2/01/2016

1930s Regal-made MayBell X-braced Mahogany 000 Guitar




Rare, rare, rare! X-braced Regals are hard to find and even more surprising when they're spotted on a definitively mid-grade instrument rather than their higher-end models. This all-mahogany guitar is 000 (15" lower bout) in size with a 14-fret neck but obviously apes the idea of a Martin 00-17 in its no-frills styling and x-braced top. Its "x" is different, however, in that there are only 4 braces, truly, on the top -- the ladder one above the soundhole, the two main spars of the "x," and one tonebar that's confined between the legs of the "x" on the lower bout. It's a simple pattern but it's rugged and sure does give a good, wide-open tone.

One might expect this to sound fairly "chocolate Martin" with its super-lightweight build and specs, but it actually sounds more Gibson to my ears -- sort of like a breathier, woodier 50s LG-2 or LG-3 sound (extra mids and definition, therefore) with a bit more apparent volume and airy warmth. Its neck, however, feels somewhat like a 30s Oscar Schmidt "Stella" -- rounded C shape rear, flat-profile fretboard, and 1 3/4" nut width -- and its 25" scale length reminds me of a Schmidt as well. It's a really fun guitar to play for flat-out strumming as well as old-timey picking styles.


The body shape is the same outline as found on Regal-made Oahu Hawaiians as well as the LeDomino Big Boy. There's even a 12-fret spruce/birch Regal in the repair racks right now that shares the same shape.

Work on this particular guitar included a neck reset, replacement bridge, new nut and saddle, new pins all-around, a fret level/dress, cleaning, and good setup. It plays spot-on, the neck is essentially dead straight with only 1/64" relief tuned-to-pitch, and it's strung with 11s-comparable-tension strings (50w, 38w, 28w, 20w, 16, 12). It plays with 1/16" action DGBE and 3/32" action EA at the 12th fret.


The MayBell branding IDs this as a guitar made for the Slingerland catalog. Note the nice old original tuners and the rosewood headstock veneer. The neck itself is poplar and the fretboard...


...is dark-stained maple or pearwood. The dots are pearl and the frets are original brass ones of the smaller type.


There are no cracks on the instrument whatsoever (awesome) and its styling is as plain as it can be -- with only rounded-off edges instead of binding. Personally -- I think it's a great look combined with mahogany. 

The fretboard extension dips "down" on the top, but considering the fragile nature of it (it'd been mucked-about and split underneath in a prior attempted-neck-reset some time ago), I just glued it back on without adding a wedge below it. I should also mention that I added a "popsicle stick" brace below the fretboard extension, under the top, to bring the stability of that joint area "up to code."

The neck has also been reset -- both glued-in and shimmed-up in the traditional manner and also double-bolted internally for added strength.


The bridge is a replacement, somewhat oversized, rosewood "pyramid" type. The original bridge had a straight saddle and was split on the pins. Unfortunately it had been left on the guitar with tension for many, many years and the top had some damage under the bridge. I corrected this by way of a spruce bridge plate cap (soundboard material) and fill before regluing this new bridge. The result is a sturdy, effective repair.


As you can see, the bridge is nice and tall and has a good, tall saddle as well. The pins are all new ebony ones. There's only the tiniest bit of top deflection.


Here you can see that "x."






There's plenty of scritchy-scratchy over the back and sides, but the look is "well played," rather than carelessly-stored.




Its fun to see the "stripey" mahogany on a 30s guitar (where it's commonly seen on Harmony, Regal, and Kay makes). There are tons of people these days who complain (read: whine?) on forums about how newer Martins and the like with mahogany are "too stripey." What?

 To me that's a feature and a looks-enhancer. As anyone who's around the wood enough knows, the non-stripey mahogany seen on older Martins is actually pretty bizarre rather than fairly common. I prefer the look of figure, myself.




A 50s or 60s chip case keeps the guitar safe for light travel and storage. I think that the case is probably the only reason the guitar has held up so well.

2 comments:

David Burt said...

Customer guitar or is it for sale? David

Jake Wildwood said...

David -- $900 takes it home. Going to list this and some others maybe tonight or tomorrow morning.