12/15/2012

c.1930 Vega Hodge-podge Vegaphone Artist Tenor Banjo


This curious tenor banjo is a customer's instrument and consists of a vaguely 1928-ish Vega Vegaphone "Artist" model neck and resonator back attached to a 1930-ish marquetry-inlaid archtop banjo rim, probably made for a Slingerland-model banjo of some sort (to my eyes, anyway). While it's not all-original it still sounds wonderful -- crisp and clean and punchy without being harsh or thin. It's got a lovely "old jazz" tonality to it.


My work included a fret level/dress, installation of a new Remo Renaissance head, much cleaning, and setup. The neck is actually warped about 1/32" down its length but because of the fret level and dressing plus a short (21") scale and light (32w-9) strings, it still plays quite nice and has 1/16" action at the 12th fret.


The inlay is ridiculously fancy. Check out all that engraved pearl!

This banjo had its neck oversprayed but I chipped off all that extra finish that had been deposited on top of the pearl so that it could gleam in the sunlight as it should.


Bound ebony board, bone nut, more fancy inlay...



The tailpiece gives adequate downpressure and certainly adds a bit of sustain.



These tuners look to have been thrice-changed but the banjo now sports a set of nice Waverly-style vintage 4:1 pegs with ivoroid buttons. Check out the multiple headstock laminations, by the way!


...beautiful carving on that flamed-maple neck.





How about that?


Here you can see some of the outrageously pretty flame on the neck.



The original, flamed-maple "pie plate" Vega resonator has tons of band and individual inscriptions on the back. This tasty bit says "Round-hill Hill-Billies!"


Here you can see the good massive archtop rim design and the Gibson-esque coordinator-rod attachment system that was retrofitted to a neck that was originally a dowel-style join.



Both the coordinator rod and that small bolt above it hold the neck very nice and tight to the rim.



I love that pretty marquetry lower edge on this rim.


Here's the "ooh-la-la" heel cap.

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