Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Regal and May Bell Tenor Guitars - Initial Repair Assessment

The Princess banjo-mandolin is still down in The Dungeon waiting final assembly.  I confess that I made a small goof and had to do some touch-up on the headstock.  So I'm waiting for the lacquer to dry so I can rub it out.

In the meantime we have a exciting interesting new project.

Not one, but TWO Regal-made tenor guitars!

The one on the right is a Regal-labelled small body model belonging to a good friend.  And the one on the left is mine.  It's clearly made by Regal, but carries the "May Bell" brand/logo used for their line of guitars, banjos and mandolins.

I'd guess both instruments date from the 1930s.  Neither one has a serial number that I can find.

Both of them need neck resets and some other minor work.

They both have solid spruce tops with birch backs and sides.  And they're both quite charming!

The smaller one measures about 10 3/8 (about 30 cm) across the lower bout.  That's about an inch smaller than a Size 5 Martin.  I haven't measured the scale length just yet.

Here's the headstock of the smaller guitar - bearing the Regal logo.

Come to think of it, I have a book on Regal guitars!  I'll look these up and see what else I can find out.

The Regal logo.

Regal cranked out thousands of instruments through the 1920s and 30s. Their build quality is not as good as Martin's, but they use solid woods and are decently made.  I'd guess they cost a third of an entry-level Martin, so you get what you pay for.

Look at the braces as an example.  They look a bit unfinished.  Functional, but not much beyond that.

Here's the birch back on the smaller guitar.  Birch is sort of a second-tier tonewood, but it's decent for an inexpensive instrument.

I really like the contrasting black binding.  Looks great.

The guitar has an archtop-style bridge.  My guess is it's something like pearwood dyed to resemble ebony.

Don't you love the way that old nitro lacquer gets that amber look over time?  I just love it!

We have a "Bell Brand" banjo-style tailpiece.  This will look great after it gets polished up.


You probably won't be surprised to see banjo-style friction tuners.

One of the plastic knobs broke and someone cleverly used a wine cork as a replacement!  It works pretty well, but I want to put modern planetary geared banjo tuners on it.


The larger guitar carries the May Bell brand.  Regal made a lot of banjos with this brand name.

The headstock shape is just like a banjo's.

Again, we have spruce over birch.

This guitar has a LOT of playwear on it.  I was initially thinking I'd refinish it, but I've decided to leave it as is.  It has a ton of mojo!

Check out that string height - it's probably about a half of an inch (12mm) or so.

Another friend who is a great player calls that high action "cheese slicer" height.

The back of the guitar is stained (or toned) reddish-brown in an attempt to make the birch look like mahogany.  Nice try, but we know what it really is.

Not that birch is a bad thing.  I like the grain pattern.

Nicely shaped bridge.  Again, we have some unknown type of wood stained black to look like ebony.

I'm actually thinking about making an ebony bridge to replace this one...still pondering.  Would it ruin the collector value? (Ha ha).

And again we have the usual friction tuners.  These are painted silver - I can't tell if it was done at the factory or later in the guitar's life.

As with the smaller guitar, I'll be replacing these with planetary tuners.

Here are the two tenors with another 'second-tier' vintage guitar - another Kay jumbo that's waiting in the queue for repair.

We never have a shortage of projects in The Dungeon!

 
 
 
 

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