6/13/2013

c.1925 Vega Style K Banjo Mandolin




Having worked on so many of this particular model of banjo-mandolin, I start to feel deja vu every time I get one on the shop. Fortunately, the serial numbers (which are consistent and place this one at 1925) on Vega banjos let me keep my head straight. Like all the rest of the style Ks I've encountered, this one turned out to have a great, mellow, but sprightly tone that achieves that semi-magical "clop clop" horse hoof thing when you dig them just right. Also, like all the rest of these style Ks, these sound best playing melody lines and crosspicked rather than chordal chops or full strums which would give you more of that clangy tenor banjo tonality.

This one was pretty clean and already had this nice Remo head installed so my only work was to give it a fret level/dressing, cleaning, new bridge, replacement (period) tailpiece, replacement (new) hook & nut, and set it all up. It plays "right on the dot" and has a 13 3/4" scale.


Vega styling is similar in feel to Martin instruments: restrained and simple with their inherent "class" in the way they're built. Like Martins, they ooze confidence and security.

That's a rosewood headstock veneer.


Bar frets in an ebony board with pearl dots. Note how Vega has a good-sized "tongue" under the fretboard extension to keep it from dipping. Other makers didn't bother and many of the extensions on other brands tend to warp out of shape over time.


I go back and forth on the type of bridges I use on banjo-mandos. Since this instrument wasn't overly raucous or super-bright to begin with, I opted for a banjo-style bridge to keep it chirpy and sing-songy in tone, and good on volume. I ran out of rubber grommets to mute the extra string length so I wrapped a bit of leather at the tailpiece to mute the extra overtones. I also put a tiny bit of foam underneath the fretboard extension to cut down on slight extra overtone ring from the head.


All the rim hardware is original save one hook/nut set. I love the tortoise binding Vega tended to put on the "foot" of their banjo rims.

The finish is in good shape overall and is all original, as well.




The cream-buttoned tuners work just fine.


The big old heels used on these guys tends to mean they stay very stable over time.



Serial.



The original tailpiece would have had a "cloud" cover and would have been riveted to the tension hoop. It had split in two pieces and the cover was long gone. Interestingly, a hanger for a tailpiece was included with the instrument and I used that to mount this replacement (same-type as the original) tailpiece.


A "tennis-jo" case comes with the instrument.

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