12/29/2014

1940s Regal-made Silvertone Crest 000-size Flattop Guitar




Update: Winter dryness opened up the old pickguard hairline crack repair and center seam and I've re-repaired those and cleated where necessary. Just noting that.

Regal-built flattops like this are somewhat rare as they're much higher quality than the usual catalog fare. This one is like an oversize 000 shape with deeper sides (roughly dreadnought depth) and a wider waist than its Martin-sized competition. The same size and shape was used by Regal for a number of different nicer-grade models through the mid-30s and into the early 50s with the most exclusive examples under the Washburn and Bacon brands featuring flashy pearloid nameplates and x-braced tops. This one has the Sears-catalog Silvertone brand which places it after 1939 but probably no later than the mid-40s judging by the build. It's very close in styling and materials to the aforementioned 30s Washburns I've seen.

This one, like most Regal products, is ladder-braced but of the same general makeup. It's honking loud, has a brilliant and rich sound with an emphasis on clean treble and a tight bass, is built light but sturdy, and has that typical late-30s, early-40s giant Regal v-shaped neck. Add to that a long 25 7/16" scale and 1 13/16" nut width and you've got a feel that's as big as the sound. I find the sound suitable for pretty much any style of play, though straight-up strummers might find it a bit too forward and not forgiving enough of sloppy fingers... this has a lot of clarity and up-front snap. Fingerpickers might be delighted most, however, because of the wide spacing and inherent volume which aids folks who pick with the pads of their digits (read: like me).


This guy has a solid spruce top finished in natural (nitro) with solid mahogany back and sides finished in a sunburst. I'm not sure if the neck is maple or poplar but either way it has a decent flame/curl to it when you catch it just right in the sunlight. The (original) radiused fretboard is Brazilian rosewood and my replacement bridge is Indian rosewood with a new bone saddle, slightly-wider string spacing, and fitted with the original pins.

Aside from the replacement bridge and saddle I also installed vintage 40s tuners from my parts-bin (replacement buttons) as there were cheapy Chinese ones installed when it got here. The neck also got a reset, the frets got leveled and dressed, and it got a full setup. I've got it strung with 50w-11 ("custom lights") as you really don't need anything heavier to get this roaring. I like to be pretty gentle with old Regals because despite their sturdy nature, the tops are lightly braced and the long scale puts a lot of extra tension the heavier you go with your strings.


The headstock is that curious big old Regal shape that they used from the late 30s into the 50s. It's veneered with Brazilian rosewood and the script is stenciled-on.


The board is radiused, bound, and features giant pearl dots. As typical for Regals from the time, the rosewood's graining is awesome. Look how fun and swirly!

The neck had a bit of warp in it (about 1/32") but I removed that during the leveling/dressing process on the frets. It plays with 1/16" treble and 3/32" bass action at the 12th fret -- spot on.


I could have reused the original bridge (which was screwed-on and also glued from the factory) but I decided against it because this bridge type that I usually have on hand looks essentially the same, offers spacing to match the neck's width, and is entirely more practical due to a "drop in" saddle slot.


Do you see that nice spruce on the top? It's getting harder and harder to find the stuff, these days. The original celluloid pickguard tain't too shabby, either.

I can't stress enough how rare and nice these guitars are: they're certainly not your average mid-grade Regal... and even those are great pieces when they're fixed-up.


In this photo you can see the bit of pick scratching at the upper bout, bass side. Aside from light handling use here and there, that's the extent of real finish "blem." This is pretty clean and has no cracks, too, except for a hairline at the "left" edge of the pickguard. It's, of course, been cleated and is good to go.


The mahogany back and sides are gorgeous...



...and I should mention that both the top and back edges are bound.


The original tuners were long gone so I installed these 40s-style Kluson units I had in my parts bin. They work smoothly and look great. I had to specially recut all of the original tuner ferrules (still in place) to fit these, though... which was a bore but worth it to retain them.


The celluloid heel cap has a crack in it, but the neck reset went nice and easy and I thankfully avoided cracking it further despite having to apply a lot of pressure to pop the neck off.






There's pretty grain in that mahogany, too... and this guitar has an original, beat-up old chip case that comes with it.

4 comments:

Calvin James said...

That is such a beautiful guitar! I really like the details on the headstock. I have been looking around for one like that for ages. Hopefully I can find one to restore soon. http://www.wilmingtonjewelryandloan.com/Colateral-Loansl-Pre-Owned-Merchandise-Wilmington-CA.html

Ian said...

Does this guitar have a truss rod?

Jake Wildwood said...

Ian: no, but it has a big honking V neck. I think it would be fine with 50w-11 or a lighter variant of 12s.

IAMME19661 said...

I just recently purchased one of these, in what I think is really good shape.
With original case.