12/22/2011

c.1925 Lyon & Healy "Mauna Loa" Concert Banjo Ukulele





While the headstock playfully calls this a "Mauna Loa" brand instrument, this is a Lyon & Healy affair, similar to their mid-grade American Conservatory model "tenor banjo ukuleles" from the time. This is what they considered tenor scale (15.5" which is somewhere between concert, and tenor, really) on an 8" pot. The materials weren't as fancy on this model as on the higher-end Washburn-branded instruments, but it certainly has a powerful, excellent tone, and after restoration is a fantastic player.

My work included installation of a replacement (vintage) skin head, replacement (vintage, ivoroid buttoned!) set of tuners, replacement bridge (vintage, yes), replacement tailpiece (also vintage!), some replacement (again, vintage!) hooks/nuts/shoes for the rim, and of course the usual cleaning, fret dress, and setup.

These longer-scale banjo ukes are rare on the marketplace and rare in general. They offer a uke player excellent fret access, lots of volume, and a fine tone that is distinctively different and more "professional" in sound (ie, more sustain and better note separation) compared to a regular soprano-scale banjo uke (which tend to have a plucky, mellow quality which is also nice).


Cool pressed headstock logo.

Keep in mind that a lot of the "Mauna Loa" branded instruments hail from the '20s but there are a number of plastic ukes, made by a totally different maker and brand, under the "Moana Loa" label from the '50s and '60s.


Fretboard is some sort of dyed hardwood. Nickel-silver frets, MOP dots.


The "new" vintage head looks perfect with this instrument.


I used this parts-bin maple bridge because it's so thin and transmits string energy quite well.



Ah, yes, and build: plain-Jane maple neck, laminated-maple rim, with birdseye maple veneer on its outer edges. A lot of the hardware is original to the rim, including the very cool L&H-patent round shoes.


The original tuners were all gone but one so I installed these cobbled-together banjo-style friction tuners with ivoroid buttons from my parts bin. This is actually an upgrade as the long stems make turning these much easier!





Get a load of that resonator! SO COOL! It's a solid brass plate that's had layers of gobbledy-goo painted and plopped on in this fun sort of embossed-looking pattern. And... red/olive green-gold -- what better to go with maple?




There's definitely a bunch of wear to this instrument but it sure looks cool.



Here's a simple "model A" banjo tailpiece I rescued from my parts-bin for this uke.

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