1/17/2013

c.1930 Regal "Dobro" Tenor Guitar


Unlike some other Regal creations that used knock-off Dobro or National-style cones, this Dobro tenor guitar is just that: exactly the same as "Dobro" branded models, with the official cone, all the same except that the headstock bears a Regal label and some routing at the top of the peghead. The Dobro-style serial number on the back of the headstock dates it to 1930.

It's a great little tenor, roughly 0-18T sized (squished "0" shape), has a 14-fret neck joint, long 23" scale, a bigger and wider neck (which is way more comfortable for me), and a big, warm sound. Compared to Nationals (which are generally thunderous), Dobro cones can be quieter. This one has roughly the same volume as a good wood-bodied archtop (read: nicer Gibson & Epiphones... not Harmony/Kays). The tone, however, is very full and warm on the bottom, it has enormous sustain, and the trebles of course have that sculpted, zingy midrange tone that lets the instrument "cut" nicely.


My work involved the usual on Dobros in decent condition, but needing attention: the support block for the dowel needed to be reglued and the heel needed a new lower section, the cone itself needed a new tension screw/nut and better seating in the soundwell, the frets needed leveling and dressing, tuners needed lubing, the maple saddles that sit on the spider-bridge were totally worn out so I replaced them with bone, and it needed a good cleaning and setup.

All that's been done and it plays with a fast, 1/16" action at the 12th fret. I've strung it up "Celtic" style with octave-mandolin GDAE tuning. This gives it a good wide range and a familiar feel for folks used to fifths-tunings. Though I tend to prefer a stringing for this tuning that involves an unwound A string, I used gauges 42w, 32w, 20w, 12 because I know Dobro cones like a bit more pressure to get them going. Still, I wanted to go slightly lighter than many folks might go for that tuning due to the unreinforced maple neck.


This style Regal headstock with the lightly-routed-off top edge is seen all over their ukes from the same time. Original bone nut.



Simple pearl dots in a dyed-maple board. Frets are nickel-silver.


Nice, plated-brass coverplate. I had to bend the wrist-rest back to shape because someone (foolishly) installed the tension-adjuster for the cone through the hole in the center of the wrist rest, which pulled it down to the saddles (someone was not using their head!).


The soundhole "screens" are (per the usual) pushed in a little but otherwise in good shape.


Here's the bone saddles I cut and installed for it... and if you're wondering because of the curved saddles... yes, the board has a light radius to it!


Dobro patent mark.


The actual celluloid binding on the top and back edges gives this a classier look. The body itself is made out of heavy-duty birch plywood.






This goofy replacement heel is a bit of an "in-joke" with myself since it came off of a disabled 30s wood-bodied Regal tenor guitar. When I put this whole neck and dowel assembly back into the body I lightly shimmed-up the actual neck pocket to make it nice and sturdy. There's a bit of "airspace" under this replacement part of the heel, but that's par for the course with many Dobro and Nationals, since the actual "work" is going on along the dowel and upper part of the heel/neck, not the lower part that is simply aesthetic since there's no glued-in dovetailed joint.


Nice original tuners! Freshly lubed, they work great.


I always liked the strap button/tailpiece hanger thing that both Dobro and National did.


Here's the 60s chip case that came with it.


Here's those new bone saddles.


When I reinstall the cone I usually add a couple of tiny "set screws" which hold the cone in place with the bridge set at the desired angle for compensation.


Here, you can see that the bridge is set at a slight angle for compensation...


These actually aren't punctures, just scrapes. I'll bet someone was trying to get something out with a screwdriver! They don't effect the cone's performance at all.

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