11/02/2011

c.1925 Lyon & Healy-made? Banjo Tiple


Holy of holies, no, this ain't no banjo-mandolin, folks! A customer brought this in, asking me to convert it to a banjo-mandola. Uh-- no! I told him. This 15 1/4" scale, banjo-headed, 10-string wonder is extra rare, as it's a banjo tiple of the American variety. I've never seen another. And for those of you that don't know -- tiples (American ones) are 10-steel-strung ukulele-family instruments (roughly tenor uke size), usually tuned with wound octaves on the first three courses and strung with 3 strings for the middle courses and 2 on the outer. They're traditionally tuned ADF#B or GCEA.

Judging by construction, headstock "shield" shape, and materials (as well as neck shape/fretboard style) my guess is that this peculiar beast was built by Lyon & Healy around 1925 at the height of the ukulele boom.

This instrument came strung in unison at ukulele pitch rather than in octaves, and I liked the sound so much that way, that I kept it right there when I restrung it. This gives a sort of banjo-mandolin meets ukulele meets 5-string banjo sound, especially when played fingerstyle.

My work included: removal of the fretboard, neck plane (it had a warped neck), and reglue of the fretboard, as well as fret dress, setup, etc.


Cool headstock!


I added side dots and mini-dots at the 3rd, 12th, 15th, 17th frets to complete the look.


The instrument was fortunate enough to come with a new Remo Renaissance head -- my favorites.


I replaced the banjo bridge that came with it with this more stable and better-sounding remnant mandolin bridge from my parts bin. I reslotted the top for the new strings, of course, though.



The rim is multi-ply maple with ebonized rim cap and mahogany veneer on the inside and outside. The neck is mahogany and the fretboard looks like dyed pearwood or maple, as is the heel cap. This has a rolled tonering at the top of the rim.







Good heavy duty neck brace. Note that the hardware and build style feels very "Vega" as in like a style K banjo mando, yet I really do think this was a Lyon & Healy build judging by some of the other materials and especially heel cut and feel of the neck.





Nice, simple, mando tailpiece.

1 comment:

FiL said...

A banjo tiple?!?! Now I've truly seen everything! Thanks for sharing. Would love to hear how it sounds.

- FiL