I want to play it again. However, the inlay is crumbling to pieces and so I tried re-gluing, but it has only gotten worse. Where can I a) get an inlay? original was black. b) what material should I use to re-create it? I have seen some luthier supply places with some dark woods at 1/16. I am an amateur wood worker too. Not sure if I have the patience to cut more than the central fleur de lis. thanks for any help.Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    40.1646 N, 74.2083 W

    Default Re: Stella Mandolin

    Yes, that one was made by Oscar Schmidt. One of our resident bowlback experts will jump in with some more information.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: Stella Mandolin

    What do you mean by "inlay?" Is it the inlaid piece around and below the soundhole? That's the "pickguard" or "finger rest" or "scratchplate", depending on nomenclature.

    It's almost certainly black celluloid, a type of plastic that has a tendency to deteriorate with age, inlaid with a contrasting design. I thought initially the light inlay might have been mother-of-pearl, but on second look, it's probably another man-made material. I assume it's the celluloid that's crumbling.

    It's not impossible, though perhaps expensive, to get another pickguard made (if that's the part to which you're referring). You could get a plain black celluloid of the same or similar shape. Don't know the feasibility of reproducing the inlay; you seem to think it's wood, which would be do-able if you or your restorer has the skill.

    The restoration cost (and I don't know who'd be doing it; perhaps others have some suggestions) would almost certainly exceed the value of the mandolin, which was a mid-level instrument at best and has extensive top wear -- someone surely played the potatoes out of it, back in the day.

    The other "easy fix" -- and I expect others will chastise me for suggesting it -- would be to get some adhesive-backed clear vinyl, such as is sometimes used for "pickguards" on classical/flamenco guitars, and just cover the existing pickguard, sealing in the old material and preventing it from crumbling away. This is a jerry-rig expedient, but has the virtue of being inexpensive.

    I may be wrong about the location of the deterioration, and other materials than celluloid were also used for pickguards glued to the top, but that's my 2 take on it.
    Allen Hopkins
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  4. #4
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Southeast Tennessee

    Default Re: Stella Mandolin

    Celluloid sheet stock is available from Axiom Inc.--

    Unfortunately, celluloid is now classified as a hazardous material and there is a flat $33 hazardous materials shipping surcharge on all orders, no matter how large or small the order. You can lessen the sting by combining an order with someone else who needs celluloid binding, pickguard material, or sheet stock.

    Don't blame the supplier, they have no choice. The surcharge is required by law.

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