c.1930 Stromberg-Voisinet "Serenader" Fancy Pearloid-bedecked Tenor Banjo

This banjo looks fantastic. It sports crazy amounts of grey and cream pearloid ("mother of toilet seat") all over it, a bound fretboard, double-bound resonator back, semi-archtop rim design, 10 7/8" diameter rim (new Remo Renaissance head), a wild headstock shape, and fun engraved/stamped fretboard markers and headstock banner.

It's a long-scale (23") tenor banjo, full-on pot-metal flanged, resonatored model, made by the Kay company (at the time still called Stromberg-Voisinet), in Chicago. I'm guessing this is extreme late 20s into around 1930, because I believe in 1931 SV changed their name to Kay officially.

My work included a fret dress, teardown, cleaning, put-back-together, and setup. The only new parts were the Remo Renaissance synthetic head and a new Grover non-tip bridge. The rest is original.

The headstock shape is too cool! Bone nut.

Fretboard is super-cool, too! Unfortunately the neck is a bit warped on the treble side. Usually I can get action down under 1/8" from the board to string bottom at the 12th, but it's riding a hair under 1/8" on the bass and just a hair over 1/8" on the treble. Still -- with light-gauge (28w to 09) CGDA strings, it plays nicely and shoots out melody like a machinegun.

Simple tailpiece gives downpressure on the strings but is non-adjustable. It does have a cover so the string-ends don't catch your shirt-sleeve, though.

Even the side of the rim has MOTs on it!

The pearloid-bedecked resonator is darn slick looking.

The pearloid veneer on the back of the headstock has slight delamination on the edges in places, but is still hanging on just fine.

Oh, and did I mention the carved heel?

Lookin' cool! This is Kay's patented adjustable heel -- you loosen a bolt inside and move the neck to the angle you want it at, and then re-tighten. In theory this works perfectly, but often one needs a shim at the top of the neck join -- as in this case, where you can see a tiny white plastic shim just below the binding on the neck.

Yeah, it's pretty intense, but the flashy looks sure give it character.


SV's patent.

And it comes with its original hard case. Not bad!

This banjo will be on special due to the slight warp on the treble side of the neck (not a huge deal, but there). It's definitely a loud beastie and will cut above every bandmate you have.

1 comment:

FiL said...

I found one of these about a year ago in a furniture store in Paterson, NJ. Couldn't find much info on the web about it at the time. (I posted some pix of it at the time at http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/photos.asp?id=54686)

It had some issues, and I didn't know anyone locally who could work on it, so I eventually sold it. I had entertained the idea of bringing it up to your shop to fix it up because it looked so neat, but you're a bit of a hike from New Jersey!

Now I wonder if the one I had eventually made it into your hands and got to your shop after all. :)