4/02/2011

c.1920/1965 Dayton Tenor Banjo Hybrid


What happens when you mix foolish fixer-upper cruddy "repairs" with a rare, high quality instrument? Well... you get a banjo that I thought was in good shape, but upon opening the case, find a beauty of a 12" block rim absolutely destroyed by a really, really bad "repair" job.

On the bright side, the neck and hardware was in perfect shape.

So to make a long story short -- I bought a nice rare 12" rim Dayton (this was a small Ohio maker) 1920s tenor banjo, only to find its super-fancy rim to be DOA. To further the crime, repairs were done with epoxy and the entire pot was warped out of shape due to individual blocks coming apart in different directions... just a mess.


So... I "looked on the bright side."

I took the neck off and all of the hardware, and modified an old Japanese '60s aluminum pot to accept the hardware and neck, then put it all together, gave the neck a fret dress, added a new adjustable tailpiece, and set it up with a new Remo Fiberskyn head. Voila, Frankenstein goodness!

In the end -- it came out nice! The neck is incredibly fast and sleek, and has a 20" scale length which is super quick. I set it up with CGDA tuning (standard) but I have this feeling that going to "Celtic" (lower, GDAE) tuning will really open up the possibilities of this instrument.

Tone is focused, open, and resonant, and has good volume. The Fiberskyn head tones down the inherent extra overtones of the aluminum pot, as well.


The neck is gorgeous -- it's two pieces of flamed/curly maple, with a multicolored set of center strips, topped with a bound ebony fretboard with nice MOP inlay. The headstock boasts a Gibson-style "snake" shape with geared guitar-style tuners, which makes tuning a cinch vs. the usual friction pegs, and with the snake headstock, the tuners "look right" on a banjo neck.


Action is looooooow.


New Fiberskyn head looks pretty dandy.


Old parts-bin Grover non-tip bridge, new adjustable tailpiece.



Check out that flame! Nice! Buttons are ivoroid for a touch of class.


Dayton banjos attach to their original pots with 3/8" fine threaded bolts/coordinator rods. This hole "female end" in the heel is attached with this nice nickel-plated cap with the three screws directly into the heel of the neck. Connecting your neck to the pot this way rather than the dowel stick construction is really quite heavy-duty and elegant. It also let me attach the neck to this pot with a simple bolt and washer.


I love the color!



Like I said, I reused the original hardware, so I had to use some spacers to give these hex-bolts enough length to attach to this skinnier rim. The spacers are the ferrules that come with repro Kluson tuners that I save for "just the right occasion" but never ended up using... until now!




Overall, it's a pretty classy instrument to play. From the next seat over, the aluminum rim looks like it could be a double-spun 1920s-style rim, and sounds essentially a lot like one, so I figure it's a "fair enough" approach to reviving this poor old Dayton.


Tailpiece.

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