2/17/2012

c.1910 Lange-made? Catalog 5-String Banjo


This is a customer's Lange-made? (possibly) 5-string banjo I just finished up work on. Said work included installing a new skin head, a fret level and dress, cleaning, installation of Pegheds tuners (4:1 geared ones that look like violin pegs), and of course a full setup which necessitated a lower 1/2" bridge.

This is unmarked but probably a product of the Lange factory. It was probably sold through a mailorder catalog and most commonly these are marked with the Sears-branded "Supertone" label, though many others are common as well. This one is fancier than normal with pretty pearl inlays down the fretboard and a star in the headstock.

It's also got a 10 5/8" rim (a good compromise between lap comfort and full tone) with a double-spun design, which means an integral tonering at the top lip of the rim due to the spunover "German silver" enclosing a metal hoop. This provides strength and a lightweight rim design as well as a nice open, sweet, focused, and loud tone (for an openback).


Fun headstock. Bone nut is unoriginal and I had to correc the position of the low D string slot, but it was salvageable.


These Peghed tuners are a bit finnicky to install as they screw in with a tapered and threaded shaft, but they cleverly automatically tighten up in their mounting holes because the threads turn in the same way that string tension pulls the peg.



The new head is good-quality calfskin and thin.


New Grover ebony/maple 1/2" bridge. I'm using lights on this (9s top and bottom) which I suggest on all older steel-strung banjos.



Classy pegs.


The neck sure is nice-feeling (like all these old Langes) -- wider than modern banjos but very quick.


The heel was broken and reglued in its past.



Note that 3 different neck braces had been tried over time. Normally there would be ebony shims instead of those thin plastic ones I have behind the brace, but I didn't want to have to redrill the mounting hole to get more space for the brace since there's the crosswise hole drilled right behind where the screw goes in now. My compromise was to tacky-adhesive those two plastic shims to the rim sides and then use the sideways tensioning of the neck brace's angled screw hole to tighten the neck up to the pot. It works fine and is pretty stable... and I knew it'd work fine because it's the same system Oscar Schmidt banjos from the time used.




The shoes are all original to the banjo but the hooks and nuts are modern replacements, as is the tailpiece (a modern No-Knot).




Overall, a fantastic old-timey 5-string banjo with tone to match.

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