3/06/2015

1930s Regal-made SS Stewart 00-Size Flattop Guitar




This guitar was a trade-in (in a dilapidated state) and boy it's a honey. It was made by Regal (with their trademark "transverse" ladder bracing) in the mid-30s and, like a typical Regal product, is styled externally after popular Martin and Gibson models. It has the 00-size (14" lower bout) profile similar to a Martin 00 but a pickguard and binding format similar to a same-period Gibson flattop. The medium-brown sunburst is reminiscent of a "shaded top" Martin from the time but the pickguard is very much a take-off on L-00 Gibson pickguards.

The quality of this guitar is on par with the "custom made" Regals of the same time: it's a good-quality instrument, feather-light, and made of nice materials. It's got a solid spruce top over solid mahogany back and sides. The neck is a bigger (but comfortable, think 30s Gibson) v-neck that's one-piece mahogany and has the weird inclusion of a slotted headstock (cool) on a 14-fret neck. After work it plays perfectly and has that airy, clear and rich "old time" sound that I expect from the better Regals. It's a joy.


There are no cracks on the guitar except for two next to the pickguard (well, under it), both of which I've cleated and glued up. This is really typical with many glued-on pickguard guitars. Oh, and there's a hairline on the fretboard extension over the body, too (a non-issue).

Other work included a neck reset (with conversion to a double-bolted setup, see later) as well as a bridge replacement/reglue, new saddle, new bridge pins, tuner salvage (fixed up the originals), fret level/dress, cleaning and full setup. It's good to go!

There's light use-wear throughout but overall the guitar is quite clean and the thin finish is "glowy" in person.


No veneer on the headstock, but the SS Stewart branding decal is pretty cute. The nut is original and bone. I've shimmed it up a tiny bit to reuse it.


Pearl dots in a dyed-maple, radiused fretboard. The frets are nickel-silver, have good height (though they're that vintage narrow stock) and I've added side dots for easier reference.


The top is bound with 4-ply binding and the soundhole is, too. Note the tiny "filled hole" at the end of the fretboard. Someone had tried to re-attach it with a screw! It made a hairline crack in the extension part of the board (a non-issue as it's all been reglued).


My replacement rosewood bridge has a convenient drop-in saddle and new rosewood bridge pins as well as a new, compensated bone saddle. The original bridge was decent but had been sloppily "repaired" with some bolts. Sigh.


Doesn't this have a great look?

This has a dead-straight neck, longer scale and 1 3/4" nut with. Despite all that, Regal braced the tops fairly light so I've strung this with 50w-11 "custom light" strings to keep it just as happy for the next 80 years (or at least a good while).



The mahogany (solid) used for the back, sides and neck is great-looking stuff.


It certainly is pretty rare to have a fun slotted headstock on a 14-fret neck.






I revived these original tuners with some vintage parts I had in my bins. They work swell.



Original endpin, too.


This guitar had an "attempted neck reset" earlier on with some clumsy shimming. It wasn't successful and I wasn't happy with the way the joint felt "just with shims" when test-fitting it. I converted it into a two-bolt (under/over) setup. I use big hanger bolts (Gibson banjo style) in the heel with big hex nuts and washers at the neck block. This has saved many a Chicago guitar and is super-stable in service. In addition, the neck is also glued at the time I reset it, too.


Here's the bogus SS Stewart label. By the time this was made the Stewart name was owned by big retailer B&J.


The original chip case comes along with the guitar, too!

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