4/22/2011

c.1900 Lange-Made 5-String Banjo


This is a fantastic old-time, clawhammer, or classical-style/fingerpicking banjo. It was made by the Lange factory (evidence: pot style, neck style and 5th string cut style, materials, etc.) probably for sale in a reseller's catalog, as it is unlabeled. This banjo is a bit more high quality than usual with a fancy SS Stewart-style headstock shape, 30-hook double-spun rim, and pretty MOP inlay both on the headstock and on the fretboard.

My work was the usual stuff -- glued a headstock crack, reset the dowel, pulled it all apart, gave it a fret dress, cleaned it all up, and put it back together. I also installed a set of vintage geared Waverly 2:1 pegs at the headstock and a vintage 5th string friction peg, all with old ivoroid buttons. This gives the banjo a bit more class and also takes some stress off of the two repaired hairlines in the headstock (friction pegs tend to separate hairlines, even after gluing as they're putting pressure towards the face of the headstock).


Two moons, a star, and some fleur-de-lis. Nice! Both the headstock veneer and fretboard, as well as the heel cap, are all ebonized maple/pearwood from the looks of it. Very typical for Lange.


Good nickel-silver frets feel fast, quick, and nice after a fret dress.



New Grover non-tip 1/2" bridge. Original skin head is in good shape. Rim is 10 5/8" diameter.


This is really a pretty banjo to look at!


Here are those nice Waverly 2:1 pegs!


Neck is two pieces of cherry and one piece of rosewood? dyed maple? Either way it's very attractive and quite comfortable in its mild v shape.





New ebony neck brace shims.




I love the way these pegs look. They also turn nice and smooth and don't have the slip issues you find with friction pegs from time to time. The only weirdness with them is that they turn at the headstock top opposite of how you turn them behind the headstock. On this banjo, this is just fine, as the clearances for the string posts allow "typical turning" to work (ie, counter-clockwise bass strings, clockwise treble strings).



Rim cleaned up nice! 16 of the hooks/nuts/shoes are original, with a few more original shoes, 6 replacement shoes, and 14 replacement hooks, mostly c.1920s but 2 modern ones. This is how the rim came to me, essentially. It all mixes in well with one another.

Cool original Elite tailpiece! Has the (typical) broken top string angle setters, and has to be leaned a bit to the treble side for correct string pull, but it's nice that it's there.


Overall, I really like this banjo. It's equal in tone, playability, and feel to my own "Bruno" Lange-made 5-string, from just a little later... which is to say... killer! Nice poppy, sweet, warm, but also accurate and clear tone. It's a perfect old-time tone -- just what the doctor ordered -- and has good volume, too.

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