1930s Regal slot-head parlor guitar (X-braced)

This is a solid birch Regal parlor guitar with a poplar neck and “ebonized” pearwood or maple fretboard. When I got it, it was a bit down on its luck and had lost all but one of its ladder braces. So, when I rebraced it, I changed to a more modern X-brace.


  • Upper bout: 9 1/4″
  • Waist: 7 1/2″
  • Lower bout: 13″
  • Scale: 24 1/4″
  • Nut width: 1 3/4″
  • String spacing at bridge: 2 3/8″
  • Action at the 12th fret: 3/32″

This guitar was in pretty rotten shape when I got it, which probably explains why I picked it up for $25 (before shipping) on eBay. It had lost all of its braces over the years, as the hide glue used by Regal to assemble this had dried up and let loose. Even though all (but one) brace was gone, somehow the original floating bridge came with the guitar. Wonders never cease.

The first thing I did when I got this guitar was to pull the back. It already had a pretty significant seam separation near the tail block, so I used a hot putty knife and worked my way around the back. I then spent a few nights carefully scraping all the dried glue off the back and off the kerfing on the sides, so I could reattach the back when it was time. I also cleaned up the underside of the top with a scraper, removing glue and dirt. I also pulled the oversized bridge brace, which was the only brace this thing had left. It’s an 85 year old piece of spruce, and it felt like a piece of salt water taffy, just sort of airy and dry. (I recut this brace to become the new “popsicle brace under the fretboard extension, so it lives on.)

Next, I set about repairing some of the cracks in the top, around the soundhole. The whole area had become quite warped and wavy, so I clamped it with some flat cleats while the glue set on the cracks. I then started adding spruce braces to the top, first the braces above the soundhole, then the X-brace, and then the tone bar and finger braces. Braces were lightly arched to match how the top should have been. I also cleated some of the top cracks while I was at it.

Next, I added braces to the back. These were also arched on the bottom, and then shaped with a 1″ plane and a 1/4″ chisel once glued.

Finally, I was ready to glue the back on. At this point, I had been working on the guitar for a month or more, and had sort of forgotten what it looked like from the front! I glued up the lower bout first, using my fingers to work the sides into place before setting the clamps. Then the next day, I glued the upper bout. When I got to the neck and block, I put the neck under tension to get me the correct neck angle before glueing the neck block up. (That’s an old-school neck reset technique called “slipping the block.”)

Once the back was reattached, I spent a little time carefully touching up the top. The first photo is before, the second is after.

Normally, project instruments live in shop cases when they are not on the bench. But this day I was so excited to have finished touching up the guitar that I took it out of the case before work to look at it one more time, and then I left it on the bench. Later that night, we spilled a whole bottle of olive oil in the kitchen. A bunch of it ran down behind our stove, which apparently had a large hole directly above my bench. The guitar was covered in olive oil when I got downstairs to check on it. You can see it got inside the guitar and all over the top. The kind luthiers at the Mandolin Cafe forum suggested I just french polish it with more olive oil to blend it in, but I ended up using naptha to rub it out.

Eventually the olive oil staining worked itself out with the naptha. (The inside staining is mostly invisible, 4 months later.)

The fretboard was painted pear wood, and was kind of a mess. I scraped it down and lost the painted-on fret markers, so I inlaid pearloid dots. Then I leveled and dressed the frets, and replaced the tuners. I really wanted to keep the original tuners, but was missing a few gears and one knob. I’ll hold on to them in case I find some replacement parts someday. The green Regal decal is almost worn away.

The guitar has a very woody tone, reminiscent of older Kalamazoos, but with a tighter thump due to the X-bracing. (Its small body doesn’t give it the kind of resonance a Kalamazoo has, either – plus the birch is a lot brighter than spruce over mahogany.) Action is 3/32″ at the 12th fret. At some point, someone tried to touch up the painted rosette – it’s pretty good from a distance, but don’t look too close.

Here’a a little sound sample.

4 thoughts on “1930s Regal slot-head parlor guitar (X-braced)

  1. i have a very similar parlor guitar that was my mothers……..but it is in worse condition than yours was……..probably needs new back, but just a sentimental piece…..amazed at how you recouped this guitar……….do you or would you tackle this one of mine……..i can find nothing on internet about it…….it has label that says Ben Grauer Guitar union square NY NY ……..

    1. James, Regal made a lot of guitars as a “jobber,” where they would put someone else’s label in the guitar. Ben Grauer was a radio personality in New York who was popular for announcing musical performances in the 1930s and 1940s. I suspect a music shop slapped his name on the guitar as a way to convince opera fans to switch to 6 string! Without seeing the guitar I can’t help much, but you can send me photos to mreidsma at gmail [dot] com and I give you a better idea of what you have. Thanks for dropping by!

      1. Thanks for your reply…..Your info makes sense……..There is no way to know how my grandfather came by this who im sure either traded for or gave very little for it……..It was in the attic for years and Im sure the heat deteriorated it alot. Tried to send you pics.

  2. Just want to get it going again even though I know nothing about guitars……..I just want to get it going again and save asmuch of it as I can, as you did….Going to give it to my son who was her favorite grandson , and they were very close…….She died suddenly in1997.

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