1940’s Regal X-Brace Conversion
Here’s the 1940s Regal X brace conversion that I finished up earlier this winter. I’ve finally managed to convince my daughter to let me take it back!
The guitar started as a ladder-braced instrument with Regal’s ‘Small Jumbo’ body that measures 15.5″ at the lower bout and has a fairly deep body depth. It’s a good-looking guitar but needed much repair to its original bracing, bridgeplate, bridge, and top, so was a good candidate for an x-brace conversion experiment.
The guitar’s neck and top and were pulled and all the top’s braces were removed. The top was originally about 1/8″ thick, so I opted to thin it to more of an early 30’s spec, and ended up at about .105″. After gluing a few top cracks, loose sections of back braces, and a couple of back and side cracks, I carved away all the excess back brace spruce to open up the back’s tone.
The top was braced similarly to a ’31 Martin OM, complete with early 30’s shaped scalloped Sitka braces and tiny stiff maple bridge plate. Some modifications were made to the layout to accommodate the guitar’s 000 scale length of 24.9″.
The top was reinstalled with its original binding and without any finish repair or touch-up. The bridge is a 1930’s proportioned small rectangle with through-cut bone saddle, 2-1/4″ string spacing and Antique Acoustic unslotted style 28 pins.
The frets and nut are new, and the guitar plays easily. The original Kluson tuners work well and are fitted with new Antique Acoustic buttons.
The guitar has a lightly-built tone, with lovely openness and warmth in its bases, strong and clean mid-range and trebles that are well balanced. The overall voice is something of a J-45 meets 000-18 and is quite unique among the vintage instruments that we have in stock. The neck has a round, chunky, almost-Banner-Gibson feel, with a 12″ fretboard radius, rolled edges, and a 1-3/4″ nut.
In the end, I discovered that converting ladder braced guitars to X braced guitars is something I won’t do with any regularity, as attending to the details the way I’ve become accustomed to in vintage instrument restoration is simply too cost-prohibitive. As a hobby, sure, it’s a great way to spend one’s time – but as a job, doing a conversion with the care and attention to detail that a pretty old guitar like this deserves is simply not a viable way to make a living! Still, this was a fun and worthwhile undertaking, and certainly a great distraction from the wintertime Covid blues!
Brilliant and informative as usual thanks Mark
Had the pleasure of fingerpicking a few notes on this today…fantastic sounding guitar Mark!
Is this for sale, and how much??
It will be listed for sale within a few weeks. Please keep an eye on our Thursday updates. Thanks!
hi mark, i was looking at this…because i justgot asunburst 1939 regal recording king jumbo…exactly like washburn 5246 …but different peg logo…as you know they are fdouble x braced…im wondering…does it work to go through soundhole and scallop both the x’s…resulting in the bass finally being brought out to potential? or in order to get the bass responce in those , do you have to actually remove 1 side of the smaller x…essentially arriving at 1 tone bar where there would usually be 2 in a pre war x braced guitar then scallop everything. i like this guitar a lot…its funny bluesy and real clear, spruce/mahogany all aged and dry…its barely been played, in exc cond, i paid 2 K for it…hope i didnt over pay. im lefty so itll get a saddle plug, reslot , new saddle/nut and set up w/ high action(3/16 bass to 1/8 treble) as i like my acoustics. please can you offer your insights? i like all your u tube vids…really swell. thank you! kev , long beach ca
Hi Kevin – Thanks for the note.
Scalloping the braces may or may not increase the bass presence in this guitar. Bass response is a function of plate thickness, back brace stiffness, top bracing, and air volume. Scalloping might do little to help this guitar. I’d suggest to leave it alone and use it for what it is. It should not be modified permanently. There are not enough of these around to start with!
thank you so much for your reply and advice…good points….and yes they are so rare too…this regal made jumbo from 1939 was hardly played, real shiny and clean…it cost 2K ….i have been sitting with it ,playing it alot, and the longer i play it…the more i love the sound just as is! also, it is both aesthetically beautiful and ergonomically so comfy…that chunky neck, the fairly big deep body, just really nice feel and to sit with and play…plus its light as a feather…the top is remarkably close grain…lokely 1st growth adirondack judging by the big punch in sound and overtones this has…i love it!
thanks again , i appreciate your thoughts.
I haven’t had the pleasure to meet you, but I have the honour to have acquired that very unique guitar earlier today, after sleeping on it for a couple nights.
I had heard of the store and your work from Montréal, and I finally had the chance to drop by. I was not disappointed. What you and your team is and nothing short of amazing. Bravo.
I was not actively looking for a guitar, but I had it in the back of my mind for a while that I would like to have a guitar to sit between my trusty d-18 and 1957 0-15. Of course I was considering 000-18 types, but was not particularly animated by newer models and could not afford vintage. In the store, I first played a few 000 style, and thought they were lovely but perhaps a bit too spiky in the high range. Maybe I had fooled myself into thinking I wanted a 000 but was too influenced by the mellower tone of my 0-15, which has been my main guitar?
Then I noticed this “alien.” Regal? Aren’t they making dobros? I picked it up, plucked a couple chords, and it was a complete coup de coeur. I played on it a little while, and chatted with Mike to inquire what was the deal with this odd ball. He explained to me that you did a ton of work on it; your blog entry testifies to this tour de force. I decided to sleep on it.
I have never spent that sort of money on a guitar, let alone a guitar that could never return my investment. I had also never crushed that hard on an axe. I was tormented!
I liked that the instrument was completely unique, a true experiment. It took an experienced and talented luthier to choose a “cheaper” guitar from that era and invest so much time to improve it. I could never have gambled my money asking someone to do these modifications on a similar original guitar not knowing if the result would be so outstanding. But I’m thankful that you did!
I thought I should trust my fifth on this one, and commit to keeping the guitar and growing with it. I have bought and sold many guitars, but I guess I’ll have to keep this one!
I just spent the evening playing it, and I am completely enamoured.
Looking forward to meeting you in person on another occasion when I visit my partner’s family in Waterloo.
Thanks so much for this note, Simon-Pierre, and many thanks for taking a chance on the Regal. I’ll admit that I’m sad to have not said a proper farewell to it, but am glad that it found the kind of home it was designed to end up in.
Converting that guitar was a very large and time-consuming project, and sadly not something that I’ll be able to make happen again soon due to the quantity of other work in the queue. That said, it was a very rewarding job, and proved to be quite successful. I’ll look forward to hearing it again in a few years should you bring it back this way.
Thank you for your reply, Mark. Still loving the guitar! In fact, now that I have it next to my other instruments, it completely overshadows my 2004 d-18, which is now up for sale. I have as a mantra to only keep guitars that will get some play time. My 1956 0-15, however, is a great complement to the Regal. I look forward to recording!
I was wondering if you had to do a neck reset on the guitar. The neck has no truss but is looking quite straight and strong!
Also, while I know this a very wide question, I was wondering if you had some recommendations for a pickup to install on the guitar. I have had different systems on my instruments (K&K pure mini, lr baggs lyric, fishman rare earth blend). I should precise that I never flatpick with louder bands. Mostly for solo fingerstyle.
Here’s a link to a video of Jason Fowler demonstrating this guitar:
it was nice to hear the regal you re braced…that was a lot of work, a labor of love for sure. i wish there was a video of it before the work was done…it would be so interesting to compare the difference in sound, before and after the re bracing. they are so rare, ive never heard another in its original form. thanks again for posting your journey &process and congratulations to the new owner too.