6/30/2011

c.1925 Regal Fancy Mahogany Soprano Uke





Yum, yum, another cute and hot-to-trot little Regal-made soprano uke from the '20s! This one shares the typical Regal features: body shape/depth/bracing, fancy solid curly mahogany throughout, and usual thin Regal neck and headstock shape with frets-in-neck build style.

Work on this included a bridge shave, new tuners, cleaning, and setup.


This uke has some nice-looking solid mahogany with a bit of curl/figure throughout, all throughout the uke. It's also bound on the top edge with a wide band of cream celluloid, and bound on the fretboard/headstock with 2-ply black/yellowish celluloid. The soundhole has a multicolored rosette and binding and there are Martin-style mini-dots inlaid into the fretboard.


The finish is in nice, original, glossy shape -- and overall the uke presents itself with upscale elegance and class. Did I mention it also plays great and sounds great, too?


I love the mini dots!


Cute rosette gives it a touch of fun.


The bridge is, unfortunately, a piece of oak, so when I cut it down to improve action it was entirely the wrong color to simply add finish and hey-presto, done... so I "ebonized" the top edge (where I cut down/sanded/etc.) black to match the neck details and tuner buttons, then added a new fret saddle for correct intonation.

This is not a perfect solution (which would have involved matching stain/etc.) but it looks just fine and the fret saddle added a bit of punch and clarity at the same time.



Pretty 'hog, eh?


New Grover 2Bs... and that's not worn finish on the neck... that's gloss reflecting the cloudy day.



I'm always surprised at how nice the wood is on these old Regal ukes.


And unlike a lot of Regals, which had mahogany bodies and poplar, cedar or stained-hardwood necks, this one actually has a mahogany neck as well. Nice touch!



c.1925 Lyon & Healy Camp Uke


If you've followed the blog for a long enough time, you'll know that I love these old L&H "Camp Ukes" for a good reason: playability, access to higher frets, and good volume and tone. They're very much different from your typical hourglass-shaped uke, more like a pineapple in terms of "wide" on the low-end side and a little bit more plucky and poppy like a reso-uke on the high.

I think they make great practice or performance instruments, and with all those frets available, folks that like to move up the fingerboard but feel cramped on a typical soprano may very well like this setup better.


This one dates around c.1925 and is very typical of a Camp Uke from the time -- looks like monkeypod wood (solid) throughout, with the usual thin hairline cracks on the top (all glued up or not-through/stable), a turned resonator backplate which shoots the sound straight forward, and one-piece "sides."

The neck is attached with a screw through the heel block (like on many banjo ukes from the time) and I've shimmed the neck slightly at the top of the heel & tightened said screw for a better neck angle (= low action without modifying the bridge).


This particular Camp Uke is a little bit grungier than normal but is in good shape otherwise and all-original with the typical L&H patent pegs (which work great... I love this design) and taller frets.


Usually these dots are black but on this one they're cream celluloid.


I love the old "smile" bridge -- note the chip-out on the G/C string loading area. I've addressed this by recutting the slot slightly and also recutting below the slot to hold the string better.


This uke has definitely had some play in! But it's all set to go for the next 90 years. These are new Nylgut strings.



Bound on the top edge with black celluloid.




Good one-piece, turned resonator back.





I like it!

c.1920 Gretsch (modified) 5-String banjo


This banjo started out as a pretty typical Gretsch-made teens/early 20s 5-string banjo, but has been hot-rodded with upgraded hardware from a slightly later Slingerland MayBell tenor banjo which had seen some rough times. This included ivoroid-buttoned friction tuners (and a new geared 5th peg with old ivoroid button), heavier-duty grooved tension hoop and heavier-duty L-shoe rim hardware, and a Grover tailpiece. I also installed the Slingerland's round-hoop style tonering for that louder, but sweet old-timey tone.

This has a 26" full scale and is setup to tune down to E (eBEG#B) below normal G tuning, per the customer's request. I put this together from a banjo I had purchased (the 5 string) and a banjo said customer had brought in. This union has proved fruitful, of course, and this is a nice-playing, great-sounding, plenty-loud instrument.


New bone nut. The neck looks like some sort of grungy poplar? or some sort, as the finish is "natural." I sanded the back of the neck bare, then polished it out, sprayed a coat or two of sealer, then polished that out, to make a somewhat "speed neck" which improves playability.


Simple celluloid dots in the board. Note that I moved the 5th string pip over for better string spacing.



Proper back-angle with the modified setup gave me a nice 5/8" tall bridge.


These very simple tailpieces give nice tone as the down-angle is much better than simply from the rim's edge.


Good, heavy-duty hardware.



Pot is laminated maple and is original to the neck, though the Slingerland hardware came from an identically-sized rim with an identical number of hooks.




This is sort of a "sleeper" banjo. The Gretsch-made rim is lighter than the Slingerland which makes this way more comfortable to hold over time but one still gets the same nice tone due to the heavy hoop tonering.


Because of the changed position of the neck (had to recut the dowel hole at the heel slightly higher for clearance of the tonering) I had to add a washer to shim up a slightly loose joint. I had also reset this neck's dowel stick as well, which provided a more natural angle for the heel join.



A winner!

c.1980 Guild Madeira Classical Guitar & c.1970 Kent Classical Guitar


This post is a double feature... first up is this Japanese-made Madeira ("by Guild") classical guitar, probably around c.1980 (though it came with a 70s style chip case). Work on this was just a bridge/saddle shave and setup. It's in great shape, plays with flamenco (low) action at the moment, and sounds loud and rumbly.

This one's body is all laminate (cedar top, mahogany back/sides) though the neck is a hunk of Spanish cedar and the bridge and rosewood are both dark-stained rosewood as well. Those crafty Japanese used a modified classical bracing where the central ladder brace is tilted (ie, "transverse bracing") to give the bass side of the instrument more usable uninterrupted space on the lower bout. This yields an instrument with good balance and a sweet lower end with terrific flamenco-toned rumble and snap vs. the typical student classical of the time.


Despite its simple pedigree, this is a good-looking guitar and feels (in the hands and lap) like something much more costly.


It's also nicely cut and the attention to detail is better than usual.




The floral-ish rosette with rope-style edging looks quite nice. The binding is also upscale-looking.


I haven't gleaned any information on this label, model, or the serial number (stamped on the upper soundhole brace).


Saddle area had to be shaved, so I knotted the strings for better down-pressure on the saddle.



Pretty attractive.






I'm not a fan of the gold-look tuners, but they do work just fine.




It's pretty dressy!

Of course, I've used Aquila Nylguts on both these guitars for that "real gut" tone and great volume.


And here's the "double feature" 2nd -- a Kent-branded Japanese classical, probably from about 10-15 years earlier. I had to replace the bridge on this one, and it looks like at one point someone had glued some pickup discs under the bridge (and then "touched it up"), but otherwise this all-laminate student guitar is actually not too shabby.

For an inexpensive instrument it's decently loud and plays just fine.





Cute headstock stripe.


Side dots help.



This is one of those typical classical rosewood repro bridges, but I'm thankful that I could find some (I buy a lot of spare bridges from eBay seller: bezdez) minus the typically over-the-top inlay on the tie-block and glossy finish all over.



Back and sides are simply stained a very dark brown, almost black color.


Funky old tuners are going strong.