10/27/2016

1950 Epiphone Triumph Regent Carved-Top Guitar





A good customer of mine bought this grand old Epi as a birthday present for himself. It's a '50 (made 6 years before Epi was sold to Gibson -- a quick update, here: the owner corrected me on the date) and the cutaway on Epi's big body Triumph was fairly new for this model at the time. As you'd expect -- it's a top-flight acoustic jazz guitar right off the bat with a 17 3/8" lower bout, carved spruce top and carved maple back, and long 25 1/2" scale. Its styling and design is definitely up-market and the curvaceous body gives it that classic, sexy, Epi look.

It came with two DeArmond (1940s) "monkey on a stick" pickups that were Mickeyed onto it and originally we were going to retain both, though a pillbug infestation of one of the pickups (which had damaged the coil) meant that we had to go with a one-pickup setup instead. I think this is a surer bet, anyhow, since the placement of the single pickup higher up the body means that the extra weight saps a bit less acoustic tone.


My work on this included modifying that electric setup (tidying it up, mounting it to the pickguard, and making a new wiring harness that grounds and exits a jack at the tailpiece), regluing all the back binding (which had been sloppily-reglued before), regluing about a 1/3 of the back to the sides, a fret level/dress, bridge alteration (to clean-up some icky filing on the base), and a general setup. Two tuners also got some replacement button-mounting screws whose originals had disappeared at some point.

After work this has a really aggressive-but-deliciously velvet plugged-in tone, though the acoustic tone is wonderful as well. It's currently strung 49w-11, however, so I'm assuming that the acoustic tone would really wake up with some mediums -- though the intent here is to have this function as a "damn straight!" electric box.

One really interesting note, by the way -- there's a metal rod that attaches from neckblock to endblock and was obviously installed at the factory. Along with that frequensator tailpiece, it adds a lot of reverb-like space to the tone which is quite cool. It also seems to have staved-off the need for a reset due to changing geometry. I personally think all guitars should have something similar, but the world disagrees with me!


I'm amazed that the original tuners survived so well. Did I also mention that this guitar is almost entirely original?


The pearl inlay in the rosewood board is classy and restrained.



One nice bit about these old DeArmonds is that you needn't modify the pickguard's profile to mount them. Because someone had already mucked-up the pickguard (see the control area), however, I didn't feel the need to worry about putting a hole in it to mount the pickup more securely. I've also taped it to the back of the guard for more support, too.


In its past life, the DeArmond "control pod" with this bakelite knob was attached directly to the pickguard and a Switchcraft jack was right next to the "E" logo. I removed the latter, added some tortoise backing to plug the hole, and installed a new 500k volume pot instead of the old 250k DeArmond pot. This gives a bit more high-end. After that the signal goes right to the endpin jack and the tailpiece grounds the strings out.

This is a lot more efficient and practical than the funky "monkey on a stick" standard mounting which can put the strings out of tune obnoxiously as they clamp to them behind the bridge.


The original rosewood bridge is in good shape.





The back is two-piece, carved maple with a bit of figure. The whole guitar is quite stunning in person.



A 5-piece neck keeps the guitar nice and stable and a trussrod is hidden under the fretboard extension (hence my placement of the pickup an inch or so down from the extension).











The original hard case puts it just that much more over-the-top!

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