6/06/2013

c.1935 Regal Two-Point Concert Ukulele


I worked on one of these recently and both examples had their own set of issues. This one needed a neck reset, bridge reglue, and much hairline crack cleating repair to the soundhole area. It also got a fret level/dress, new nut, new set of vintage tuners, and a setup to boot.

These were made by Regal (note "Regal" right on the headstock) in the mid-30s and appear to be their take on the idea of the Harmony Vita Uke. They're similar in many ways: a longer concert scale length, wider and more mandolin-ish body shape, and thin spruce (vs. hardwood) top. All of these changes make a much louder but also warmer and fuller-sounding instrument compared to a typical soprano uke from the time. These and their Vita cousins have a "wider" sound than I'm used to from period ukes and really do make especially nice fingerpickers.


I love the look of these guys. The top and back are both bound in black celluloid.


New bone nut, sightly dilapidated decal.


The Martin-style micro-dot pattern gives this a classier look. The frets on this guy are typical for Regal, being taller (but still thin) than most competitor's products.

The neck profile is a little wider side-to-side and thinner front-to-back which makes this excellently playable, especially for folks doing chord-melody or fingerpicking work. Plenty of room to play around on.



This is the original bridge, though someone had bolted it to the top at some point with a "bridge plate" added underneath. I added these abalone dots to cover up where the bolts used to be. The saddle is also a replacement: a bit of ebony glued onto the top. The original saddle was cut from the same piece of wood but was far too worn to provide proper action height.

The strings on it right now are Aquilas with a curious wound C. I have strings on order but only had a wound C on hand at the moment. It actually sounds pretty cool and full on the C because of that (sort of like those "banjo uke" sets one finds with a wound C).



While the top is spruce, the back and sides are solid birch. They've got no cracks.




So, Regal built these with a big dowel joint construction. Someone in the past had attempted regluing this instrument with some sort of awful glue. I pulled the neck, took all that crud off, and then reset the whole thing. At the same time I predrilled the lower part of the heel to accept a long screw and strap button. This will keep the neck stable over time and take some of the "work" off of the dowel.

This dowel construction (used on a lot of non-guitar Regal products from the 20s/30s) is a little frustrating to me as it will always fail as the glue ages since there's nothing but a flat surface for the bottom of the heel to hold onto. This should prevent any need to reset the neck in the future and it also offers a good place to hang a strap!

Note that there's a silvery flakey paint or substance around the heel area that I had a heck of a time getting off. I didn't want to rub the finish all down just to remove it so I left the bit that I couldn't get off on it. Also note that there's a weird scrape above the new strap button. I have no idea what might have caused that in the past.


This is a set of 20s/30s bakelite-buttoned pegs from my parts bin.



Doesn't it just look so cool?


I added a black plastic button to match the binding. There was a small hole here already where someone had put a hook for a strap.


Here I've put a lot of glare on the top so those hairline cracks pop out near the f-holes. There are a number of them, but they're all stable and cleated, now. I think these tend to happen on this model mostly because Regal neglected to put any strengthening patches or extra bracing in around the f-holes. Now those "patches" or "plates" are there by way of cleats. I also reinforced the center between the f-holes with a slightly larger patch/plate which should keep it much more stable in the future.

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