9/25/2013

c.1925 Regal Wendell Hall "Redhead" Soprano Ukulele


This nice old Regal uke came to me in trade from Mr. Paul Rangell who I've done a lot of horse trading with in the past. Not only is he a great soul and excellent player, he's also got a similar fascination with all sorts of vintage cheese (and wine)... vintage ukes included!

These "Redhead" model ukes were promoted by Wendell Hall the famed songwriter/uke-slinger from the 20s and 30s and they tend to have a poplar neck and bridge (with Hawaiian-style frets-in-neck-face) and absurdly-flamed Cuban mahogany bodies. All solid, of course. Yes, and this one is no exception. In fact, it's the cleanest one I've had through the shop (of 3 or 4 of them).


This came out of the packing box in pretty good shape, but it did need a light fret level/dress and the bridge needed to be cut down to almost half its original height. Since the bridges on these are usually maple or poplar, after recutting and sanding it, it was stark white.

Instead of trying to color-match it for the original I decided on a faded-red stain instead to match the headstock. I think it turned out well, with a "faded" shade somewhere between the headstock and faded red of the soundhole rosette. FYI, in the pictures the bridge looks more pink, in person it's more of a "wash" red.

I also installed a fret saddle and converted it over to a "pinhole" setup... the strings get passed through a tiny hole on the top, pulled out the soundhole, and then knotted on the end before pulling the string up to the headstock. I find that this is a great solution to lower old bridges and it puts way less wear on the bridge and its glue over time. It also improves tone (via more back-pressure on the saddle). 

There are a number of new makers who use this setup, too.


The redhead label and original wood pegs are in great shape!


Typical tall, thin, Regal brass frets.


Lovely rosette! ...and you can see the Regal label peeking out from the back.

Tonally, these guys tend towards bright, quite loud, and impressive for their size. I love them as fingerpickers or choppy chorders. What's amazing about these old 20s Regals is just how much sound they put out... they're really "full on."



The back is just as pretty... oh, and no cracks!




Do you see how on the bottom waist joint there's a tiny bit of kerfing peeking through? You often see this on Regals from this time... they installed the rear brace a little too close to the edge and so you see (from the factory) a well-glued joint but some "patch fill" of glue/wood dust where they didn't bother to fix the issue in the first place. I can hardly blame them at the rate they were putting out ukes in those days...! What matters is where the rubber hits the road in stability and this is perfectly fine.




There are a couple scratches here and there and the finish has weather-checked here and there, but overall, this uke is super clean for its age.

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