Saturday, March 26, 2016

Stelling Guitar - Rare Acoustic Guitars by Huss & Dalton

I found a very rare acoustic guitar in a closet while cleaning out my parent's house:
Stelling Guitar Model SHD145
Serial number 66 of 101
Produced by Stelling Banjo Works of Afton, VA
Built by Huss and Dalton Guitar Company of Staunton, VA
Dated 01/05/1998

This is what I have learned...

Only 101 Stelling Guitars were made during a period from 1990-2002. They have been owned by Larry Sparks, Russell Moore (IIIrd Tyme Out), Charlie Sizemore, James King, Gary Brewer (Kentucky Ramblers), Gary Ferguson, and Leigh Gibson of the Gibson Brothers.

Geoff Stelling formed Stelling Banjo Works in 1974. He is considered among the best banjo makers there is. Jeff Huss began building instruments in 1984 as an apprentice at Stelling. He built several Huss guitars, and then built a few with the Stelling name on them for re-sale by Geoff Stelling. In 1993 he decided to leave Stelling to move into his home shop and build guitars full time. Some with his name, and some under the Stelling name. Mark Dalton became employed by Stelling in 1994. On a visit to Jeff's shop in the summer of 1995, the two began formulating ideas that led to the creation of Huss and Dalton Guitar Company, Inc. They continued to make guitars with the Stelling name on them for re-sale by Geoff Stelling until 2002.

My Dad bought Stelling Guitar #41 from Larry Sparks at a bluegrass festival and fell in love. From what I have been told, he approached Geoff about custom-building a guitar out of rare wood that he supplied, modeled after a Martin D45. The wood and several custom-touches make this a truly one-of-a-kind instrument. Dad was already in very poor health by 1998, and this guitar very likely rarely left the house. Personally, I have only vague recollections of seeing it. Since his passing in 2003, the guitar has remained untouched and I had completely forgotten it existed.

Here's a video of IIIrd Tyme Out performing "Erase All The Miles" featuring a Stelling RHD-100 (serial number 007):

Here's a video showing a Stelling RAD125 (believed to be serial number 016):

Search Internet message boards and you'll find no shortage of raves about Stelling guitars:
  • "This guitar would make you forget about a Martin." - banjoman56
  • "The workmanship is amazing - surpassing anything that Martin was doing at the time (and probably currently)." - WildJimbo
  • "Stelling guitars are great guitars." - docdobro
  • "It's an exceptional instrument in any way." - howsy-bee
  • "They are very nice guitars with great sound. I also have a 2004 Martin HD35 and the Stelling, which is modeled after the HD28 with a Tony Rice sound hole and pick guard, beats the HD35 in an A/B everytime." - jrfmgb
If you own a Stelling Guitar, let me know and I'll add it to this chronology:

  1. First Stelling guitar, model CHD-100 (1990). The first four were made of unstained cherry.
  2. CHD-100 (1990). The first Stelling guitar sold to the public. Robert Hannah, ordered and purchased this guitar in 1990. Now owned by his son Russell Hannah in Ringgold GA.

  3. CHD-100 Owned by private collector in Afton, VA.

  4. RHD-100 (1991) Originally purchased by Russell Moore. Now owned by Ruud de Bruin from The European World of Bluegrass, The Netherlands (see comments below). Photos on Facebook
  5. First RAD-125 with abalone trim (1993) owned by Geoff Stelling.

  6. RAD-125. Resides in Sussex County, Delaware with original owner (10/31/1994).

  7. RAD-125. Owned by private collector in Middlesex, NC.
  8. RAD-125. Owned by Dave Monroe (see comments).

  9. RHD-125. Owned by Private Collector in Raleigh, NC.
  10. RHD-125 (1996) Photos. Recently sold by David's Gear Bazaar in Beverly Hills, CA.

  11. RHD-125 (1996) Photos
  12. RHD-125

  13. RAD-125 (1996) Once played by Charlie Sizemore. *FOR SALE*

  14. RAD-125 (1997). Original owner, Gary Brewer.

  15. RHD-125 (1997). Originally owned by Larry Sparks. Now owned by a private collector in Graham, NC.
  16. RAD-125. Original owner, James King.

  17. Model? Custom made with red spruce and Brazilian rosewood. Resides in east Tennessee (see comments section). 

  18. First SHD-125 model, made of claro walnut (1997).
  19. RHD-125 (1997). Recently for sale in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photos
  20. RHD-125 (1997). Original owner, Gary Ferguson.

  21. SHD-145 (1998) Owned by Larry Weaver of Raleigh, NC, author of this post. Photos

  22. RHD-125 (1998). Resides in Bethel, OH (see comments section)

  23. RHD-125 (05/18/1998). Owned by JRFMGB in Hudson, WI (see comments section)
  24. RHD-125 (1998) Originally purchased by Leigh Gibson of the Gibson Brothers. Now resides in Lakeland, TN (see comments section)

  25. First and only RHD-125S produced featuring a shaded top (1998)

  26. RHD-125 (2000) Photos
  27. SDH-145 (2000) Photos

  28. Last Stelling production guitar made (2002). Owned by Geoff Stelling.

I also found this Stelling Red Fox Series on an archived page. No idea of the year or serial numbers.

To call a Stelling guitar rare is a bit of an understatement. It is truly a piece of guitar history.

Please share your photos, comments and reviews in the comments section below. Know of a Stelling Guitar for sale? Seen a Stelling Guitar on Craigslist or eBay? Let me know and I'll be happy to spread the word.


This is a fan page for Stelling Guitar enthusiasts and has no affiliation with Geoff Stelling, Stelling Banjo Works, Ltd. of Afton, VA, Jeff Huss, or Huss & Dalton Guitar Company of Staunton, VA.


bluegrass4all said...

Hi Larry, great post!

Owning Russell Moore's Stelling RHD 100 I can perhaps add some things.
They may be more specific to my guitar, but some things have been carried into the future.

What continues to strike me, apart from the beauty and warm tone of the instrument, is the scent of the rosewood. When I open the case it really smells like roses, much more than any other rosewood guitar I have owned or own. (I also own 1960 D-28)

There is some confusion on the early models. I have a handwritten note from Geoff that indicates that the 007 is a RHD 120, while their Chronology states RHD 125. (RHD = Rosewood Herringbone Dreadnought)

Both are actually incorrect since the label always tells the truth. It is in fact an RHD 100. (I've asked Stelling to correct this on their website).

A few years ago I've asked Jeff Huss some questions to learn more about my guitar. Here is his input:

- The 007 was the ninth guitar Jeff Huss built. He built a few for himself before the first guitar was branded 'Stelling'.

- The 007 was the first Stelling guitar to have a forwards X bracing

- It was the last Stelling guitar with a normal soundhole. All later guitars have the enlarged soundhole.

- Jeff used a mortised bolt-on butt joint to connect the neck to the body for the first guitars and then switched to a straight butt joint.

- My label contains a two signatures in addition to Jeff's. Jeff explained that one is John Hamlett, who was the finish-man at Stelling who did all the spray work and the other one was Darin Lawrence who did all the buffing an polishing.

- The 007 has a handpainted 'tortoise pattern' pickguard, painted by John Arnold.

Congrats on a wonderful guitar! Please contact me if you ever want to sell it!

jrfmgb said...


I am the JRFMGB listed in the internet comments above, and the happy owner of RHD 125 #75 which was finished on 5/18/98 per the internal label.

I find the history of a used guitar of interest.

In the early fall of 2005 I noticed this guitar on the WWW site of a major guitar dealer in La Crosse, WI. A few weeks later I took a trip to La Crosse and found that I had missed the guitar and that it was at a guitar show in TX, where it was sold. I thought I was out of luck.

A few weeks later the guitar popped up on the WWW site of an online dealer in Richmond, VA. I made the purchase and received it in 11/2005. I contacted the owner of the La Crosse store on any of its history and he had none to offer, other than the original guitar owner hated to part with it, but needed the money much more than the guitar.

I contacted Geof Stelling who was nice enough to let me know that it was originally purchased in Madison WI on 3/1/99.

So now #75 resides in Hudson, WI.

LIFER said...

My name is Russell Hannah. I live in Ringgold GA and I own a Stelling CHD-100 #002. This was the first Stelling guitar sold to the public. My father, Robert Hannah, ordered and purchased this guitar in 1990. It's date of birth is 6/01/16. It is made of unfinished cherry.

Unknown said...

I own the one in the Acoustic Music Works video. It is RAD 125 number 16. Love it. Have a line on buying number 26. It is an RHD 125.

L17GBLOG said...

Serial number 011 resides in Sussex County Delaware by original owner. Born on Date 31 October 1994.

flatpicker said...

Serial number 048 resides in east tennessee custom made with red spruce and brazilian rosewood. It's the best guitar i have ever played and owned.I count myself lucky to have one. This thing is a cannon....

flatpicker said...

I own serial number 048 it's custom made with red spruce and brazilian rosewood it resides in east tennessee. It's the best guitar i have ever played and owned.I count myself lucky to have one. This thing is a cannon.....

Unknown said...

I have guitar # 73 made in 1998. Beautiful guitar and sound. I believe it is the d28 style.A friend and I purchased this guitar and a 1980 golden cross banjo.Love them both.

Unknown said...

I have guitar #73 it is an RHD 125 and resides in Bethel,Ohio.

JMO said...

I would love to own a Stelling Guitar. If anyone is interested in selling one please contact me at ... Thank you

JPS said...

I purchased #076 at swap shop in Tallahassee, Florida in the early 2000's. Didn't know much about them at the time other than it was going to be mine. Today it resides in Lakeland, Tennessee.

GaryB said...

I live in Woodstock, Ga and own #25 which was finished on 05/20/1996 according to the label and signed by Geoff Stelling.. Interestingly enough it is signed on the underside of the top by Jeff Huss and Mark Dalton and has the # 024 and the date is 03/21/1996.. Guess the top was meant for another guitar.. Either way sounds great and is one of my favorites.. GB

Mordo said...

I bought Stelling #94, an RHD 125, as a new instrument at a shop called Olde Town Pickin Parlor in Arvada Colorado. Date on the tag is 2/21/2000. This is a wonderful instrument that has helped me write many a song and makes any night a better one.

bluegrass4all said...

Hi all, I recently have started a Proud owners of Stelling Guitars and Mandolins group on Facebook. Make sure to visit and share your stories, pictures and posts!
With musical greetings, Ruud de Bruin (The Netherlands).

RAD said...

#73 now resides in Clayton, Indiana

RAD said...

Are you still looking to acquire A Stelling?

steviek said...

I live in Cincinnati, OH and purchased #54 from an estate sale in April 2022. It is an RHD125. Looks beautiful and sounds great! I wish I did it justice!!

Chris said...

#32 just landed in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Custom RHD125 with Red Spruce top and Brazilian Rosewood back and sides. Huge sound, super dynamic.

Chris said...

#32 just landed in the Indianapolis, IN area. Custom RHD 125 with Red Spruce top and Brazilian Rosewood back/sides. Stelling signed date 9/17/96. Two signatures on the underside of the top as well when you look inside with a mirror. The top is cleated too in the middle, not sure if this is common for these? Guitar has a huge sound, super dynamic.

Chuck Honsinger said...

#30 RHD resides in Windsor Vermont with Chuck Honsinger. Along with his 1980 Stelling Golden Cross banjo. Both are fantastic