6/11/2016

1920s Regal Octofone





While advertised as "eight instruments in one" when these were built, most folks these days use Regal's Ocotofone instruments as octave mandolins or "8 string tenor guitars." The catch, however, is that the unreinforced poplar necks need to be strung with the lightest functional gauges possible, and most Ocotofones have gone sour from too much tension over many years of folks trying to figure-out what to do with them.

This one, fortunately, is in pretty decent shape. I needed to reset the neck (glued/bolted, as these have a doweled heel-joint -- sigh, sigh), level/dress the frets, reglue the back braces, and set it up. The owner had it in octave mandolin tuning (GDAE) but with much-too-heavy strings (a regular "OM" set is gauged 46w, 32w, 22w, 13 or similar) and so after work I restrung it with something that suits the bracing and build -- 44w, 28w, 17, 11 for the same pitches. This feels little "wobbly banjo tension" on the 21" scale length, but one can sacrifice and use a thinner/lighter pick to avoid banging the strings out of tune when going-at-it. 

Besides -- listen to that soundclip! Despite the light stringing, the light bracing and build means that this has superior tone.


This is the "standard-issue" Octofone, meaning it has a solid spruce top over solid birch back and sides.

The only crack on this is an old repaired hairline on the side. It's in excellent shape and all-original, too.


As usual, the tuners were installed upside-down and so they tune-up backwards.


The neck is poplar with a stained-maple fretboard and smallish original frets. When tuned to pitch, the neck gains a tiny amount of relief, but the action is still dialed-in at a hair-above 1/16" at the 12th fret.


The two-point body is distinctive and cool.

These have such a lightweight build, too, that they have that "old Martin feeling" where you feel like you're playing on air.



I cut down the original (stained-maple) bridge just slightly and compensated the saddle as best as I could.


The "Bell Brand" tailpiece accepts loop or ball-end strings. I've got some muting foam shoved under its cover, too, to mute the extra string length. If it's not muted, however, the instrument gets a sort-of glowing, reverb-ish sound. It's all a matter of personal taste, that...



The sunburst back and sides are neat. Curiously (and I've noticed this on several Octofones), the back gets two-ply binding while the front gets one-ply. Weird.










While resetting the neck, I also bolted it. This is because the joint is doweled at the top of the joint and it will never stay put unless you do something like this. If this were a dovetailed joint that was sloppy, it'd be easy enough to just clean up the joint and tighten it up with shims... but the flat "doweled" joints that Regal tended to use on all of their mandolin-family instruments means that's just not an option, here.

2 comments:

Scot Danforth said...

Gosh, that is zingy as can be!

Taylor W said...

Is this one going to be for sale??? I'm interested!