7/07/2013

c.1921 Weymann Style 80 Tenor Banjo


This is an odd beast. It has a rim built like a Weymann Orchetstra model banjo from the later period of Weymann manufacture but it has a slip-on, slip-off resonator and short (20") scale length familiar to late teen and mid-20s Weymann banjos. It has a "style 80" stamp on the dowel and everything on the banjo is original except for a Remo synthetic head from maybe the 80s or 90s. The serial number places its build at around 1921.

This came to me very clean but it did need a fret level and dress to remove fret wear. The neck also has a tiny bit of relief (pretty typical for Weymanns) which was brought down to about 1/64" or less after the fret level and dressing. It plays beautifully spot-on with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and I currently have it setup for CGDA (standard) tuning but the nut is now slotted to allow various popular tunings and gauges.

I really like the tone on this guy -- bright, crisp, clear, and breathy-warm. It doesn't have the harsh or pingy highs I associate with low-grade or overly-loud instruments but the volume on this is quite good. The tonering setup is a rolled sleeve curled over a round tension hoop that rests on the upper part of the orchestra-style (two-tier) rim. In addition, for a Weymann, this banjo is comparatively lightweight as it lacks all of the heavy-duty brass shoes that would normally mount each of the hooks on the rim.


There's some nice pearl inlay in the headstock (the headstock veneer is dyed maple). The nut is bone and original.


This has a really neat look.


Original Grover two-foot bridge and Weymann-patent tension-adjustable tailpiece. I'm assuming the cover is missing on this tailpiece (these had mandolin-style slip-on engraved covers, usually) though so few of these have their covers extant that sometimes I think they never had them.

The ebony arm rest is original.


The fretboard is bound with ivoroid and has pearl dots. The frets are nickel silver and as usual are low and thin. The board itself seems to be dyed maple as well (though I may be wrong on that).



The neck is mahogany and the resonator is as well. The rim is built from laminations of maple but has mahogany veneer on the exterior edges. All the edges on the rim and resonator are also bound with rosewood which looks really elegant and classy. It reminds me of Martin styling.


Here you can see how the hooks pass through the front part of the rim. This design means that when the resonator is off this is still super-comfy in the lap as the surface that meets your thighs is rounded and smooth rather than full of hooks and shoes cutting into your circulation.



Amazingly, the resonator has zero cracks! The finish all over shows minor scuffing and scratching (mostly on the back of the resonator) but gleams beautifully in a rich mid-red-brown color.


Here you can see the Weymann decal on the back of the headstock and also the 2-piece plus center-strip construction of the neck. The tuners are standard friction types with ivoroid buttons. Still, they turn nice and easy.


Here you can see the rim with is resonator off, including the heavy-duty neck reinforcement brace which acts as a stabilizer and secondary neck brace.


Here you can see the serial number, style number, close-up of how those hooks get tensioned-up (the nuts are here on the reverse), and a close-up of the neck brace which keeps the neck firm to the pot via the two ebony wedges one hammers in to place.


This additional neck brace/stabilizer works by "unscrewing it" towards the rear of the banjo, which pulls the neck tighter against the pot.


It's cute that Weymann went to the bother of adding a strip of rosewood binding on the inside top of the rim, too!


Here's the end of the tailpiece and also the bolt that attaches the end of the dowel. See how nice and cozy that rim's edge looks? It makes this a fantastic optional openback banjo as well for lower-volume situations!


Amazingly, the resonator has all four of its felt-covered "slip-in" feet. Usually one or two are missing or need regluing.


This has its original chip/semi-hard case in well-worn, fair condition (good enough for short distances or jam group hopping).

1 comment:

John ODell said...

I have a Weymann "Highest Grade" open backed, short scale 5-string with the exact headstock inlay as the one shown on your tenor. It also has snowflake position inlays on the fretboard. The heel is factory carved in (oak?)leaves. It's serial number is 8240. When I got it 30 years ago the headstock veneer was crumbling and delaminating. I replaced it with rosewood and put most of the original pearl design back in. It's a very nice and playable instrument. I'm guessing of the same vintage as your tenor. Thanks John O'Dell, Ocean City MD.