5/17/2013

c.1930 Regal "Custom Shop" Rosewood Tenor Guitar




Talk about your hard-luck cases! This tenor guitar would have originally been a model fancier than the usual "top of the line" Regal tenor guitar since it sports Brazilian rosewood back and sides and a mahogany (rather than poplar) neck. Most instruments in this grade this would bear the Regal "custom shop" or "custom made" label in the soundhole, since they were more than likely factory one-offs. Still, this fella fell on hard times and was most definitely abused over its life.

I decided to "go with the funkiness" while repairing it and despite its visual distractions, this is a serious instrument. I've had so much interest in this simply from my "coming soon" note that it was in the works that I've been a bit crazed in responding to everyone asking on it. The bottom line: if you're into playability and tone, this is a super instrument. If you want pretty? Well... this has it, but it's underneath the destruction!

Compared to the many other variants of Regal tenors I've worked on -- all birch, spruce over birch, and spruce over mahogany -- this has a lot more lush warmth on the low end but also the good focus and sweetness on the high end chime that I've gotten used to with these guys. It's pretty hard to knock Brazilian rosewood as a tonewood -- go figure!


The top has (amazingly) no cracks, though the washboard and dirt effect of many, many years of pickwear and poor storage definitely show. It also shows how well-loved this instrument was. I'm a huge advocate of these Regal tenors: the tailpiece design gives them excellent projection (this has gobs of volume and oomph), the build on all of them is lightweight, and the 12-fret neck places the bridge in the ideal spot for tone despite the small, slightly-larger-than a baritone ukulele body.

As far as work goes? Seam repairs, brace repairs to the top, hilariously replacement off-color binding on the bass side of the top (it's actually white binding from a totaled all-birch Regal tenor guitar that's been hanging out in my parts stash), a new tailpiece, bridge, and tuners (all older parts-bin stuff), some hairline crack drop-filling on the back, neck reset, fret level/dress, new bone nut, and setup.


Note here that some goblin cut the headstock veneer above the nut. Why, oh why? New bone nut.


The bound headstock veneer and pearl-inlaid Regal logo must have looked pretty spiffy when new.


Dyed-maple fretboard with nice pearl inlay. Note that the board is actually bound with rosewood and has a stripe inlaid down either side of the neck (fancy!). I should note that the fretboard extension glued-up just a tiny hair angled, but intonation is still good and it's still on-center enough one doesn't notice it.


Originally the zipper purfling would have been brightly colored in red, green, yellow, and black. See the funny contrast of the borrowed white binding and the original black? It was too tempting to use it on this guy since I had the tenor corpse laying about -- like a family member loaning an organ.


The bridge is bone on rosewood from my parts bin and sounds/looks great. The tailpiece is some sort of 60s electric guitar tailpiece that I had stashed in my bin. It was short enough to work and makes it easy to string this tenor, since it accepts ball (rather than loop) end strings so any guitar strings will work.

Note the edging on the bass side of the tailpiece: the purfling was missing so I backfilled it with some glue and sanding-dust to fill out the edge. It's "good enough for government work..." as it stabilizes the binding to the side, but not much better.




Here you can see that rosewood with the same sort of zipper inlaid backstrip. There are a number of hairline cracks on the back but they're all stable and good to go.


This originally would have had 2:1 or 4:1 geared banjo pegs but they were long-ago removed. I had these old ivoroid-buttoned friction pegs in my parts bin and they installed just fine. Guitar-style (right angle) tuners can be installed easily and will allow easier tuning, but don't look as right as banjo-style pegs on this instrument.


Heel cap, multi-ply binding on the back.


This little panel was replaced on the back at some point.


Plenty of scuffs, knicks, and scratches!




There's binding loss on the back around that replaced bit... and black was painted on to substitute.


I added a strap button along with the tailpiece to make this a bit more useful for gigging.

Currently this fella is tuned DGBE (baritone uke style) and sounds really good with that. I expect it'd also sound awesome in standard CGDA but would guess that the bass G in octave mandolin (GDAE) tuning might be slightly choked on this instrument -- good enough for recording and duo/trio use but not for jams.

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