1880s Regal-made Lyon & Healy "Lakeside" Parlor Guitar

Update 2022: I bought this guitar in 2009 and owned it up until 2017. It was then "in the family" for a bit but has come back again now in 2022 exactly as it left in 2017 -- playing great and good to go. I wanted to leave the old 2017 post up (click here to see it) because it has some glory shots on the beach with this guitar, but I've copied-and-altered the old description to suit it now and shot a video and took new photos. Now back to that old description...

I've known this guitar since 2009 and have enjoyed it to the fullest. It's branded "Lakeside" -- which was a Lyon & Healy name -- and I'm now fairly certain that it was made by whatever firm that became Regal in the 1880s or 1890s. I'd originally thought it was earlier due to its design style, but Regal only became a business in 1895 and their fingerprints (as far as the pre-Chicago, Indianapolis-located Regal is concerned) are all over it.

The guitar has transverse (main brace is set at an angle) ladder bracing, an extremely lightweight build, and quartersawn oak sides with a plain oak back. The top is spruce, the neck is Spanish cedar, the fretboard is "ebonized" maple (as far as I can tell), and the original bridge was maple, too. Because of its feather-light build and bracing style, the instrument is just as lively and oomph-y as a Kamaka uke -- it easily sounds three or four inches wider than what its size would suggest.

It would've been made for gut (nylon, today) strings, but I have it strung with a "hybrid" set of nylon basses and rope-core-steel/nylon-flatwound trebles (a Thomastik set similar to the KR116 set). You can hear in the soundclip how full it sounds and also its interesting tonal character -- straddling between a classical, typical period parlor, and flamenco guitar in tone and projection. I want to be clear, here -- while this hybrid set uses classical-tension rope-core steel for trebles, normal steel strings should never be used on a guitar like this. It can't take it.

I'd done some work on this guitar in the past but in 2016 went through it head-to-toe and did what I'd wanted to do on it for a long time. I gave it a neck reset, a new rosewood bridge with ebony saddle and pins, and a fresh fret level/dress and setup. There are three older hairline crack repairs (not mine) to the back and one to an under-fretboard crack -- all of which are good to go -- but aside from those, a strap button at the heel, and the replacement bridge, the guitar is otherwise unmaligned and original.

In Martin terms this is close to a "size 1" in specs with an 11 5/8" lower bout width and 3 3/4" depth at the endpin. It has a period-typical scale length of 24 1/4" and a typical 1 3/4" nut width. Departing from the standard mold is a more-accessible mild-medium soft C/V hybrid neck shape and a very light 16" radius to the fretboard.

I think what I like best about this guitar is its "arts-and-crafts" period feel -- it's very spare, simple, and workmanly but expertly executed. I tried to keep with that "flow" when I made the new bridge for it.

The ebony nut is original and the fretboard shows a century-plus of light use-wear. It's a maple (I think) board that was "ebonized" black when new. The frets are original and still have plenty of life to go.

Action is on-the-dot for gut/nylon/classical strings at 3/32" across all the strings at the 12th fret and a hair lower on the treble. Adjustments can be made easy-peasy to suit personal taste, however, as the saddle is a drop-in unit and can be shimmed up/down. Past the 12th fret the fretboard dips ever-so-slightly down from the plane of the board on the neck.

The rosette is a pretty, understated thing. It's a mix of green, yellow, red, and black furniture-style stuff. The oak on the side is pretty, quartersawn, figured stock. The back of the Spanish cedar neck shows some cigarette burns and use-wear that's darkened the finish. Note the bigger pearl "side dots."

The tuners are nice-quality, have always been easy to use, and have good celluloid buttons. The endstrip is ebony and the original strap button is, too.

Repairs included: (previously) a neck reset, new bridge and saddle, new bridge pins, fret level/dress, cleaning, setup and (way back) someone else had filled back cracks. It's good to go.

Top wood: solid spruce

Back & sides wood: solid quartersawn oak

Bracing type: tranverse ladder (angled main brace)

Bridge: rosewood with ebony saddle and pins

Fretboard: ebonized maple or similar

Neck wood: Spanish cedar

Action height at 12th fret:
3/32” bass to hair above 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: Thomastik hybrid classicals (do NOT use steel-string sets)

Neck shape: medium soft V

Board radius: 14-16"

Truss rod: none

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: medium/narrow

Scale length: 24 1/4"

Nut width: 1 3/4"

Body width: 11 5/8"

Body depth: 3 3/4"

Weight: 2 lbs 4 oz

Condition notes: it's mostly original except for the bridge, bridge pins, and saddle. Pearl side dots were added. The tuners are original but I did clean them up back in 2009. The top and sides are crack-free but the back has a few sealed hairline cracks that have not moved since I've known this (they were done a long time ago). There's playwear/pickwear to the sides of the soundhole but it's not obvious. 

It comes with: either an oversize gigbag or a chip case -- whichever I have on hand.