3/25/2011

c.1920 Vega Style K Banjo Mandolin


This is a Style K banjo mandolin, 10" pot, made by Vega. The serial number dates it to 1920. Mahogany rim, mahogany neck, ebony fretboard and headstock veneer, simple rolled tonering, and all-original save its new Yellowstone head (a synthetic head that sounds very much like skin, and mounts like skin as well) and new rosewood mando-style bridge. It has a long 14" scale length which feels very comfortable (more room to stretch).

These Style Ks are bare-bones, but classy, quality, and effective instruments. It's very important to setup a banjo mandolin correctly, however. When I set them up I use heavier-than-normal bridges with big wide feet which removes a slight amount of volume but does wonders for undesirable overtones, head sinking caused by too much tension in one area, and the associated unfriendliness of unstable tuning caused by said "head sinking."

I also use thinner gauge strings (especially with this 14" scale length) of 28w, 22w, 12, 09 -- which, as it happens, is two sets of GHS Phosphor Bronze tenor banjo strings. Add to that a foam mute under the tailpiece cover to mute the extra string length, and you're ready to go with a great-sounding, uniquely-voiced instrument, with about twice the volume of a typical flatback mandolin. It's a sweet, mellow, and slightly "clop-hoppy" tonality.


Ebony headstock veneer, original tuners, bone nut.


Oh right, forgot that I did a fret dress on this as well. Frets are bar stock.


Simple $5 rosewood replacement mandolin bridge. Works perfectly and looks elegant.


The Yellowstone heads look quite classy (a parchmenty-skin-like look) and are excellent for odd rim sizes that you might have trouble fitting a Remo head to.



The finish is in great shape and has that silky feel of like-minded Martin instruments.







Good tough neck brace.



Tailpiece with fun "cloud" cover.

These Vega banjo mandos (of various types) are among the best-sounding, most playable banjo mandolins I've worked on. They're very solidly built and are a joy to play, vs. many less expensive catalog banjo mandos of the time which can simply have an awkward "feel" to them. In comparison Vegas are very well thought-out.

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