2/24/2012

c.1922 Vega Little Wonder Banjo Mandolin





This is Vega "Little Wonder" (so named for its spunover tonering) banjo mandolin and the serial dates it to 1922. It's entirely original save for a replacement (c.1900) bridge from my parts bin and an aftermarket screw-on resonator.

Work included replacing the missing neck binding, a fret level/dress, cleaning, parts replacement, and setup. It's a real quick player with a nice feel and sounds great both as an openback and also with the resonator attached.

These Little Wonder models are much rarer than the more usual Vega style K and have a bit more volume and focus than the Ks (which makes sense because the Ks only had a hoop tonering). They're also finished in natural, whereas the Ks tend to be finished in a medium "mahogany" colored finish.


Bone nut, rosewood headstock veneer.


Ebony board. The first 5-7 frets are replacements of one type, the next 3-4 of them are replacements of another type, and about the 10th-end of the board are original bar stock frets. The binding is replaced with some vintage stuff off of an old banjo neck I had hanging around. I wanted to keep an "original" look to it.


Original skin head.


This Italian-style bridge was originally from a bowlback mandolin. The saddle is a thin bit of bone and while it looks like ebony it's actually stained rosewood.


The big old resonator is kinda cool and matches the instrument pretty well.


Original Waverly tuners with ivoroid knobs. Note that the neck is two pieces of hard maple with a thin strip of some sort of other wood between. This 3-piece construction gives the neck strength while also letting its cut be thinner.




Now I've removed that resonator. It has markings (stamped) on it but they're impossible to read.



Aside from the mount for the resonator, this is how one would expect to see a Little Wonder banjo mando.




Note the dowel endpiece.


Good heavy neck brace.


The serial numbers on the dowel and pot match so they're both definitely original to one another.



It's a classy looking instrument.




Here you can see the grooved tension hoop, the skirt of the "Little Wonder" tonering hanging down past the head's flesh hoop, and the tortoise celluloid binding on the rim's lower edge.


...and this is how one would expect one of these to look from the front, "stock," without the resonator.


It even has an (essentially) fitted period hard case.

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