6/05/2013

c.1965 Gibson Frankenstein Longneck 5-String Banjo


Gosh, who knows the history of this thing? I worked on this one for a customer.

The neck appears to be a Gibson Mastertone-style maple/mahogany 3-piece unit that has been refinished from an (original) dark stain. The pot is a big honking multi-ply maple rim with some nice marquetry inlay on its outer edge and a Vega Whyte Laydie-style tonering built onto it.

Much has been done to the neck including an entirely "added" end section as well as a curious geared 5th peg addition.

My work on this instrument was to install a new head, give it a fret level/dress, fix up the 5th peg (which was a little wobbly), and set it up to play correctly -- which it does, now. It also sounds great, but who wouldn't expect that with a good rim and a Whyte Laydie tonering?


I installed a new "Elite" version of a Remo Renaissance head. I love the sound of these guys. The ebony/maple bridge is also new.


The peghead is inlaid with Gibson script and Mastertone-style pearl inlay. Who knows if this is the real deal, though, with all of the modifications! I've (personally) never seen a longneck version of a Mastertone neck.

For those not in the know: longneck refers to the fact that this is essentially a regular 5-string neck with 3 additional frets added to the nut end which places "open" tuning to E rather than G in standard tuning intervals. It also elongates the scale to 32" which makes long arms a necessity to play these guys without strain.


This Waverly geared 5th peg is a curiosity and definitely not factory original. The install here is pretty shabby but it does work. The design of this peg is based off of the headstock-style 2:1 Waverly pegs that look essentially the same. It was operating really poorly when the banjo came in because an improper button had been installed that couldn't adjust down tight. I removed that button, shaped down the shaft so it'd fit any modern button, and installed this "more or less" matching-with-the-headstock-buttons one.


Note the additional heel block. Originally this neck would have had the fingerboard hanging over the pot. Curious!


The hardware is good quality and quite "Vega-esque," though I'm uncertain on who made this rim.





While I'm quite sure this neck was originally stained dark (there's traces of dark finish in the edges that'd be hard to strip), it now shows off its flamed maple nicely.



Nice adjustable tailpiece!

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