1/12/2012

c.1930 Italian-made Gallesi Tenor Banjo


This is a customer's tenor banjo I just finished up work on last night. It's definitely of Italian origin and probably from the mid-30s or maybe even post-war in the '40s. It has a typical Italian-style build with its shorter (19") scale, zero fret and "zither-style" resonator/rim/floating head design, but slightly better design and construction overall vs. similar banjos made later in the '50s and '60s.


The neck is mahogany with a dyed-something fretboard. Note the oft-reglued plastic nut and also the zero fret.


The pearl dots have disintegrated here and there but give a nice lived-in sort of charm. Note that I've dressed and leveled these frets. The neck has a hair of warp overall but the action is still nice and very fast. I've set it up for DGBE tuning per the customer's request with 32w, 24w, 17, 11 strings.


Cool old head. The design of this puts the bridge right in the middle of the head which gives it more oomph and good bass response despite a smaller head size vs. typical American tenors.


The bridges that came with the banjo were too tall but this 1/2" Grover tenor bridge fit perfectly.


See that adjustable little wheel/round mechanism? A number of those adjust to grab the internal wall of the resonator/rim assembly... so you can adjust pitch/angle/height of the whole head/tension assembly which makes setting this up quite easy. In fact I had to set the whole thing at an angle because the neck joins the pot on a slant which meant that unless I cut an angled bridge action height would have been weird across the strings.


Note that the pot is also made entirely out of mahogany with a nice warm/deep lustre. The walls of the pot are 2-ply solid wood and quite strong.


These geared tuners make life so much easier in the tuning department!








"Gallesi" is stamped in the heel.


...and an adapted Italian-style mandolin tailpiece completes the design.


...with super-cool case, too!


The original owner must have made this wrist-rest/pickguard piece but unfortunately he/she cut it too big, so I had to remove it to get proper action -- otherwise the strings would bottom out on it about halfway up the fretboard.


And here's a Grover-ish Italian maple/ebony bridge from the case. Cool!

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