c.1930 Regal-made Diamond Head Guitar

Here's a rare, very cool, treat of a guitar. This was made by Regal around c.1930-1935 or so and sports a solid spruce top, maple neck, and solid mahogany back and sides. The guitar's lines are patterned on a Martin 12-fret 00 size instrument, with almost exactly the same dimensions throughout, save that it has a much thicker v-shaped neck. I'm almost certain this was built for lap-style Hawaiian playing to begin with as it has no end pin (a clear mark on guitars of the time that they were probably intended as Hawaiian guitars, especially if the "theme" of the instrument is Hawaiian-informed).

That makes this sort of a 00-18H copy, except that the fretboard is a wild bit of gold-sparkle and black celluloid with crazy lions, floral, and geometric fret markers. Oh, and it also has that super-cool hand-painted "Diamond Head, Honolulu" scene on the lower bout.

Another departure from the Martin reference is that the top is ladder braced in typical, extremely light, Regal fashion. This gives it an open, up-front, sweet and warm tonality, with singing sustain on the high notes and a crisp bass.

When I got the guitar it needed a neck reset and fret dress. In addition it had a floating bridge and tailpiece setup. I did the neck set, reglued a couple braces, some loose binding, and a back hairline crack... then installed this new rosewood belly bridge with slightly longer wings than normal. I find that these types of bridges really improve the stability of a ladder-braced top vs. the smaller, rectangular bridges.

The bone nut came with the guitar (it's newer), though I did reshape it a bit for a better fit and setup. What's nice about this guitar is that it sounds and plays fantastic as a fingerpicker/flatpicker, then you can pop a raised nut on it (one of those "convertible" metal nuts) and it becomes a prime Hawaiian guitar.

Super cool gold-sparkle and black celluloid fretboard.

Waves, sunset, palm trees, seagulls, and Diamond Head. Heck yes.

At some point it'd be nice to lose the plastic pins, but otherwise I'm quite happy with this.

Typical Regal-style binding from the '30s on their medium and higher-end flattops.

Nice mahogany on the back and sides, too. This guitar is light as a feather and feels great in the lap.

Tuners look original to me, though there are extra holes underneath the plates for screws. I'm thinking maybe they were flipped over at one point (with swapped sides) to give better access for lap tuning.

It's a sweetie!


Anonymous said…

I love working on learning how to play fingerstyle country blues. This guitar is one of those machines that really appeals to me. For me, it's simply stunning.

Ben: For me, too! Ever since seeing one of these at Folkway Music's website a while back I've been lusting after one. I got lucky and picked this guy up. It actually shipped to me from Ark New Era Guitars! - which surprised me -- at any rate, I'm reshuffling my Oahu squareneck out to keep it as this makes a great "convertible."
Anonymous said…
Thankfully, I was kept from playing my Uncle's guitars. I have his lower end version with the painted top, no glitter on the finger board. My local music store had one like yours for $175, I should have picked it up! D'oh!

The one in your photos looks great!

Tonya said…
How much did you sell this guitar for? I can't find it anywhere on this site.
John Phillips said…
Hi Jake,
Love your site. I just picked up this model guitar in a trade with a neighbour. Everything looks the same except this one came a rounder V neck, and end pin and an original pin bridge. After setting the bridge height and working on the frets I began to play. Yes!
Your description is bang on. The painting sure looks like the work done on the Gibson Kel Kroydens. Suns gone down here in BC Canada. Time to go out on the deck and play. Liked your video demo.

Cheers, John
Anonymous said…
Wow yours looks great! I happen to have the same one sitting in my attic. The finish is pretty beat up and the tension from the strings over the years basically ripped the original bridge off. I was planning on refinishing it but what would you value a guitar of such age and magnificence that has been restored?
Jake Wildwood said…
Best not to refinish it-- value is in the eye of the beholder, but these are becoming trendier old instruments.