12/08/2011

c.1930 Harmony-ish 5-String Frankenbanjo


I can't remember how long ago I bought this banjo, but it's been hanging around the workshop asking me to fix it for a good bit now. I remember opening up the box and thinking "oh, why that?!" -- as this instrument has been extensively modified and looks to have been parted-together from whatever was left in the bin.

The neck is off a mid-'20s or early '30s mother-of-toilet-seat (pearloid) fretboard Harmony-made 5-string, the pot looks like a 1900s or early teens job (it's double-spun over orange-finished maple and has TONS of hooks), the dowel is a big honking scrap-hardwood replacement, and the resonator looks like it's off of a '30s Kay-made banjo. The rim hardware mostly looks original and, strangely enough, the tuners on the neck look period, too.

The neck itself is unfortunately warped so the action's a bit higher than I like. It's fine for a powerhouse clawhammer player, though. My work on the instrument was cleaning it up, getting the neck to an acceptable angle, a fret dress, and setup. I didn't go crazy on it -- like popping up the board and planing the neck, planing the bottom of the fretboard, and regluing it -- so this will end up as a nice "bargain banjo" off the rack.

And, you know what? It's loud and has a good warm old-timey tone, too.


New bone nut. There was one of those see-through plastic ones popular from the '50s in it previously.


Notice no fret markers? The black stenciled paint has long since worn off in most positions.




The bridge is pretty deeply slotted. I may recut its top lower so it looks a little better.



These all-metal friction pegs are among my favorite designs -- they're steady, sturdy, and because of that seem to be easier to use vs. other friction pegs. They aren't as nice to look at, though.



Birdseye-maple-veneer resonator, probably off of a '30s Kay banjo. Note the wild decal.



TONS of hooks! And only one of them is a replacement (from the same period).




Because of a slightly wonky dowel build, I have to lean this tailpiece over for proper alignment with the neck.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just purchased an old tenor banjo (pre 20s is the best guess) and the same style of tailpiece was on it, with the same wording. Any idea of what company made it? Been racking my brain trying to figure it out. Thanks!