c.1930 Regal Octofone

I've worked on two Octofones before, and in this post (click here) you can read all about the origin of this instrument. For all intents and purposes, though, it's a double-coursed tenor guitar (21" scale length) on a mandola/octave mandolin-sized body. This makes it ideal to use as a a very long scale mandola with gauges 32w, 22w, 13, 9 for CGDA tuning or as a lightly-strung octave mandolin tuned lower at GDAE with gauges around 42w, 30w, 16, 11. The warm tone also makes "octave stringing" of this instrument, like a bouzouki, another good choice. Of course, all the alternate tenor banjo and tenor guitar stringings will work, too, and the extra string per course gives a wide range of tonal possibilities... a possibility!

For an Octofone, this example is in really good shape. It's the simpler and more widely-seen model -- solid spruce top, solid birch back, sides, and neck -- but aside from use-wear and a few tiny, glued-up tight hairlines on the back, conidition is excellent.

My work on it included resetting the neck (and installing a bolt for support -- it had a screw in the heel when it came to me), a new bone nut, fret level/dressing, cleaning, light gluing of back hairlines, and setup. It came out of the workshop a good, quick player with a warm, but clear tone. As expected, due to the body size and flat (rather than arched) top, this is not going to cut it in a jam if you're looking to play melody or leads over two or more guitar players, but in a mixed ensemble or just on its own it sounds wonderful.

As on most Regals from the time, the natural finish on the top has aged to a beautiful orangey-yellow.

Nice, simple, rosette. That's multicolored, inlaid purfling, with a celluloid-bound edge. The top and back edges of the instrument are also bound in black celluloid.

Fun "snakehead" headstock. The tuners are typical mandolin tuners for the time, with smallish buttons.

The fretboard is dyed-maple. The dots are a pinky-yellow-greeny colored pearl. This Octofone has the typical high, thin Regal frets which give the impression of high action at the 12th fret, but when measured one finds it at a hair below 3/32" on the bass and a hair above 1/16" on the treble -- ideal for such light strings on this scale length.

Dyed-maple bridge with bone saddle. I had to shim this bridge up just slightly after the neck reset. I've muted the extra string length under the tailpiece cover.

Cute Octofone label.

Here you can see the medium-brown-stained birch.

Aaron Burdwise was a retailer and this is his shop label, which, being an owl, is pretty darn cool.

In the sun you can see a slight curly pattern in the one-piece birch back.

Note that a couple of old-style strap buttons were added at some point. Also note the nice white purfling around the back edge, too.

Ah, and see that pearl dot? That covers my bolt installation in the heel. I've inset it a little bit with ebony fill due to the larger hole size from the screw that was previously mounted in the heel for support. See pictures below for details on that...

It's a looker!

Now onto the "pre-repair" pics:

Here's the screw that was "originally" put in the heel to attach the neck back to the body. Regal kept this joint together with a big dowel that was (idiotically) installed at the top of the heel. This joint always fails, so the "repairman" had the right idea in reinforcing the bottom of the joint. The mistake was simply not to 1) reglue the joint and 2) not ti simply drill all the way through and use a bolt-style reinforcement, which is typically way more solid than a screw which (more usually) splits a heel.

Here you can see the washer and new bolt I've installed in place of the old screw. Also check out how I've removed the fretboard extension: I'm having to reshape it so that it fits flush with the rest of the board after the neck is finished gluing up. At the same time that I reinstall the extension, I'll also be installing a "support patch" under the upper bout area, much like any modern Martin or Gibson gets. It adds to neck stability.

Now all I have to do is install a pearl cap to finish the job (which you can see in earlier pics).

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