c.1940 Oahu by Regal Jumbo Hawaiian Guitar

UPATE! I just spotted one of these guitars bearing a 1930s Regal label in the soundhole. This has confirmed some of my suspicions about these guitars, but judging by the headstock I always thought this was a Kay build (even though Kay-made products back then tend to be much more heavily braced). Makes sense to be Regal, however, as they were the only maker using those curious celluloid black/white pins and that bridge style as far as I know. I've updated the post to reflect this "change of maker" discovery.


That's the best way to describe this -- full, huge, round, sweet, and loud. This is a square-necked, all-solid mahogany Hawaiian guitar, made by Regal for the curious Oahu brand. It has a one-piece mahogany top and one-piece back, checker binding on the top, back, and soundhole, a good sturdy neck, fancy early "Safe-T" Kluson tuners with metal knobs, and light ladder bracing.

I had this exact same guitar, same model, similar condition (though not quite as nice as this one) a couple years ago, sold it when I needed a little more dough, and have ever since regretted it... and I'm not making that mistake this time! This one's staying with me.

This is essentially a 12-fret dreadnought shape, with slightly narrower waist like a jumbo, but it's a huge guitar. If this were a Spanish-necked instrument it would hold right up there with big old Gibson jumbos and (new) Martin jumbos in terms of bass depth, clarity, punch, and all-around "big" tone. In addition, the light ladder bracing gives it a very gusty, responsive, and sweet tone. Perfect for that Hawaiian lullaby you've been meaning to play...!

This has a bone nut, but they never made them tall enough so a lot of these were shipped with extender nuts. I've used an extender nut from my parts bin, c.1930s, on it.

MOP dots. Board looks like dyed maple, pearwood, or...? Something.

Lovely tobacco brown/black sunburst.

Sweet checker binding!

I had to reglue the rosewood bridge, but aside from cleaning, that was about it in terms of repair work. The MOP dots covering original small bolts are original to the guitar. Strings are lighter 52w to 11, tuned to open D (DADF#AD) so as to exert less tension on the lightly braced top. I may try a set of flattened or even flatwound strings on it at some point for a slicker tonality.

Original bridge pins, by the way, are almost always gone... these ones are not!

Oahu stamp in the inside.

Really a nice feast for the eyes!

There are those old Klusons.

...and in typical Kay-made fashion, the sunburst follows onto the neck as well.

Finish shows some checking but is still high-gloss, thin, and lovely.

New end pin, but it'll soon be replaced with a pickup of some sort. This guitar is replacing another Hawaiian-setup guitar in my collection.

...and if you're currently lusting for this guitar... have no fear. I keep my eyes out for this particular model in good condition all the time, so I'm bound to have another one at some point.

1 comment:

Folkway Music said...

We've just acquired an identical Oahu, in similar condition, with original case. It's a very lovely sounding guitar. We've strung ours with 14-56 in open G - beautiful.
Folkway Music