5/03/2013

c.1915 Regal-made 9-string Parlor Guitar


I worked on this instrument for a customer of mine. You can see its original condition by clicking here. This was quite a lot of work but the end result is a fabulous machine. It sounds so good. It's like that big old Oscar Schmidt Blind Willie McTell sound but with the freedom to play a bunch of bass leads without jangle.

My customer was under the impression that this was a Stromberg-Voisinet (later, Kay) product, but earlier research of mine shows these types of guitars with their swept headstock shape as sold by Lyon & Healy in the teens through very early 20s. Most Lyon & Healy guitars were sourced after 1905-ish from Regal, also in Chicago, and also part-owned by Lyon & Healy at the time.

While there would be inconsistencies if this were a S-V product, there are none for it being a Regal product. This shares the same body shape that Regal used from the early 1900s through the 40s for their "standard size" guitar as well as the same decorative touches (simple painted-on rosette) that can be seen on many a Victoria-branded Regal product from the same time this was made. Also, the heel shape, neck size and profile, and general character suit a Regal attribution.

That said, please prove me wrong! With no label it's hard to be positive on such a curious bird.


Te whole thing seems to be made from solid, very thin birch. The neck, though, is poplar and has a dyed fretboard and bridge.


New bone nut, original tuners. The headstock was split, and per the customer's request I didn't pin or dowel-in the headstock breaks. I just glued it back up. You can feel me crossing my fingers over here, right? Heh heh.


Funky dots, nickel-silver frets. The big old V neck is perfectly straight.

This guitar originally had paper markers all down its length for notation in low-bass open G tuning (DGDGBD bottom to top), and the untouched frets and discoloration near the nut (from, presumably, a raised metal nut) suggest that this was intended for lap-guitar use from the factory.


Super-duper-plain rosette. 


After resetting the neck at a steeper angle, the bridge needed to be replaced. I don't like having to replace parts if the originals are extant, so I figured a simple and elegant way to fix the problem... I installed adjuster feet right into the top and into the (oversized) bridge plate/brace and made the original bridge adjustable for height. I've seen this on some early-1900s German guitars and, from the front at least, it preserves the cool original look of the instrument while also making action-adjustment really easy. I was going to make an entirely new bridge to begin with but I like recycling better!


This guitar sure puts off a big old bluesy vibe.





Here you can see just how much extra back-angle I added to the guitar. It was necessary to compensate for drifting of the overall shape of the guitar over time.



There are tons of nicks, scratches, and wear all over the guit.



The tuners are all lubed up and working well.

I've strung this with a light 12-string GHS set (46w-10) minus the E, A & D octave strings. While it tuned right up to standard pitch just fine, the cautious side of me dropped the tuning a half-step to Eb and I felt a lot safer. This is a featherweight instrument and the construction is as well.



When I reinstalled the tailpiece I moved it over slightly for better alignment and also added a strap button so this can be useful standing up. This also made the lower (most important) screw for the tailpiece much more substantial.

4 comments:

karl said...

Very nice, and exciting (especially with nine strings and a headstock that looks like it could come apart, talk about adrenaline-boosts). A question: does the reduced bridge footprint change the sound?

Antebellum Instruments said...

Karl: so much has changed (neck angle and the overall condition) with this instrument from its original build that I wouldn't know exactly. I think, generally, that adjustable-style bridges like that give a sparklier and slightly more compressed tone to an instrument, whether they have a foot or not.

Sam DeLong said...

Does anyone know a way to contact the current owner of this guitar? I am interested in building a replica,and would love some measurements.

Chris Vallillo said...

I have the exact guitar which I restored and modified to X bracing and a fixed bridge. You can se it as well as the new instrument I had custom built based on this guitar at ginridge.com. Go to the "on the Bench tab and you'll find an article I wrote about the restoration of this guitar and the construction of it's new version by noted luthier Tony Klassen. My contact info is on the web site. Email me and I'll send you whatever dimensions you'd like.