1/30/2016

1930s Regal LeDomino "Big Boy" Roundhole Archtop Guitar




At 15" across the lower bout, this isn't the biggest archtop guitar on the planet, but it does "feel" big in the lap with its wide waist and flattop-depth sides. Its neck is also on the big side, too, with a 1 3/4" nut width, very light radius, and huge V-shaped profile.

The sound? Yeah, it's big and warm (for an archtop), as you might expect. While the top is press-arched, the typically-lightweight Regal build combined with the round soundhole gives this a decidedly fuller tone and you can fingerpick or strum this cowboy-style as well as get those punchy, zingy, early jazz comp sounds ringing out. It's compressed-sounding but the flavor is "open."


This guitar has a spruce top with birch back and sides. The neck is poplar and the fretboard is "ebonized" -- something? -- possibly maple.

Work on this one included regluing a bunch of seams (for example, the whole upper bout rear was loose), gluing up a top brace, adding three "strapping" braces to the back to replace all of the missing back braces, replacement (vintage) binding here and there, installation and fitting of a new rosewood/bone archtop bridge, replacement (vintage) tuners, a fret level/dress, back crack fill/repair, and setup. I also double-bolted the neck and replaced a missing nut with a new bone one.


This has a 1 3/4" nut and a longer 25 1/2" scale length.

I have it strung up with my balanced-tension version of a "lights" set -- 54w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 17, 13 -- clocked-in at just slightly less overall tension than your average 54w-12 "lights" set. That gives the plain treble strings some juice (a place where archtops can be zingy) and the balanced tension of the strings really suits the character of the instrument as the trebles are thick and the mids aren't overwhelming.


Thankfully, the neck was straight and the frets were nice and tall. With only light fretwear to show, too, this made the level and dress job pretty quick.

Compared to the other "Big Boy" I'd posted about, this one has more of its fretboard decals rubbing-off.


The decals around the soundhole and below the bridge look great, though. Also: check out the odd wear marks to the treble side of the soundhole -- when this was new it would've had a pickguard mounted here and the pickwear is just beyond the edge of where that would've terminated. Someone was heavy-handed for sure!


The new bridge is a StewMac rosewood/bone one. I trimmed its foot a bunch to fit the much-curvier top of this particular instrument, however. As a result this instrument has plenty of adjustment room up and down, too.





I didn't have any new binding that was truly appropriate for the guitar, so I mix-matched from whatever vintage binding I had left that looked more-or-less decent on it per the condition of the rest of the instrument.





The original tuners were missing, though I did have these same-period ones on hand. After a lube, they work just fine.


Here's the Regal label and you can also see one of my new "strapping" braces. These are made from soundboard spruce material and they glue down flat along the back with clamping pressure rather than having to be cut and fit like a traditional brace.

Harmony used this method of back bracing on archtops all the time from the 30s-on-up and Oscar Schmidt played around with it a bit, too. After dissecting enough of those I've come to the conclusion that they're a perfectly acceptable way to replace missing braces on archtops without having to charge my customer an arm and a leg for the time spent perfectly fitting new traditional braces. As a bonus, they're lighter-weight and from my experience with Harmony boxes, they stay put a lot better than your average "normal" brace.


New ebony endpin, here.

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