1930s Regal "Prince" Carved-top Tenor Guitar

What the heck am I doing working on my off-day? Well, my friend Rick picked this up a few weeks ago and told me about this thrift-store score the same day. He'd been meaning to drop it off ever since and when he came by yesterday I was pretty excited to see it. I had an hour left in my Sunday work schedule so I reset the neck and then did the fret level/dress, cleaning-up, and setup-side of things today. His having a number of other instruments on the waiting-list for repair meant it was easier for me to slip it into the schedule and not feel guilty, too.

Post-work, this is a ballsy, punchy, full-on tenor that absolutely suits what it was made for: chordal, big-band, backing work. It cuts a nice lead, too, but sounds ferocious for chord-chopping.

These high-grade, carved-top/back Regal archtops are extremely scarce and this one is a tenor... and 18" wide on the lower bout! It appears to be the company's tenor version of their "Prince" model and has the sunburst, checker binding, and bound f-holes to match. The fancy-pants, fully-carved Regals of this ilk appear to have been introduced in 1938 and I have my suspicions that this was actually built around 1940 due to that tailpiece design.

The top is solid, carved spruce. The back and sides are solid mahogany and the back is carved as well.

The prettiest bit on these is the inlaid, multicolor pearl, "minstrel" figure. Also note that the routed "Regal" script would have originally been filled-in with gold sparkle, too. Styling!

The headstock veneer is mahogany.

This instrument was heavily-played and I was lucky to have enough meat on the frets left to give it a proper level/dress job rather than a refret. Due to the abuses of time, however, much of the fretboard inlay has lost its recessed pigment so you can't see the interesting "leafy" bits.

This came in with a seriously-gross neck joint. Someone had installed a giant wood screw right through the rear of the heel (I'm guilty of it, from time to time, but I like to tidy it) and upon removing that and getting at the joint itself, I found an absolute mess of old shim-up repairs.

Part of the reason I usually remove fretboard extensions when doing resets on a lot of Chicago-made/lower-end guitars is because the joints weren't made all that well to begin-with. For example: when I reset this neck I aligned it with the center-seam of the top and the endblock area, but found that Regal had installed the tailpiece off-center from the factory! The problems are then compounded by folks who just cram stuff in there willy-nilly in hopes of tightening the joint up.

To fix something funky like this mess, I need to build it up/shim it up again in a similar wonkified manner -- but I make sure that when I do it that the joint is stable, rigid, and "ready for tension" without glue. It means that the necks stay where I've put them rather than coming-up after a few years because I did a "blind" glue/shim job under a fretboard extension's overhang and guessed about it.

I love the "checker" purfling/binding combo.

The bound, narrow, f-holes are also gorgeous. This has a tonebar-braced top.

The bridge had been a little cut-down over time and had some worn string slots. I adjusted the compensation a bit to make-up for the wear and tear. Post-reset, this has plenty of height and adjustment-room.

I have it strung DGBE with medium-gauge strings because the owner will probably retune it to CGCE or some similar guitar-based open tuning.

The heavy-duty tailpiece has one flaw: it wasn't really the right one to choose for the tenor neck. Its length means that, due to the bridge location, its height over the body was questionable (it only had about 2mm of airspace left under its leading edge before it hit the top) and so  added a little "bumper" under it near the hinge to pop it up off the top a little more.

I might as well mention that the instrument is almost entirely crack-free (there's a glued-up hairline on the side) and all-original save its endpin. It's missing its pickguard and brackets, though.

The mahogany back and sides, true to many Regal products, have some nice fine curly figure throughout.

The original tuners are going strong (they're Klusons).

The neck appears to be a 5-piece job of mixed mahogany and walnut, perhaps?

Fortunately for me, I patched the hole in the rear of the heel from the old "screw-fix" job and it's well-enough matched with all the rest of the finish funk in the area.

Make no mistake -- this is a big guitar.

My last task will be to rehang this tailpiece on center -- where it never was!

Here's the label in the bass f-hole.


Alex said…
What a Beauty. I think you should convince Rick to sell her to me.πŸ˜„πŸ˜„ I was just looking at a 6 String Prince about a week ago and Drooling. It's funny, with that huge body and a short, narrow Tenor neck, you'd think it would look out of proportion, but it doesn't seem to. Thanks for sharing and your undertaking to convince RickπŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜€
Aaron C Keim said…
Those prince guitars are super rare. Check out the Centerstream Regal book for info on the gent who did the inlay.
Jake Wildwood said…
Yup, the Regal book is pretty interesting stuff.
Unknown said…
It is an amazing axe for sure! Send me or jake and email and let's talk sometime. Mine is stringtrader@gmail.com and I could
Possibly be convinced to part with it..