7/17/2011

c.1925 Gretsch-made Resonator Banjo Mandolin


Resonator-backed banjo mandolins are fairly rare birds for '20s instruments. Ones that aren't piercing, shrill, and painful are even more rare!

This one was made by Gretsch (note headstock volute and rim design style) around the mid-1920s and sports a non-tonering 11" maple rim, good heavy-duty (all-original) hardware, 14" scale, and great looks.


The original head was torn so I replaced it with a Remo Renaissance head. These are way more stable than skin and that means much more tuning stability as well, which tends to be an issue with banjo mandolins.


Nice MOP inlay in the headstock! I flaked off some yellowed varnish on this to let it get its full glow.


Had to do a fret dress as well. MOP dots in the board. Board is dyed pearwood, by the way.


Nice original cloud tailpiece (I mute the strings with foam under that cover) and new bridge. I got away with a thin, banjo-style bridge (as opposed to a mandolin style bridge) due to the fact that the rim has no tonering. This style rim warms up the tone and de-shrills it, so there's no need to use a heavier bridge to remove the typically extra-harsh tonality one hears from a toneringed banjo mando.


Rim has mahogany veneer on its outer edge. The tension hoop is a nice heavy plated-brass type.



The neck size, scale length, and general "feel" of this mando banjo recall Vega Little Wonder and Style K instruments.



Very plain-wrap maple on the resonator, but it appears to be solid, so fair enough!


Waverly tuner with ivoroid buttons. After oiling, these function perfectly.



Tailpiece closeup. Though I don't have "inside the rim" photos, this has heavy hex-style bolts for the shoes and a good adjustable steel neck brace for a good tight neck join.


Oh right, and don't forget the in-great-shape original hard case with the "grass green" lining. Nice!


...with original bridge stowed away and (hand-made) braided leather strap as well!

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