1890s Regal-made EWS Tailpiece Parlor Guitar

This light-as-a-feather guitar (it's a "size 2" at 12" on the lower bout) dishes-out a ton of volume and has a thick, woody on the low, zingy on the high, pseudo-Gypsy-jazz tone. I sort-of expected that as a lot of these period steel-string parlors do go that way, though because this one is even lighter than usual, it sounds even better. One has to string a guitar like this quite light as well, and this has a set of 46w-10 extra lights on it even with its short, 24 1/4" scale length. This gives it an entirely different feel compared to a modern acoustic guitar -- with looser strings that need the lighter touch an experienced electric guitar player might be more familiar with.

I'm also fairly certain that this was made by Regal when the company was still in Indianapolis (they were there until 1904), as it sports their familiar "transverse ladder bracing" with the main brace just in front of the bridge running at an angle like "half an x" on the lower bout. Its body shape is also close to (or the same as) other period Regals (a few of which I've worked on under the Lakeside and other Lyon & Healy brands) and the neck shape and light radius of the fretboard (about 14") is the same as well. That radius disappears for the most part after they move to Chicago and ramp-up production like mad. If anyone has another idea per the maker, please tell me. It's a curious guitar.

Anyhow, guitars of this sort were the first true "production steel strings" on offer from catalogs. From around 1890 through 1915 they were really the only practical option for steel-stringing a guitar (so that the top wouldn't distort), as most pin-bridge guitars up until 1920 or so were really intended for gut/nylon.

The top is spruce and the back and sides are solid, birdseye maple and very thin.

The whole thing suffered a lot of deformation as it aged and most of my work was correcting that for its owner. It got a neck reset, top reinforcement near the neckblock (what I call a "neckblock extender" as a block is glued-up under the top/fretboard extension and bumps-up against the neckblock), fret level/dress, new compensated bridge, seam repairs, and some cleating and brace repairs to the back. There are two missing braces on the back but I left them out as installing them would've meant having to take the back off and deal with a lot of minor deformation to the back as well. It got some side dots, too, and I modified the original (broken) tailpiece so I could reuse it.

It turned-out playing great, though, with on-the-dot action and a straight neck.

The tuners are recessed, covered units like you might see on a mandolin. Very few guitars of the time had these and I always thought they looked kinda great. The original nut is ebony and this has a 1 3/4" width and a shallow-V neck profile similar to a 1920s Martin. The headstock veneer is rosewood...

...and the fretboard is, too. The dots are pearl and the original frets had just enough meat to give them a level/dress job and say "good enough."

Because old steel strings used smaller "ball-ends," I had to overdrill the loading slots for the strings just a bit to let new ball-ends in.

The solid, birdseye maple on the back and sides is gorgeous.

Despite what they look like, I actually did clean-up the tuner casings and tailpiece, too. They'd gone green and black with age.

Here you can see how the tailpiece broke off at the "hinge," previously. I didn't put as sharp a crease when I made my own modification to it, so hopefully it'll hold-up better.

Aside from the bridge, by the way, the guitar is all-original.


Wm Rench said…
I have this same guitar, passed down from my great grandfather who lived late 1800's early 1900's in Ohio and Michigan. I'm still looking for one set of the original tuning machines.
My grandfather and my dad played this guitar all their lives and I have had it now for about 50 years.