7/02/2011

c.1920 SS Stewart by Lange Tenor Banjo


This is a good, professional quality tenor banjo, c.1920, built by Lange (more than likely) and branded under the old SS Stewart name (said company had been defunct since around c.1900 but the name was used on various jobber instruments until around the 50s).

Its heavy hoop tonering is inset on the multi-lam heavy maple rim and gives the banjo an "archtop" sort of head setup. This gives that somewhat dry, balanced, loud and very precise tone you hear on a lot of old tenor banjo records from the 20s and 30s. These make great chop-chord instruments and fast players.

It's got a short 20" scale, and is all original except for a new-ish Remo head, parts-bin replacement bridge, and the fact that the finish (except for the unfinished fretboard) has been oversprayed. It's a professional-quality job, though, so it doesn't detract from the instrument.


My work included a fret dress, cleaning, and setup, as well as the parts-bin 1920s (Harmony-made) 5/8" bridge.


Headstock has a thick veneer with gorgeous MOP work. Bone nut.


The board is actually bound with rosewood and has nice MOP inlay in it. I think the side dots were probably added later but they sure do make it easy to figure out where you are on the neck.



Note that I've cut new slots on the bridge -- the originals were a little too narrow for the fretboard width. I would have used a new, higher bridge and sanded down, then made clean new cuts... but I like to reuse '20s bridges if possible as they tend to have better tone/more original looks.


Neck is fast and thin and the instrument has good balance. Note the 5-piece neck with lightly curly/birdseye maple.


I love the twin stripes on the rim bottom.


Original ivoroid-buttoned friction pegs.


Good heavy heel cap and also good heavy hardware!


Oh right, the neck brace shims are new, too. They're lightly-sculpted rosewood leftovers from my parts bin, but work just fine.




Such a nicely-built 'jo!


I think the arm-rest is a newer Vega-style repro, but I love the things. There's nothing like not getting gouged in the arm by hooks.


This has a mandolin style tailpiece. I actually prefer these over a typical No-Knot or other stationary tailpiece design as the cover dresses it up and because of the widely-spaced hook pattern on the tailpiece, I can get an almost perfectly straight-over-the-bridge string pull. In the photo, the cover is a bit up, but it comes right down in actuality. I must have just forgotten to pop it all the way down before the photo shoot.


Comes with its original (ok shape, good to travel) hard case.

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