9/06/2012

c.1935 Slingerland May-Bell "Parlor" Guitar #1


This is the first of a pair of twins I just finished up work on. The next one will be in the next post!

This guitar was made by Regal around 1930-1935 for Slingerland who sold it under their "May-Bell" brand name. So... all kept in good old Chicago!

It's in generally good condition -- the only cracks are a smallish hairline (repaired) on the back. There are also a couple sloppy seams near the end-pin area, but that's it. My work included a neck reset, fret level/dress, bridge shave/recut and new fret saddle, tuner lube, cleaning, and full setup. It plays easily with 3/32" action at the 12th fret.

Tone is warm, sustained, and sweet with fingers but with decent volume for flatpicking. It's a really nice blues or old-timey guitar and considering the mid-range focus, should record easily. This guitar is "transverse braced" which is sort of halfway between an x-pattern and ladder bracing. It's very light and yields a responsive, open-toned instrument with less "honk" vs. a straight-up ladder style bracing.


I like the two-tone red/brownburst used on these guys. It's nice and "bluesy."


Nice May-Bell decal on the headstock. The nut is just a hair wider on this guy vs. May-Bell #2 coming up in the next post, at just about 1 13/16" -- great for fingerpicking.


Celluloid dots, original brass frets. The board is dyed maple.


The "binding" on the top edge of the guitar is paint, but the soundhole rosette is true celluloid binding. The "rosette" is a stencil.


I had to cut down the bridge for proper action. This guitar started life, more than likely, sold as a "Hawaiian" instrument with raised strings for lap play, and thus a properly-adjusted bridge was of no importance to the design. This bridge (like many Regals) is made of hard maple, so after I recut it and installed a new saddle, I had to india-ink it black and then put a thin coat of finish to seal it.


Nice reddish tone on that birch on the sides. Compared to the other May-Bell, this one is a little bit darker-colored overall.






You can really see the fun birch grain on the back. The "center strip" is painted.


Neck set is good to go.


Original black-buttoned slotted tuners work great.

And, as a side-note, these May-Bell versions of the "typical Regal 0-size 12-fretter" have a rounded-back neck vs. the Regal-style v-shape. To me, this makes them feel a bit more comfortable for chords up the neck.


The "end-strip" seam area had a really botched repair from a while back. I took it somewhat apart, sanded it up, and reglued it as best I could, but it's not 100% clean.


Tiny gap at the far rear of the bridge. This is not bad enough for me to remove it and reglue it. I tested the joint's strength a bit with a seam separator and the glue is good to go.

And the only non-original features? New fret saddle and new (plastic) bridge pins.


This seam funkiness is on the bottom part of the end-strip area. It's all stable, just slightly moved about from the previous bad repair job.

Note how this doesn't have an end-pin -- there was probably no point since it was intended for lap/slide play!

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