1930s Regal-made Jumbo Flattop Guitar

I've never handled a period Regal flattop this big before. I've grown accustomed to the "wide 000" flattops they made in the late 30s/early 40s, but this early/mid-30s bruiser is a full 16 1/4" on the lower bout and 4 1/2" deep at the endpin. It's also a 12-fret design, ladder-braced, and has a longer 25 3/8" scale length. That makes it a lot like the much-later Harmony H1260 in terms of size and general design-style, but with the 30s featherweight build and 12-fret joint in its favor, this guitar sounds several times more "lush," especially fingerpicked.

This is a customer's guitar and has been awaiting repair for a long time. It came in rather nasty but got "the works" -- a neck reset, new bridge (and much repair to a damaged top under the old bridge), a fresh refret with medium stock frets, new bone nut and saddle, side dots, and a lot of brace reglue jobs. It had a number of old repairs -- including some very sloppy crack repairs and finish muck on the back -- but now that it's tidied-up this thing is a joy. It's a perfect fingerpicker and a competent flatpicker, though it took me a few minutes to figure out how to coax the flatpick to get the tone I wanted out of it.

The top is solid spruce and the back and sides are solid birch. The neck is poplar and has a stained-maple fretboard and originally it had a stained-maple bridge. All the purfling and detail work is typical of Regal for the time.

It even has those funny Regal "mini-button" tuners. The nut is 1 3/4" and the neck has a massive V-shaped profile. I've strung this with 50w-11 strings and, though the neck is dead-straight, my main concern longevity-wise is the top.

The guitar had been played so ferociously over its life that giant divots were worn into the board and the original frets were so pitted I had to refret. It's not often that I do have to refret when necks don't have warp issues, so that's saying something about the life it's led.

The design reads like an outsized version of the "prototypical 30s Regal parlor guitar."

The new bridge is a rosewood one, though I chose the most grey-looking one I could find to match the look/aged-in funk of the original stained-maple bridge. It was a chore to get this one on because the top was quite ripped/damaged beneath the original bridge's footprint.

I actually added a bridge plate "cap" of new soundboard cedar over the original strapping brace/bridge plate (made from soundboard spruce in a wide/thin patch) to make sure it was structurally reinforced.

When this came in the back was wavy like the ocean on a stormy day. Finagling with clamps and external boards and whatnot saved having to take the back off and got all of the back braces down pat (save one -- the lowest -- which seems to have sprung itself a little out of shape over time -- it's not 100% but "good enough for government work") and the back pretty flat.

A bit of lube and the tuners were ready to go...

Interestingly, there was never an endpin on it.


Nicholas Ratnieks said...

Well, you've got the Old Girl off her rusty dusty! Bravo! I have a much smaller Regal made Concertone ( Ward's) box from the 20s which apart from the size is just like this guitar. Now, the tuner worms are below the capstan gears on your guitar which makes me think 1920s. Of course, the older style tuners may been be bought by the gazillion so the guitar may be newer than the tuners might suggest.

Jake Wildwood said...

I thought this might be a 20s model but the owner has done a lot of sleuthing and found its first reference in catalogs around 1932. I've also seen plenty of Regals with these small-button reverse-worm tuners clear through to the 40s. They must've had a lot of em!!!