5/31/2011

c.1930 Regal-made Diamond Head Guitar


Here's a rare, very cool, treat of a guitar. This was made by Regal around c.1930-1935 or so and sports a solid spruce top, maple neck, and solid mahogany back and sides. The guitar's lines are patterned on a Martin 12-fret 00 size instrument, with almost exactly the same dimensions throughout, save that it has a much thicker v-shaped neck. I'm almost certain this was built for lap-style Hawaiian playing to begin with as it has no end pin (a clear mark on guitars of the time that they were probably intended as Hawaiian guitars, especially if the "theme" of the instrument is Hawaiian-informed).

That makes this sort of a 00-18H copy, except that the fretboard is a wild bit of gold-sparkle and black celluloid with crazy lions, floral, and geometric fret markers. Oh, and it also has that super-cool hand-painted "Diamond Head, Honolulu" scene on the lower bout.


Another departure from the Martin reference is that the top is ladder braced in typical, extremely light, Regal fashion. This gives it an open, up-front, sweet and warm tonality, with singing sustain on the high notes and a crisp bass.

When I got the guitar it needed a neck reset and fret dress. In addition it had a floating bridge and tailpiece setup. I did the neck set, reglued a couple braces, some loose binding, and a back hairline crack... then installed this new rosewood belly bridge with slightly longer wings than normal. I find that these types of bridges really improve the stability of a ladder-braced top vs. the smaller, rectangular bridges.


The bone nut came with the guitar (it's newer), though I did reshape it a bit for a better fit and setup. What's nice about this guitar is that it sounds and plays fantastic as a fingerpicker/flatpicker, then you can pop a raised nut on it (one of those "convertible" metal nuts) and it becomes a prime Hawaiian guitar.


Super cool gold-sparkle and black celluloid fretboard.



Waves, sunset, palm trees, seagulls, and Diamond Head. Heck yes.


At some point it'd be nice to lose the plastic pins, but otherwise I'm quite happy with this.


Typical Regal-style binding from the '30s on their medium and higher-end flattops.




Nice mahogany on the back and sides, too. This guitar is light as a feather and feels great in the lap.



Tuners look original to me, though there are extra holes underneath the plates for screws. I'm thinking maybe they were flipped over at one point (with swapped sides) to give better access for lap tuning.






It's a sweetie!

Inventory Clips

I've updated the inventory page to include some more sound clips and instruments! Also, in addition to the "upcoming" stuff posted before, there's also (probably) a c.1940 all-mahogany Kay-made 0-size guitar coming in, and also a c.1927 Vega Regent Plectrum Banjo w/OHSC.

Later today I'll be posting pics of a real sweetie -- a c.1935 Regal-made 12-fret 00-sized, ladder-braced Hawaiian guitar (this has been setup for "convertible" - Spanish or Hawaiian - play), patterned after a Martin 00-18, but bearing a sweet-as-heck paint job and wild fretboard.

5/30/2011

c.1955 Silvertone by Harmony Ukulele


What's not to like about a simple all-mahogany uke?

This was made by Harmony, probably in the mid-50s, for the Sears "Silvertone" brand. It's got a rosewood fretboard, brass frets, and an all-solid mahogany build with cool black/brown sunburst all over. Finish is in great shape so it looks snazzy, too!


This uke is a bit bigger than a 1920s-30s soprano uke and has a longer scale, too: 13 7/8" vs. the typical 13" to 13 5/8" scale found on most vintage sopranos. This gives it more of a "concert" tone and feel, with more snap, zing, and quick response tuned to standard GCEA. I like!


I love the simple sunburst.


Silvertone logo with beveled headstock.


Inlaid, faux-MOP dots just like on the Harmony baritone ukes of the time.



I didn't need to reglue the bridge -- it's in great shape. I did have to do setup work at the nut and saddle, though. Also the frets needed slight rounding-off at the edges as the factory fretwork was not always the best on mass-made ukes back then.



Note the long hairline dryness crack all down the bass side -- I've glued it up and it's very secure, no bulging, etc. This is very typical for a uke as the tropical mahogany dries out over long periods of time... especially if it was stored somewhere warm and then cold (ie, attic). It's nice that it was tight in the first place as the problem with previously non-repaired hairlines like this is that over time they get worse if not attended to.


Strings are Aquila Nylguts.



Some decent looking 'hog on this fella.



...and of course, space-age Harmony-style tuners, too! Though this design looks futuristic these tuners actually work quite well.

5/28/2011

c.1860 Early "Parlor" Maple/Spruce Guitar


This is the same 1850s/1860s era guitar I showed pics of while it was "in progress." Click here for the link to that post.

It has a lot of German characteristics -- ice cream cone neck heel, grafted headstock, general styling... but it also has a lot of American characteristics -- the body shape is very much like an old Ashborn or earlier Martin, and has that wider-waist, more tucked upper bout (vs a typical figure-8 style guitar of the time). My guess is that this is an American-made instrument, probably from between 1850 and 1870, with emphasis somewhere in the middle. The original tuners that it came with and general shape and style seem to fit that timeframe.


My work included: seam reglues on the back, bridge reglue (and slight shave/re-ebonizing as it's maple), hairline crack repair on top (one, below bridge and slightly above it, bass side), one brace reglue to the top, regluing of the headstock grafted area which has a couple of hairline cracks (headstock and neck are separate pieces, all of which smells like cedar), fret dress, cleaning, setup, etc.

The result is an easy-playing, comfortable guitar with a nice, very direct and balanced classical tone. Fairly loud, too, for such a small body. It'd be a great recording guitar, especially for period music. Strings are new Aquila Nylguts -- the "Alabastro" set -- which is what I use on all vintage gut-stringers.


Top is spruce. Check out the pretty rosette! Three rings. Also, check out the violin-style purfling on the soundboard edge.


These are plastic pins, but I chose my yellowest, grungiest ones to get more of an ivory look to them.


Note the center red line on the inner rosette ring and purfling. Pretty!



Brass frets, original. All polished up after the fret dress, though.


Ebony nut.



This is a one-piece flamed maple (or possibly sycamore) back. Gorgeous! No cracks, either.


Note the chip at the base of the headstock -- this is where a small decorative volute may have chipped off at one point.


Cool ice cream cone heel! Neck joint is good and sturdy.




It's quite an attractive little thing.


The only other hairline crack aside from the cleated one on top is this tiny 1.5" one, which is also glued up, on the treble side.


I was kind of upset that I wasn't able to use the original brass-plate/gear/bone-knob tuners. I spent many hours trying to get them back into use but unfortunately the gears were simply just too worn out and they skipped around. These are probably 70s-style slotted tuners from my parts bin, but with swapped out "standard" set screws, they ape the part of '20s tuners fairly well. This guitar could definitely benefit from some high-end replacements, but I'll leave that up to the next owner. These are fortunately unobtrusive enough that they're not noticeable.



The maple on the sides is just pretty stuff!




New ebony end pin, too. Had to drill the remains of the original out to put this fella in.