1930s Dobro Resonator Ukulele

I didn't see any serial numbers so I can't get the date any closer, but this is one of those rare-as-heck Dobro ukes made for a mailorder catalog. It's got a miniaturized spider-cone setup and sounds excellent. A Mr. Thayer walked in today with this in-hand and I took one look at it said, "do you know what you have?" Nope! But he does, now!

Regal made the necks and bodies for these Dobro-cone ukes (they have a 14" soprano scale length) and Regal build-style is all over it: "rounded off" headstock edges, doweled-in neck joint (which always fails), and sturdy ply body.

Don't you love the look? Everything appears to be original except for the (newer) 4:1 banjo tuners. The owner has it setup with steel strings (which are fine on these necks) in a curious open E tuning: EBEG# low to high. It sounds awesome at that but I'd love to hear it in low-G uke tuning!

Who doesn't like a 3-ply celluloid nut?

Or a pearl-dot rosewood board?

The last two frets are too high but we didn't get to that this time. There's always another day.

A friend of the owner's reset the neck with a bolt... exactly the way I'd do it! I lauded that effort. It's sunk from inside so it's not obvious. Regal (and Harmony) made their uke necks with dowels joining the neck at the top of the heel (a dumb idea), so inevitably the necks pull up.

The only way I've fixed the problem for good is by installing bolts or screws in the heel... and then never had to worry about it ever after.

Here's the pickup jack.

I install K&Ks in spider-cone instruments by gluing them to the reverse of the spider right under the saddles. This mimics the way K&Ks work in flattop guitars (by placing the units right below the saddles on the bridge plate) and this thing sounds great plugged-in.

There are a lot of expensive resonator pickups out there (that sound awful), but I've converted a ton of players over to K&Ks. I haven't found an application on an acoustic stringed instrument where a standard disc-style K&K wasn't superior, tonally. One just has to think about how to install them to make best use of their design.


Unknown said…
No sound sample? What a shame, that's a beautiful looking uke.
Jake Wildwood said…
Next time he's in I'll grab one. He had to leave pretty quick to get to an event. We didn't even get to fix his tall frets!
Unknown said…
What would you say the value of one of these is? I have the opportunity to buy one that is solid as can be.
Jake Wildwood said…
I would guess at least $800 these days and possibly more like $1200?
Unknown said…
Thanks for the info Jake. Glad to know I didn't do too bad.