2/29/2012

March Sale!

I'm keeping the prices on all my stock to the lowest possible through March. Prices will return to normal after March. Consider it a "pre-Spring cleaning!"

c.1930 Slingerland-style "Princess" Tenor Banjo





This is a good, mid-grade, resonator tenor banjo from around 1925-30. The vast majority of this style tenor banjo (with its distinctive headstock shape) were labeled with the Slingerland brand and many others can be found with Lyon & Healy marks and any number of random brand names (Concertone, Princess, etc.).

Whatever the case, they're apparently Chicago-made, probably by L&H themselves or Regal, who had some patents for a similar-looking headstock design and overall build.

This is a nice loud and crisp instrument that plays great as well. Its neck is 3-piece maple, the rim is durable laminated maple and it has a hoop style tonering for added punch and zing.


While all the hardware is original, the head is a replacement synthetic Remo Renaissance type (the best kind of synthetic head) with a very "skin like" tone but louder and not susceptible to weather changes.


Note the pearl star headstock inlay. The tuners have ivoroid buttons and are a nicer type of friction tuner for the time, having a bit more grip than others.


My work on this banjo was a light cleaning, fret level/dress (the frets were pretty divoted!), and setup.


Note the adjustable tension tailpiece and also the original Grover non-tip bridge.



The resonator has gorgeous birdseye maple veneer on its rear. This whole resonator assembly comes off very quickly with the removal of the center bolt.


Ivoroid buttons, 3-piece (for strength) maple neck, "Princess" stamp.


The resonator sides have a cool decal on them that looks like marquetry inlay. Check out how good the finish is on this one!



The resonator "flange" is attached to the resonator itself which makes for a very clean-looking conversion to openback if desired. All the rim hardware is good and heavy-duty stuff.




Tailpiece with adjustment screw.


Detail of the flange.

c.1895 Lyon & Healy 5-String Banjo





This is a Lyon & Healy 5-stringer made around 1895. Rumor has it (via the "Regal Musical Instruments 1895-1955" book) that Regal (then in Indiana) made these for L&H while fancier "Washburn" L&H products were made in-house by L&H in Chicago.

Whatever the provenance, these L&H-sold instruments from the late 1800s tend to be great values as long as the necks haven't been warped by over-zealous folkies in the 1950s and 60s. This instrument in particular is a little rarer as most of these have 25"+ scale lengths and 11" pots while this one is an "A-scale" banjo at 24 1/4" scale with a 10" pot.

Personally, I prefer to play A-scale instruments as the reach down the neck doesn't put any stress on my arm while playing and the smaller rim fits nicely in the lap.


This banjo was intended for gut (modern: nylgut/nylon) strings but due to its heftier-than-average neck (most of these 'jos have thin necks that warp easily when used with steel) I'm able to string it with light gauge steel and have it remain perfectly true.

My work on the instrument included cleaning, a fret leveling/dress, replacement tuners all around, a replacement head (usually on this size I would be forced to use skin since 10" isn't widely available, but I had a spare 10" synthetic head in my parts bin), cleaning, a new bridge, and setup.


These are good-quality uke tuners I've adapted to the instrument. Note that I've used nicer "upgrade" ivoroid buttons all around.


The fretboard is very thin ebony and the dots are pearl. Note that I've added a "railroad spike" for capo-ing the drone string at the 7th fret. That lets one quickly capo up a step for accompanying fiddle tunes in A or D.


New ebony/maple bridge.



The rim hardware is all original as far as I can tell and includes a period "No Knot" tailpiece. This rim is also "double spun" which means the metal curves over into a hoop on either side of the pot, making an "integral tonering" on the top edge which adds volume, clarity, and sustain.


These old guys used two screws to secure the neck's heel to the pot. I used whatever random (proper length) screws I had in my parts bin plus some washers as the originals were missing. While I could have dug around for "standard" one-slot screws that looked more perfect I prefer to use whatever works best for secure attachment rather than worry so much about aesthetics.


Here's the L&H stamp on the dowel.



At first glance this neck looks like mahogany but I have my doubts -- it's more likely either Spanish cedar or stained birch.


Good solid heel.



Nice period hardware looks nice as well as functions nicely.




No Knot tailpiece.

2/26/2012

Video: Couple New Songs


"Spat of the Bulge"


"Been Framed"

I wrote these two just recently... well, give or take a month. I'm plucking away on my old Kalamazoo and am already planning for these to be incorporated into a new album at some point mid-year. Enjoy!

c.1975 Martin D-35 (customized) Guitar


This is a friend's D-35 that was in for a "winter shim" below the saddle. Flattop guitars often have their action sink to fret buzz level during winter because the wood loses so much humidity (and thus, shrinks) up here in Vermont, so I often suggest that folks have a hardwood shim to put under their saddles in winter when this occurs to raise the action height just slightly.

While I can't place an exact date on this guitar (since the serial number is covered up by pickup equipment at the neck block) I'm pretty sure this is a mid-70s D-35.


What's different about this D-35 should be obvious to the casual Martin fan -- pearl rosette, fancy pearl inlays on the neck, gold tuners, and pearl-dot bridge pins (which have "greened" as a result of the dyed pearl in them). It's also got a tortoise-style pickguard rather than the usual black.



Bound ebony board.


At some point this bridge was shaved to improve the action height -- and it was a job well done.




The finish has yellowed a bit with age but is in generally great shape.






There's an undersaddle pickup system installed.

2/24/2012

c.1922 Vega Little Wonder Banjo Mandolin





This is Vega "Little Wonder" (so named for its spunover tonering) banjo mandolin and the serial dates it to 1922. It's entirely original save for a replacement (c.1900) bridge from my parts bin and an aftermarket screw-on resonator.

Work included replacing the missing neck binding, a fret level/dress, cleaning, parts replacement, and setup. It's a real quick player with a nice feel and sounds great both as an openback and also with the resonator attached.

These Little Wonder models are much rarer than the more usual Vega style K and have a bit more volume and focus than the Ks (which makes sense because the Ks only had a hoop tonering). They're also finished in natural, whereas the Ks tend to be finished in a medium "mahogany" colored finish.


Bone nut, rosewood headstock veneer.


Ebony board. The first 5-7 frets are replacements of one type, the next 3-4 of them are replacements of another type, and about the 10th-end of the board are original bar stock frets. The binding is replaced with some vintage stuff off of an old banjo neck I had hanging around. I wanted to keep an "original" look to it.


Original skin head.


This Italian-style bridge was originally from a bowlback mandolin. The saddle is a thin bit of bone and while it looks like ebony it's actually stained rosewood.


The big old resonator is kinda cool and matches the instrument pretty well.


Original Waverly tuners with ivoroid knobs. Note that the neck is two pieces of hard maple with a thin strip of some sort of other wood between. This 3-piece construction gives the neck strength while also letting its cut be thinner.




Now I've removed that resonator. It has markings (stamped) on it but they're impossible to read.



Aside from the mount for the resonator, this is how one would expect to see a Little Wonder banjo mando.




Note the dowel endpiece.


Good heavy neck brace.


The serial numbers on the dowel and pot match so they're both definitely original to one another.



It's a classy looking instrument.




Here you can see the grooved tension hoop, the skirt of the "Little Wonder" tonering hanging down past the head's flesh hoop, and the tortoise celluloid binding on the rim's lower edge.


...and this is how one would expect one of these to look from the front, "stock," without the resonator.


It even has an (essentially) fitted period hard case.