6/21/2017

1890s Regal-made Columbus Mandolinetto





I worked on this for a customer last year and he brought it in the other day for consignment (he has  a lot of other toys to keep him occupied). I tried to look it up on the blog to list it for sale and -- surprise, surprise! -- I'd never posted on it! Now I get to stretch my memory.

This mandolinetto (guitar/uke-shaped mandolin) was made by Regal in the 1890s, judging by its build, and was probably made when the company was still in Indianapolis. Regal built many instruments for other brands and this one, under the Columbus brand, is a fairly typical product for their Indiana days as the quality's a bit finer overall. Mandolinettos are a curious breed of mandolin as they sound neither like a typical flatback (warm, sometimes tubby bass and sweet trebles), nor like a typical bowlback (crisp, lots of sustain, balanced, and articulate). They fit right in the middle and that makes them an excellent choice for someone who wants a bit more warmth but all the note accuracy of a bowlback.

This came with some old seam repairs, but as I recall I did it over entirely -- fixed some old seam repairs, cleated a hairline crack on the top, gave it a neck reset, fret level/dress, made a new (compensated) ebony bridge, replaced a missing brace, and installed some antique (but not original) tuners. It's been out of the shop for a while, now, and is still playing on-the-dot with 1/16" action at the 12th fret, a straight neck, and strung with 32w-9 GHS A240 strings. All I needed to do was record a clip and take some pictures. Even with the older strings it still sounds "ace!"


I love the look of these Regal-made mandolinettos -- they're very curvy and the 10th-fret neck join means they have the bridge in the widest, sweetest spot on the soundboard. That makes them louder than you'd expect and rounder-sounding.


As you can see, the old tuner holes had to be filled and new tuner holes drilled. I added ferrules at the same time. These replacement tuners (the originals were very damaged) are nice-quality units with what appear to be bone buttons.


The fretboard is rosewood and has smaller brass frets. The dots are pearl and I added side dots during repair. This has a 13" scale length and a 1 1/8" nut width. The (Spanish cedar?) neck has a medium, soft-V shape.


The top is solid spruce and ladder-braced. The fretboard extension dips ever-so-slightly down from the rest of the plane of the board.


The pickguard is inlaid celluloid "tortoise." The new bridge is a compensated, ebony one I made in a sort-of Gibson-ish (from the teens) pattern.





The back and sides are solid birch that have a sort-of dark, faux-rosewood look to them. There's some chemical discoloration on the back.





It's an elegant, well-made instrument.




The new endpin is rosewood, too.



The middle back brace was missing, so I replaced it with a wider, flatter, "strapping" brace so I could install it without having to remove the back. All good.

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