1/31/2011

c.1925 Regal Fancy Soprano Ukulele


This is a drop-dead gorgeous, crack-free, all-original (save replacement vintage 12th fret), solid-wood uke built by Regal in the mid-20s. It's unmarked but undeniably a Regal instrument in terms of build, dimensions, etc. For reference look up "Red Head" uke (another Regal product from the same time) on Google and you'll find a similar model to this one.

At any rate, I was under the impression that these were made from Hawaiian koa, but now I'm not so sure. I think they may in fact be made from curly/flamed Cuban mahogany, which has many of the colors and three-dimensionality of koa's grain and tone but also has the more straight and even-grained appearance of typical mahogany. And... the stuff was used a lot in the 1920s and 30s... it's much scarcer now.

Whatever the progeny of the assumed-mahogany, this uke is all solid and a beaut that looks as good as it sounds and plays.


Check out the curl/flame on that top! Yum!

It's bound on the top edge and soundhole with black celluloid and has inlaid multicolored wood purfling around the top edge, soundhole, and also right down the middle of the neck and headstock, for a glorious, colorful, and folksy-classy look. It recalls the "rope bound" Hawaiian ukes but with a much more eye-catching combination of colors (red/green/yellow).


Here's the sun showing off that grain.


My work included pulling the bridge and regluing it, a setup, cleaning, and popping in a new (vintage parts bin) 12th fret. Like Hawaiian ukes of the time, there's no fretboard on the uke -- the frets are inlaid directly into the neck itself.


The finish is in pretty good shape.




Vibrant looks!




And the back is as pretty as the front! Ooh la la!


OH! And what's that? Something that's almost ALWAYS missing on these older ukes -- original pegs... these being a transitional type that's a brass shaft with green bakelite button -- but it's not a screwed-in friction peg, but rather one that's turned and lightly pushed in to hold tension -- just like violin or old wooden friction pegs -- but the machining of the brass shaft and the brass ferrule set into the headstock means that action on the peg is quite nice and they turn quite well and hold much better than a typical wood peg. They're also very lightweight.


Good neck set.





Here's the only real "issue" -- some finish disturbance at the end block -- looks like it either got too hot on the end or some sort of chemical reaction happened with something that splattered it. Barely noticeable except in full light, and only on the side/end block join.


A winner!

Sound is sweet, rich, loud, and has a very bell-like clarity.

1/28/2011

c.1925 Regal? Mahogany Flatback Mandolin


What a gorgeous A-style mando! All solid mahogany back, sides, neck, and top, with rosewood board/bridge and bone nut/saddle. It's extremely lightweight, rings like a bell (with sweet and focused low end and mellow but clear high end), and has oodles of sustain (when desired).

This type of mandolin was (I believe) made by Regal for a number of reseller companies, and many of this style are found branded SS Stewart. It's a good quality instrument and every bit as nice as a period Martin A-style build... fit and finish are great with nicely shaped braces and a good thin top plate.

And, like I said, feather light!


Body is bound in black celluloid on top, back, and soundhole, all with three line cream/black/cream purfling which sets off the golden-brown mahogany top and back very nicely. Add an inlaid fancy tortoise-celluloid pickguard and you've got STYLE.


Rosewood headstock veneer, bone nut, bound fretboard. Everything is original on this mando save that it's missing its tailpiece cover which probably would have been one of those clamshell style shapes.


MOP dots on the board.


When I got this mando it needed a cleaning, light fret dress, and a tight hairline crack repair on the top, as well as a setup -- all of which have been done. It's a breeze to play.




Just a purty thing! Can you tell I like it?











Aside from the top hairline, the mandolin is otherwise entirely crack free.


Good heel join, rosewood cap, and three-piece neck for strength.



A winner!

c.1930 Harmony "Toneking" O-18T Clone Tenor Guitar


This is a seriously nice old tenor... c.1930s, made by Harmony for whoever owned the "Tone King" brand name. It's ladder-braced, though the body shape and size, scale length (23") and styling recall 1930s Martin O-18Ts... as well as materials.

It's got solid mahogany back and sides, a poplar? maple? neck, with some sort of medium-colored hardwood fretboard and bridge. It's bound on the top and soundhole with nice tortoise celluloid binding and has a top-notch tortoise celluloid pickguard.

My work included some hairline crack repairs, brace reglues, repairs and reglue to the bridge, new synthetic saddle, adjusting a replacement nut, fret dress, cleaning, and neck reset. It's been through the works... and now plays and sounds like a million bucks, with that dry, punchy, warm ladder-braced tone. Pretty loud, too!


The "washboard" around the pickguard is hella-cool.


The original tuners were long gone, and when I got the guitar had been replaced with various c.1930s/40s friction pegs (4 kinds and two home-made buttons!) -- so, I did a practical thing and replaced them all with some 1960s Levin (Swedish) geared tuners. Fortunately, these Levin tuners look the part of old 1930s high-quality geared tuners of the time, so they fit right in.


Forgot to mention... I have this setup for "octave mandolin" GDAE tuning.


While it doesn't look it, the bridge has two or three hairline cracks which I repaired during the glue-down. I really don't like having to lose an original bridge unless absolutely necessary.



Finish is natural on the mahogany back/sides and a red '30s style Martin-esque sunburst on the top. Looks really, really nice.





Note the giant, ugly hairline crack repair NOT done by me. You can't see the ones that I fixed in the photos for the most part... but man... whoever decided to load up the glue and slather it on... sheesh! Nevertheles, it's solid, and on the back, but still!


Great sturdy tuners.


Totally played-in!


Nice mahogany!




With a cool rosewood end-strip. The strap button is ebony and a replacement.