2/14/2013

c.1935 Regal-made MayBell No. 32 Flatback Mandolin


This long-scale (14") flatback mandolin is definitely a very cool "depression special" job. Per one of the catalog scans over at Slingerland Guitar (the scan below is from their site) this is a model #32 from the mid-1930s.

It's got a solid spruce top, solid birch back, sides, and neck and a maple (dyed) fretboard and bridge. The top and soundhole are bound but the rest is not. It's got that super-cool tobacco-sunburst finish ("shaded") overall and, as mentioned, sports that longer 14" scale which lets a GHS A240 (32w-9) set of strings put out a lot of volume while reducing stress on the instrument and easing playability at the same time. In addition the nut width is a little wider and this has more of the feel of a teens-era Gibson than a typical flatback from the time.

My work on it included reprofiling the fretboard extension, some seam repairs to the back/side join, a fret level/dress, new bone nut, and of course cleaning and full setup. Despite a very tiny hair of relief in the neck (under 1/64") it plays spot-on and quickly with 1/16" action at the 12th fret. Tone is very full and gutsy throughout.


The mentioned "pearl guard plate" did not mention how friggin cool the blue-faux-pearl pickguard actually is.


Nice May-Bell decal. All the hardware save the bone nut is original and in good shape. The instrument itself is also entirely crack-free.


I love the look of this guy.


Plastic or clay dots in the board. The frets, as typical for Regal, are taller for the period.



That pickguard is so, so cool...



A few scratches and scuffs here and there but overall the finish is nice and clean...


The neck set is just dandy. The fretboard extension had to be reprofiled into a wedge shape, rather, due to the whole geometry shifting a little bit over time.





Good "Bell-Brand" tailpiece.


Overall this is a mando that anyone would enjoy, but old-time and blues players will probably be suckered in by the sweet, warm, but loud and gutsy tonality as well as the cool looks. Plus, instruments like this just don't come much cleaner as many of these budget-oriented gems get destroyed by poor storage over the years.

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