c.1935 Regal-made Slingerland MayBell Tenor Guitar

I've been meaning to get to this guitar for so long now. It's an interesting thing and it has many old folky repairs (lots of cracks cleated on the top with bits of popsicle sticks, tehe-he-he). My work on it included regluing and fixing up the fretboard extension (it was splintered and off), new bone nut and saddle install, new pins, some top brace reglues a fret level/dress, new endpin, new tuners, cleaning, and setup. It plays perfectly with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and a fast feel despite the bigger D-shaped neck profile.

What's weird about the design is the almost 0-sized body (18" long, 13 1/8" wide, 4" deep) and the 12-fret neck. What makes it even weirder is that rather than a 14-fret joint (as I'd expect for a 30s tenor) it has a 12 fret joint! Combined with Regal's light transverse ladder bracing this gives it a huge, warm sound that's like a breathier version of a Kalamazoo KTG-14. It also has a long 24" scale which makes it sit somewhere between a tenor guitar and a plectrum guitar which means it's not very useful for standard (CGDA) tuning as the A will inevitably snap all the time. I find it just about perfect for DGBE (Chicago) tuning but I think it'd also be "swell" for octave mandolin GDAE tuning so long as the A string was kept as a plain (maybe a 16, 17, or 18). The warmth and volume of this instrument should give that low G some boom.

The top is solid spruce with many old longish hairline crack repairs while the back and sides are birch. The neck appears to be poplar or maple and the board and bridge are both stained maple. It's bound on the front, back, and soundhole edges.

I love this headstock shape! I maybe did it a disservice by installing guitar-style tuners but they're certainly much more practical than the half-missing original friction pegs. Considering a decent set of geared banjo pegs that'd fit this would cost $85-100 I figured this was a safe solution that'll tune easily.

The whole instrument has a topcoat of varnish -- including the fretboard. The dots are pearl and the frets are brass.

Chipped-out areas of the board were filled with maple dust and glue and then darkened enough to look like old repairs... also not ethe alligatoring of the finish and the general pick wear and tear all over.

The pearloid pickguard is very cool but at some point it must've come up as someone screwed it back on (these were originally glued)! I put some sticky film on the back of the pickguard and stuck it back on with the added screws since there were holes anyhow.

This bridge had been reglued and bolted (3 big bolts!) in the past. I had to fill its cruddy old saddle slot and then recut this new one and make a new saddle for it. The plastic pins are also new and I added a new bridge plate as well. The "bridge plate" in these is usually a "strapping brace" in spruce so that's what I added over the original... another strapping bit of spruce.

I love the old decal!

There's one big crack on the back... and lots of scuffing and scratching just like the rest of the instrument. If one of the previous owners hadn't put a layer of varnish all over I would've been able to remove much of the scuffing, too!

While the neck's glue joint was perfectly fine I shimmed up the joint while I had the fretboard extension off since Regals, Harmonies, and Kays always have "air pockets" that eventually allow the neck to creep over time.

New ebony endpin too.


Anonymous said…
Hi there. Just curious if you ever tried this in octave mando tuning. And, if so could we hear a recording? Thanks.