1/19/2015

1930s Regal-made MayBell #32 Flatback Mandolin




While this "tain't no A-Century" like the mando I posted earlier today, it's still a respectable little machine despite a past full of hard times. I worked on one of this same model a couple years ago that was in better condition but after doing a bit of work (re-reglued some seams and braces, gave it a fret level/dress, new rosewood bridge, some replacement parts for its tuners, crack cleating/fill to the top, etc.) it plays like a champ. It's also quite loud and has a good, solid tone without the tubby lows you might expect from a flatback. I'm hoping this one's owner finds this as fun as I do when he picks it up.

Regal-made mandolins tend to have a 14" scale by the mid-30s which feels "at home" to a Gibson player's 13 7/8" standard length. They also tend to have wider nuts and somewhat beefy necks which means that they hold up pretty well over time, too, and folks who get cramped on the average narrow mando neck will find these a lot more comfortable. I do!


The top is solid spruce with white celluloid binding on its edge. The back and sides are solid birch and the neck is more than likely poplar. A dyed maple or poplar fretboard is typical, too, for these instruments... though I've replaced a missing bridge with a rosewood one I cut to the same size as a 50s Regal mandolin bridge.


Amazingly, the original wooden nut is holding-up alright and extant.


Brass frets and celluloid dots...


...and one heck of a great-looking celluloid pickguard!


Here's my little compensated bridge. The strings are GHS A240s with 32w-9 gauges. This can take 10s, probably, but considering the "compression" crack below the bridge and under the tailpiece, I figured it'd be safer to keep it with these gauges which are what I typically put on most canted-top flatbacks from the 20s and 30s.


The Bell Brand tail takes both loop and ball-end strings. I've of course stuffed some foam up under it to mute the overtones which were quite noticeable on this mandolin.




I had to scrounge up 6 old screws and various replacement parts from my parts bin. These tuners had some mistmatched stuff which didn't fit at all with the original equipment and would've stripped stuff out pretty quickly if put to real use.


There was some evidence of (bad) seam repair in the past. Perhaps the neck also got reset at one point? At any rate, it came to me solid and with a good angle, so I can't complain too much.