1/01/2013

c.1935 Slingerland "May-Bell" Style No. 7 Guitar


I originally posted this a month or two back when I'd just gotten it in. Since then I'd been using it as a lap (Hawaiian-style) slide guitar and had it setup that way. I just recently converted it over to a regular guitar ("Spanish" style) which meant that I needed to do a neck reset, fretboard extension re-glue, bridge shave and compensation of the saddle, fret level/dress, and of course a full setup. These were repairs that were unnecessary before conversion back to a Spanish-style guitar.

The result is, of course, an extremely enjoyable guitar. This fella was made by Regal in the mid-1930s for Slingerland who sold it under the May-Bell name. As part of the Slingerland line, this one's neck got a rounder, faster shaping than the standard Regal types (usually a big, hard V). At the same time, it has incredibly cool styling and features Regal's "transverse" bracing which is a ladder-style bracing that has the main brace set at an angle (sort of like a half-x bracing) which greatly improves bass response and overall sweetness and sustain compared to a usual straight-across ladder-type bracing.

So, what's that mean? This works great for fingerpickers (who will enjoy the 1 3/4" nut) and flatpickers (who will enjoy a more "Martin-y" response in terms of tone) both and the sound is more complex than most of this guitar's contemporaries which tend towards the honky, bluesy/old country sound.


Here's an original catalog page scan that I grabbed from the Slingerland Guitars site. It's essentially a size-2 instrument being 13" across the lower bout with a shorter 24 1/4" scale and a body length that's just a little under a standard Martin 12-fret "0" size. This makes it super cozy to play on a couch or in a chair and easier on the arms for longer playing durations (say, when you're writing a song).



This has a profuse amount of decoration...! Beautiful red/maroon sunburst all over... fancy pinky-red to cream celluloid pickguard, fretboard, and heastock veneer... classy inlaid purfling around the soundhole and top, bound fretboard, back, top, and soundhole... deluxe engraved tuner plates... and a super decal across the lower-bout front.

Add to that -- no cracks at all and clean finish -- and you have a winning example of a guitar type that would typically have been knicked-up and worn to heck. At least half of the excellent condition is probably due to its having lived in a good case all its life, though!


Regal used maple bridges which they dyed black for the most part. I had to cut this one down to get proper action, then re-stain and finish (since when you cut it down it's a bright cream color since it's maple). This bridge was reglued at some point in the past (a good job) and a small hairline crack in the bass bridge wing must have been addressed at the same time. After I cut the bridge down I also recut the saddle slot at a compensated angle which greatly improves intonation up the neck. I re-used the original fret saddle which is why it doesn't extend 100% to the edges of the new slot.

Action is quick and fast (3/32" at the 12th) and the neck is almost perfectly straight. It had very tiny, minor relief that was taken out by leveling the frets.


I love all the colors and stylization going on here...


Fun headstock veneer with great May-Bell decal. Original bone nut.


I love the black dots in the face of the board. The original frets turned out just fine after the level and dressing as well.



May-Bell stamp inside.

I forgot to mention woods, though: this is solid spruce over solid birch back and sides. The neck seems like birch, too.


Wild decal... it's in perfect shape, too!





The original, engraved tuners are pretty nice to look at! They function just fine, too.





It's nice that the red-burst finish is carried to the back as well.



The neck angle is all good to go for the next 80 years...


The only unoriginal part is this ebony endpin. It's hard to see in the photo, but there's also an endstrip on this guitar, too.


...and one of the best parts?


...this original chip case!


...which is fairly clean, good to go, and has cowboy prints all over it! Sweet!

No comments: