1920s Regal Spruce/Birch Parlor Guitar

One of the things about taking instruments in trade for work is that one needs to then fix those instruments and get them up for sale! I took this guy in trade last week and fixed it up alongside some other customer gear this week.

I've worked on several dozen of this same basic Regal-made guitar (it has no label, but it's definitely a Regal) with just as many retailer brand names plastered at the headstock or on a label inside. They're extremely-lightly built with only 3 ladder braces on the top -- one above the soundhole, one below the bridge and also serving as a bridge plate, and one set at an angle (a "transverse" ladder brace) below the soundhole.

This light, transverse bracing gives them a fuller, more-open, and louder sound than many of their competitors at the time. Unfortunately, it also means that only the lightest steel strings can be used on these if tuning to standard pitch. 46w-10 gauges or lighter only on these, please. These were built in a time when the big makers were converting over from gut-string thinking to steel-string thinking, and so the bracing patterns hadn't evolved a lot from gut-string use by this time.

Despite the light gauges, the tops on these do distort a bit over time -- this has a slightly-wavy soundhole area and a "low-rise" belly behind and under the bridge. It's typical and just happens because of the way these are built. The only way to be rid of it is to change the bracing -- and thus lose the cool vibe these have.

The bottom line, though, is that for "catalog" guitars of the time, these are some of my favorites. They make killer fingerpickers and if you have a light touch, they make fine flatpickers, too, with a good, warm tone.

Repairs included: a neck reset (fixing a bad old past reset job), fret level/dress, side dots install, new bridge install, "popsicle stick" brace addition under fretboard extension, minor seam repairs, new saddle, minor brace reglues, cleaning, and setup.

Setup notes: action is perfect with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret. The neck is straight under tension and strings are 46w, 36w, 26w, 18w, 13, 10 in gauges ("extra lights"). 

Scale length: 24 1/4"
Nut width: 1 13/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 9/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2 3/16"
Body length: 18 1/4"
Lower bout width: 12 7/8"
Waist width: 7 1/4"
Upper bout width: 9 1/8"
Side depth at endpin: 3 3/4"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: solid birch
Bracing type: ladder, transverse main brace
Fretboard: ebonized maple
Bridge: rosewood, bone saddle
Neck feel: medium V-shape, flat board

Condition notes: amazingly, the only cracks on the guitar are tiny ones hidden at the sides of the fretboard extension -- which I've backed entirely with a new "popsicle brace" under there, anyhow. Otherwise the guitar is crack-free. The bridge is a replacement and while the original would've been a rectangular bridge, I used a "belly bridge" because I wanted to give as much extra support to the top as I could and this one's rosewood happened to sort-of match the color of the fretboard. There's muck-up to the finish around the fretboard extension and neck joint, but it's minor. There are also various light scratches and scuffs throughout the guitar, but overall the finish actually looks pretty nice for its age (and type). Aside from the bridge, saddle, bridge pins, and a 3/4" length of replacement top binding, the guitar is original.


Nick R said…
I have exactly the same guitar but with different marquetry and- a decal down the middle of the back to add a touch of class! It has its original "Chicago" style flat pyramid bridge but arrived with very fancy Waverly fleur de lis tuners- clearly, not original. Anyway, it now has the brass plate tuners instead! Mine was sold by Montgomery Ward as a Concertone and like this one really sounds far better than one would expect. It has had its neck reset while the back has been glued back on with an overlap and the bridge sat on a luxurious bed of glue and needed to be glued back down properly!It is a bonus that it has very low action and does amaze people as it really has some guts for such a tiny instrument- must be that light bracing!