9/25/2013

c.1925 Unmarked Tenor Banjo



I'm guessing that this tenor may have been made by Kay (then Stromberg-Voisinet) in Chicago. I'm not really sure, though. At any rate, it's pretty typical for a student model of the time with a short (20 3/8") scale length and simple construction.

When I first disassembled this tenor I found that the original maple dowel and insert into the neck was damaged so I simply took it out and converted this over to a Gibson-ish "coordinator rod" setup instead. Not only is this a more practical and rugged design, it also allows fine-tuning of action adjustment via a nut at the tailpiece end.

I also removed the (zingy, super-ringy sounding) tonering and adapted this into a wood-topped rim, gave it a fret level/dress, new Elite synthetic head, bridge, cleaning, and a setup. It's strung with 32w-9 strings for standard CGDA tuning. DGBE would also sound good on this but GDAE (octave mandolin tuning) may be a bit too mellow on the low end on this particular instrument.


It's a standard 11" rim and with the no-tonering modification this gets warm, woody, sweet and plain tonality.


Cute headstock, original ebony nut. The rest of the "black" is dyed/painted-on. With the addition of rear washers, the original friction pegs work just fine.


Simple celluloid dots are in the board. The neck's straight and the frets are (now) in good order. Action is low and sweet at 1/16" at the 12th fret.




Both the neck and pot are maple. Bakelite-buttoned original friction pegs.



Most of the rim hardware is original save one hook/nut set that is non-matching but period.



This instrument is super-lightweight for a banjo and that's easy on the lap or over the shoulders.


The big old hex nut is adjustment for the coordinator rod. Tighten it to lower action (and thus pull the walls of the rim closer together) or let it loose to let it up. I swapped sides of the rim: the neck comes out where the old tailpiece used to be and there's a "window" for the (now gone) dowel under the tailpiece. I suppose you could tie a strap through there!


Here's the new coordinator rod setup -- very much like a Gibson from the 20s or Kay from the 30s/40s.

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