12/16/2012

c.1930 Princess Hodge-podge Tenor Banjo


This is the second of two "hodge-podge" tenor banjos I worked on for a customer. He'd picked both of them up from the same seller decades ago and they were both "cobbled-together" instruments... not quite totally-Frankenstein because many of the parts seemed to fit together, but also not original in any meaning of the word.

This banjo was built with a 1930s "Princess" brand (probably Slingerland-sold, maybe Regal or Lyon & Healy-made) Chicago-origin neck and resonator that's been mated to an 1880s "waffle-knit" spunover rim. I'm guessing that the rim itself came off of a Buckbee-made 5-string banjo and it has a whopping 48 hooks and nuts!

All this said, like the other hodge-podge tenor I worked on for him, this wound up a good-playing, nice-sounding tenor. Because the head rests directly on a wooden rim it has a very direct, clean sound with very little superlative overtones.


The pearloid veneer on the neck and headstock is very cool with the engraved/filled markers.


This has a long 22 3/4" scale length which puts good tension on a light (32w-9) set of strings.

Aside from cleaning, my work on this one included a fret level/dress, new head, reglue of the dowel rod and modification of the neck brace system (I installed a Gibson-style bolted brace because the dowel was really not 100% since it was a replacement part and not original to the neck).



See the cool "waffle" pattern on the rim? Typical 1880s/1890s style on higher-end 5-string banjos. I love the green highlights on the resonator's side-wall detailing.



This has 2:1 Grover "two-tab" tuners. It ha some really funky faux-pearl buttons that I replaced with these period-correct (1930s) bakelite buttons which look a lot more "right."









Overall this mixed build works pretty well. I like the sound of this one for chord-melody playing especially as it's direct and simple in tonality.

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