8/03/2015

1930s Regal Spruce/Mahogany Tiple




Tiples tend to be way more work than your average mandolin, uke, or guitar. They're more like working on a miniscule 12-string guitar that has all the same headaches with setup and intonation. Gripes aside, this is a great-sounding old tiple that came in via a customer. I own the same model (albeit not in a faded-finish sort of state) myself and can always recommend Regals as a good-sounding buy. Just for reference: tiples are approximately "tenor uke" in size and have 10 steel strings strung in octaves on the first 3 courses. They're an American derivative of a South American instrument idea (hence the Spanish "treble" name).

This one is Regal's mid-upper grade model and it has slightly figured mahogany back/sides, a spruce top, and dyed-maple fretboard and bridge. The neck is the standard poplar used on most Regal products save high-end instruments. Age hasn't been kind to this one and the (normally eye-catching) multicolored purfling is now in multiple shades of "desert sand" rather than bright red, green and yellow. I'm almost certain this is an early 30s model rather than a late 20s one as it has the shorter 16 3/4" scale length (earlier ones tend to have 17" scale).


Work on this included a bridge reglue, neck reset (two bolt conversion) along with fretboard extension reset/height addition, a fret level/dress, new compensated bone saddle, and new bone nut as well as the usual cleaning and setup work. It has a good, straight neck and plays perfectly with 1/16" action at the 12th fret.

My compensated bridge saddle helps tuning a bunch but it's not perfect. Tiples combine the issue of light string tension with a short scale and octave stringing. All three of these make it hard to play perfectly in tune no matter what you're playing -- especially if the player is heavy-handed -- but this one plays "good enough for gov't work..." which is as much as one can expect.

I string these a little heavier than the normal GHS tiple set (the most widely available set) as that set is intended for the vintage ADF#B tuning. I tend to split open a 12-string guitar set and then use singles to make a set that looks like: 

G = 11, 23w
C = 17, 39w, 17
E = 14, 30w, 14
A = 10, 10

This is a lot more balanced and pitch-stable for GCEA tuning.



The neck was very straight and the frets were barely touched, so only a light fret level/dress was needed. Dressing is somewhat important as the original frets on these are very tall and narrow so feel "sticky" when you play. They still are, somewhat, but feel a lot better than stock.


There's a bit of soundboard compression around the soundhole, but that's to be expected on one of these guys. I helped that along by resetting the neck about 1/16" higher in its joint than it was before so it would be easier to keep the fretboard extension at a proper angle after reset (rather than "ski-jumped"). Since I was doing a bolted neck reset (the joint was terrible and had been shim-glued unsuccessfully before) that meant it was easy to do.


The original bridge was (miraculously) in good order. It just needed a new saddle for reuse.



The finish is super-crazed on this tiple -- but I like that look. It's "lived-in." Thankfully, there are no cracks.














Here you can see the over-under 2-bolt neck join I use when converting these to a bolted connection. I also glue at the same time, so access is just for "in case of future need."

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