6/28/2012

c.1930 Chicago-made Bacon-style Banjo Mandolin


This banjo-mandolin plays and sounds excellent. It's got the longer 13 7/8" scale as well as a good-sized original Bacon-style tonering (a sleeve that fits over the top of the rim and then "donuts" down into the rim, hanging over the edge) which imparts volume, clarity, and warmth all together.

I'm pretty sure this type of banjo-mandolin (this one is unlabeled) was made by Regal for Lyon & Healy, since so many of this type with the "divot" headstock tend to be seen with L&H-family labels. Other variants of the same basic instrument (with tonering or hardware alterations) are also seen with Concertone and Slingerland/May Bell labels, too.

This instrument came to me as part of a final installment of a trade deal. It had been worked on previously by a competent amateur, but someone who wasn't quite familiar with specific banjo setup. My work included a fret level/dress, light cleaning, and of course a full setup.


One thing especially nice about this banjo-mando is that the hardware is almost all original. It has a replacement "end bolt" (tailpiece hanger) and nut, but aside from that it's all period. The bridge may have been borrowed from someone's parts-bin, but it's a mandolin bridge dating to the 1920s-30s so it fits right in.

By the way, cute pearl star in the headstock. And for those who've been fooled by the net rumors -- no, that does not mean it's a Vega.


Fretboard and headstock veneer appear to be dyed pearwood. Pearl dots.


Original skin head is in great shape.


Nice mandolin-style bridge -- exactly similar to what I would install to replace a banjo-style bridge. Waverly cloud tailpiece amazingly retains its original cover.



Good-quality Waverly tuners with ivoroid buttons. They work great after a lube.


Let's talk wood: the rim is laminated maple with maple veneer on the exterior of the pot. The Neck is a two-piece maple one with center-strip of some other sort of hardwood. This makes it really strong. The neck itself is pretty darn straight, too. It had relief under 1/64" to begin with and that relief was entirely removed in the fret leveling process.



Really good heavy-duty neck brace. Here you can see the bottom edge of that Bacon-style tonering popping out from the top lip of the rim. I love the way tonerings like this sound. They add so much clarity and punch without removing warmth and sweetness.



That hardware is in stunningly-good shape. It has a tiny bit of tarnish and spotting here and there but nothing I would notice without having dismantled it.





So, yes -- a good little instrument with good volume and that "horse clop" perfect banjo-mando sound. Excellent sustain as well.

I find instruments that sound like this work really great doing crosspicking parts in the back of the mix on a recording.

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