7/13/2012

c.1928 Vega Little Wonder Banjo Mandolin w/Pie Resonator


This has to be one of the nicest-sounding banjo mandolins I've had through my hands. It also looks great, too! Blog followers will know I'm an avid Vega (made in Boston) fan, but this one really "has it."

This is a "Little Wonder" model banjo-mando and the serial dates it to 1928. The Little Wonder part corresponds to the hoop-in-half-spunover sleeve tonering over the thick multi-laminate maple rim. It also specifies a bound fretboard and slight detailing upgrades compared to the more base-model Style K in the Vega line.

This particular Little Wonder is also amazing in that it has its original fitted case and an original Vega-patent "pie-slice" resonator made from solid curly maple. The tone is great with the resonator on or off, but I much prefer it with it on -- cuts down some overtones and gives this instrument a lot more focus.


The instrument is all-original except for a new rosewood bridge and new Remo "frosted top" head. The extra texture of the top on these very basic synthetic heads gives the bridge good grip and the extra brightness counteracts my tendency to use a full mandolin-style bridge on banjo mandolins to add tuning stability and reduce unwanted overtones.

Oh, right, and about the work on this guy? Fret level/dress, dowel reset, cleaning, some binding reglue on the fretboard, tuner lube, setup, yadda yadda.


While the headstock veneer and heel cap are dyed-hardwood, the fretboard is true ebony. Original bone nut, too.


Pearl dots. This instrument has a 13 3/4" scale vs. the more typical 13 7/8" seen on these.


Rosewood bridge. I use string gauges of 32w, 20w, 13, 9 on these nowadays, though a slightly lighter set at 28w, 18w, 12, 8 also sounds good. The lighter, the better on banjo mandos, otherwise you get a woofy tone.


"Cloud" tailpiece cover, here and present. I've added foam to mute the extra string length under the cover.


Mmmh, sure looks good! I love the ambery-butter vintage vibe to this (originally) clear-coated finish.


The hardware is in beautiful shape and all typical Vega stuff -- plated brass, heavy-duty.



Lovely!




Tuners work nice after a lube.


Ooh, that curly-maple pie-plate resonator is to die for! And unlike many other makers at the time, Vega used solid wood for these resonators.



Just like the bottom of the rim, the resonator also has tortoise celluloid binding on its bottom edge, for an extra bit of class.




Here's the bare back.


The resonator comes off with one bolt so it's easy to "convert" this one.






Heavy neck brace means good support for the neck.



Though lacking a handle, the case is in otherwise fantastic shape.

Action is quick and easy, 1/16" at the 12th fret, and the sound is to die for. Balanced, clear, crisp but with some warmth, and not harsh or shrill at all.

2 comments:

Morebarn said...

Looks like a great one, Jake

Antebellum Instruments said...

It sure is -- very tempted here -- but there's competition in the form of a very dolled-up banjo mando that's "next up" on the bench.