3/15/2013

c.1935 Regal-made Oahu "Parlor" Guitar




This Oahu-branded "parlor" guitar (this is just a hair smaller than a Martin 0) is in many ways a clone of a similar model Regal also made for Slingerland to sell under their "May-Bell" brand name. This Oahu-branded one is a little fancier, though, but still has the "tobacco burst" finish on a solid-birch body that the Maybells tend to have. In addition it has a celluloid-bound top and soundhole and "brown-burst" pearloid on the headstock and fretboard surface. It's very Depression-style, for sure!

My work included installing a new (rosewood) bridge and bone saddle, adding replacement bridge pins, general cleaning, a fret level and dress (this had a hair of relief to the neck which was technically removed by leveling the frets), and full setup. It plays really nice (spot on) and the instrument itself is very clean with no cracks.


These Regal-made 12 fretters tend to have what's called "transverse bracing" which is really a modification of ladder-type bracing but where the main (between bridge and soundhole) brace is set at an angle. This stiffens the top with less bracing but also opens up the tone a bit more giving this a sound somewhere between a ladder-braced guitar and an x-braced guitar. This means added sustain and harmonic sweetness.


The Oahu script on the headstock is very cool. This has its original rosewood nut, but since this was intended as a Hawaiian (lap instrument, played with raised strings and a stee/slide) guitar, it was cut very high to begin with. I cut it down and then slotted it correctly.


The frets are brass and, after leveling and dressing, feel great. The first position frets are a bit lower than the others due to the leveling but they have plenty of life left. The dots are inlaid celluloid.


Bound soundhole. I forgot to take a photo of the burned-in maker's mark in the soundhole but it's the typical "Oahu Publishing, Cleveland, Ohio" mark. As stated before, this is a Regal-made instrument, so Oahu was only the retail brand on it.

Also, as noted before: the whole instrument is made from solid birch.


The original bridge was missing so I installed this (very close to the original style) rosewood bridge instead. The original would have been black-stained maple or birch with a fret saddle and non-compensated. This one, with its new bone saddle and compensation, is a huge improvement. The bridge pins are a mixed set of old creamy-white ones from my parts bin and they match the trim just right.

I'm using extra light (46w-10) strings on here as that's the "safe" gauge to use on these guitars. The bracing is extremely light. This may do fine with 52w-11, though. This has a shorter 24" scale which makes the feel very quick. The neck shape is a medium round C, as well, and is more comfortable compared to the slightly-earlier big V shape more common on Regal builds from the time.






I'm not sure if the tuners are original to the guitar but they work just fine and are definitely period types.





The neck set was so good I didn't even have to reset it. This is rare on an older instrument and shows how well this one was cared for.


The endstrip has no endpin which is more evidence of this guitar's intent to be sold as a lap/Hawaiian guitar. Hawaiian guitar playing was extremely popular at the time this was made and the Oahu brand catered to it, particularly.

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