5/13/2011

c.1885 Buckbee-made Pony Banjo


Here's a cute little bugger! 8" rim, 20" scale, walnut? or mahogany? neck and pot, with single-spun (over the bottom) cladding. It even has what looks to be its original head, which is in good shape except for a bit of tearing at the bottom of the flesh hoop towards the tailpiece end (still tunes up and is perfectly stable, however). I've set it up with Aquila Nylguts and it tunes up perfectly for use as an A-scale (open A) tuned banjo, though it could probably go up to B or C if really desired, too. Sound is bright, sweet, rich, and lovely, with great response and clarity. I like!

This 'jo was built by the Buckbee factory, judging by construction, hardware, headstock shape, and neck/heel shape. It has most of its original rim hardware, with 3 replacement (antique) hooks/nuts. The friction violin-style tuners are all antique parts-bin finds but work quite well and look authentic. The tailpiece is actually c.1920s, but works perfectly for the knotted ends of gut/nylon/nylgut/synthetic strings... which this is built for. I would never use steel on this. The neck already has a tiny bit of bow because of steel-string use at one point, though I've countered it with a good fret dress and setup.


Inlaid bone? dots. Original nickel-silver frets, all freshly dressed. Note that the 5th-peg "jutting out" area was recut by an owner at one point, and bears a few tool marks. They didn't do the best job but it doesn't effect the banjo at all, and so I didn't bother to recut it as it gives it some charm.


The unfretted area works great for clawhammer approaches.


New bone nut, older but non-original friction pegs.


Old banjo-uke bridge, which I've cut down to work for this fella. Sounds great!




This banjo has such a cool, old-timey look, and if you're the kind of fella who likes to play in multiple tunings, this is great, as it can be tuned up higher than a standard-scale banjo. It also travels perfectly well as it'll fit in a smallish case and stow nicely in a vehicle (or saddle).


Ironically, this was incredibly grungier than it now is. I've polished up all the hardware and the rim, but it was still stained to the point where it won't get any better than this. Looks great, though, if you like patina (and I do!).






Typical Buckbee heel and nice, simple, one-piece neck brace which you pop in with a friction-set by hammer.




Cool old '20s tailpiece works perfectly!


Basically -- a lovely instrument! Plays nice, sounds wonderful, what more? For baritone uke players out there -- this feels essentially the same as your bari, plus a 5th string -- so if you already play baritone uke in an open tuning and use clawhammer approaches -- this would be a perfect crossover instrument.

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