3/16/2012

c.1925 Lyon & Healy "American Conservatory" Concert Banjo Ukulele





While I've worked on a number of similar Lyon & Healy concert banjo ukes (15 3/4 scale) of lesser grade, this is only the second one of these I've ever seen (and also the 2nd one I've worked on). It's a nice-quality, solid mahogany-necked instrument, with a good strong multi-ply rim (no tonering), quality fittings and finishing work, and a great sound.

My work included mounting a new (vintage Jos Rogers, from my parts bin) skin head, cleaning, a fret level/dress, new bridge, and setup. I also replaced one missing hook/nut with an old one from my parts stash as well.


I love re-using bigger old (torn) skin heads when I need to mount a new head on a banjo uke. It lets me retain the antique look and often the old skins are of a better quality than what's newly available.

Note that this has an 8" rim.


Original bone nut, cute L&H headstock inlaid "diamond" in a dyed-black headstock veneer.


Fretboard looks like dyed pearwood. MOP dots, nickel-silver (original) frets.


I cut down a 5/8" banjo bridge to 1/2" which let me go all-maple with a 3-foot design (better for synthetic strings). The current strings are Worth browns with a low G. This gives the instrument a nice full sound.


Check out the pretty "pinstripe" inlaid lines on the rim's side -- also the purty mahogany and multi-layer heel cap.




The neck is quick and fast with a v-shape. These patent L&H tuners are great as far as friction pegs go and have ivoroid buttons.



This bolted-on resonator (remove one bolt and it's off) is actually all brass with a strange embossed enameled (?) covering on its rear that's of course started to wear off. Very cool, and really gives the instrument a nice punch and warm clarity when it's on.


Note the 3-piece design of the neck for strength.




Tailpiece allows ball-end, knotted-end, or loop-end strings. This instrument could also be used with steel if the owner desired.


...and here's with the resonator off.



The resonator's attachment post is covering the "American Conservatory" insignia.


I can't tell if this number (535) is the model number or if the one below it (500) is. Either way, that's a good sturdy and easily-adjustable neck brace.


There's the Jos Rogers stamp on the back of the old skin head.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Hi Jake! One of my neigbors just showed up with exactly this instrument. The enameled brass back is in rather better condition than this one -- only worn off in one place. He was pleased when I tried playing it -- he said he hadn't heard it played in 60 years. (It was his aunt's.) I'm looking forward to restringing it and showing him what it really can do.