1930s Regal-made "Balsa-Resonator" Tenor Guitar

Well, if you thought that Regal-made Bacon archtop tenor was curious and interesting, how about this Regal-made weirdo-resonator-guitar? Most of these wood-resonator instruments were built for Slingerland (who marketed them under the MayBell or Cathedranola brand/models) but this one is unmarked and clearly nicer-grade than your average version of these with a solid spruce top and solid mahogany back/sides.

It's roughly 0-size and a 12-fret guitar and shares the same basic body-layout as the 6-string variants of these I've worked-on (there's one in a consignor's hoard, here, by the way) but unlike the others doesn't have a spruce "resonator" (2nd soundboard?) in its soundwell and a pin-style bridge but rather has a balsa wood(!) resonator with a tailpiece load. Needless to say this is very bizarre but, after work was finished, I was floored by how loud and fun the tone is -- it sounds an awful lot like a Selmer-Mac gypsy-jazz guitar. It likes to get "dug-into" and provides a huge, saucy punch.

Obviously, this guitar has been around the block. It's beat, has many old repairs, and is diseased in its own ways (hee hee). It is, however, lovely, for all that. The owner and I chuckled at the non-screen in one soundhole. I had the notion to put some new screen-door material in there and told him that I didn't think it'd suit it -- he agreed! We liked the mongrel look.

Work included a neck reset, board plane and refret, modification of the original bridge and soundwell setup (pics at the end of the post), crack repairs and an additional "popsicle" brace near the neckblock on the top, and general setup and whatnot.

This has a long 24" scale so it's not really suited to standard CGDA tenor tuning. I put it in DGBE but because of the very thin neck, even tuned-up to pitch with 30w, 22w, 16, 12 strings the neck added relief -- a tiny 1/64" amount, but enough to make me sigh. I think the owner will switch the tuning over to fifths, anyway, and I suggested using a standard tenor set but tuned down to something like Bb or even A on the low string to keep the neck happy.

All the fittings are original, including the funky old geared pegs (which actually work just fine) and the very-yellowed bone nut.

The board is rosewood and has "lucky" inlays. Note my new medium frets and the black celluloid binding.

The top is solid spruce and, in a way, acts as supplementary soundboard. Under the "hood" there's a 2nd soundboard made of balsa that's set in its own mahogany soundwell. More on that in a bit.

All the purfling and binding choices are typical for fancier Regal-made products of the time.

The "volute" at the rear of the neck, however, isn't typical. Note the cool tuners and their mini-buttons complete with funky old mini-repairs.

Ugly old crack repair... but at least it now has some reinforcement on the back-side. When I first picked-up this guitar this area caved in with the lightest touch. Who knows what sort of glue was used on the old repair? Whatever it was it crudded-it-up as far as making a clean, new repair was concerned.

Here's another old "patch-style" funky repair. I'm guilty of, years ago, doing one of these on an old Martin uke.

The reason was, however, that I didn't have anything to put a new patch of mahogany in-place in the right place with. It was a rectangular hole that was clear to the kerfing on either side and next to the end-block and, at the time, I couldn't figure out how to support it. Now I'd add some fitted bits around the edge and plug it with a nice piece of mahogany -- but at the time it worked and was better than what was there -- so I can understand why this happens.

Here's the as-is configuration. Isn't it wild how this was built? There's that rake-shaped set of braces spanning a balsa soundboard set in the sides of a resonator-style soundwell -- and on top of it sits the bridge.

Here's the new configuration with bridge modified to compensated/adjustable with a new rosewood base.


N2Massage said...

Needed to have posted a recording of this reso. Sorely disappointed....

Jake Wildwood said...

I know I know I know -- I simply didn't have time as the owner had to pick it up right away.