5/25/2012

c.1925 Regal-made SS Stewart Mahogany Mandolin


This is a customer's flatback mandolin from the mid-1920s, probably made by Regal for the B&J "SS Stewart" brand (at that point in time, anyway). It is nearly identical in build and styling to Lyon & Healy's "Washburn" branded models of the time, which is no surprise since Regal built for the L&H Washburn line of mandolins during the mid-1920s.

The main difference, of course, from a similar Washburn-branded model of the same type is that the whole instrument is made from solid mahogany, even the top (which is more typically spruce). This gives the instrument a nice, balanced tone with a sweetened high end and tight bass -- and like other Regal-made nicer-quality mandolins from the time, it's quite loud and has great authority.


While it may not look like it now, this instrument was a little bit of a headache to fix. It needed a neck reset, fret level/dress, and setup right off the bat, but once I popped the neck off I realized other things had been done wrong. This included a botched old neck reset which had split part of the dovetail and a botched old fretboard-extension reglue that seems to have been done with superglue (a really bad idea if you value fretboard wood integrity!).

There were other various things, too -- the tuners had never been screwed down for stability so I had to drill through the plates and install some mounting screws for them, and here may have been a couple loose braces (I can't recall, really),

Suffice to say, I fixed everything up and now it's roaring once again. Unfortunately for the owner, at some point the mandolin had also been "oversrpayed" with a coat of top finish, so the original crackly old finish is underneath and I wonder how much of it really contributes to the sort of crimson red this mandolin is now.



Two-ply fretboard binding, pearl dots.


Typical B&J Stewart label. People are constantly calling me up about their old SS Stewart thissen or thatten instrument, asking me if it was built in Philadelphia or New York, and it's always hard to convince folks that labels really don't mean much of anything as far as most old instruments are concerned (or, heck, for new ones for that matter, too!).



Nice multi-ply edge binding on top and back. This mandolin is quite classy.




I like the engraved "SS Stewart" on the tuner coverplate.



The original tailpiece still has its nice cover!

5 comments:

golfwannabee said...

I inherited one exactly like this one in the pictures and in very good repair. Unfortunately, I don't play. Any idea what it is worth? Thanks.

Antebellum Instruments said...

Sorry, I don't do valuations on anything that I can't see, touch, and examine. There are so many considerations to instrument value that blanket prices are useless.

John Phillips said...

I have a couple of mandolins much like this. One is a spruce top SS. Stewart the other has a WR label. I think It may stand for Whaley Royce & Co. which was a music company in Canada. It looks beautiful. I think the top is figured koa. Ebony fretboard, mahogany neck. nickel, tuner cover and tail piece. Tail piece cover still there. Glossy finish. It came with a home built plywood case with leather handle and straps. Clear very sweet tones.
Not as loud or dark as the stewart but the notes seem to rise and project. Played it on at church on Sunday with guitar, piano, drums,bass, pipe organ and vocalists. Floats thru everything! Cheers - John

Brad Linzy said...

This mandolin is, I believe, not Regal-made. The script used on the logo, the body shape and style, the engraving in the back of the headstock... All of this is reminiscent of a Washburn mandolin I had from the same period, which was made by Lyon & Healy. Mine said "Lyon & Healy" on the label in a cursive script above "Washburn". I could be wrong, but I'd put mmy money on L&H.

deepcreek magee said...

great photos! - this one is very similar to an SS Stuart one I just acquired. at the luthier right now. she said mine is Brazilian rosewood back .. I hope she doesn't run into too many problems with the neck.. had to be taken all apart. anyhow, pretty excited to get it back. just learning the mando. will post pics soon. love ur website