3/30/2012

c.1925 Tonk Brothers "Sterling" Tenor Banjo





While branded "Sterling" with TB Co (Tonk Brothers) on the headstock, this model (and its family of models) tenor banjo was built in Chicago most likely by Regal (the new Bob Carlin book on Regal credits them with this build). Similar models (and identical models) of this banjo come in tons of different brand names -- Slingerland, Concertone, May-Bell, Lyon & Healy, and fancier models of the same basic instrument even sold under L&H's famous Washburn name.

This is a no-frills tenor banjo with a sturdy multi-ply maple rim, simple hoop tonering, one-piece maple neck, and very spare ornamentation (pearl fret dots).

My work included a light cleaning, fret level/dress, and setup. Aside from one nut and the bridge, the banjo is all original, as well. It has a nice punchy, loud tone but like most openback tenors is mellower and warmer than its resonator-backed cousins.


Original skin head is in great shape.



Fretboard is some sort of ebonized hardwood. Pearl dots.


This bridge is a little under 1/2" but there's still plenty of pick/string clearance from the head.



Check out the pretty birdseye maple veneer on the outside of the rim.



The neck is luckily extremely flamed down its entire length. This is unusual for this model of tenor as most of them have very plain-Jane maple for their necks. In addition, the neck profile is fast and slim.




Original friction pegs work fine.



Here's another shot of some more of the flamed maple on the neck. Nice!




Good neck brace.


Simple Waverly tailpiece. It's slightly "leaned" to the treble side to provide a centered string mount. When this banjo came in, the tailpiece had been bent all funny. Fortunately I knocked it back to its original shape without incident.

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