10/10/2013

c.1920 Vega-made Wm. Schmick "Little Giant" Plectrum Banjo



Plectrum banjos are fairly rare, William Schmick-branded instruments are rarer, and examples by Vega that aren't the curious zither-banjo style "Lyric" instruments seem to be rarer still. This banjo model is closely related to a Vega Regent plectrum banjo (of later date) but instead of a "Little Wonder" style tonering, this has a "Super Little Wonder" type of non-standard tonering that gives this a sound more along Bacon "donut" style rings with a Lange-like volume.

Work included much cleaning, a fret level/dress, new Elite (Remo Renaissance type) synthetic head, new 5/8" bridge, and setup. This is one of the better plectrums I've played and it has a big, loud, sweet, sustained, but crisp voicing. I like it quite a bit, especially when tuned to "Chicago" or DGBE tuning. It's got a long 27 1/8" which means plenty of room for chording like mad up and down the neck.




The banjo itself is in pretty darn good shape. The ebony fretboard looks great, the finish shows weatherchecking but is pretty clean, there's a bit of grunge and tarnish on the hardware but nothing out of the ordinary, and there are nice little upgrades compared to a comparable Vega model of this grade of banjo: more pretty pearl, rosewood binding on the foot of the rim rather than tortoise celluloid, a nice mahogany neck and rim veneer rather than maple, and an elegant-as-heck transition Waverly adjustable tailpiece with a slip-on cover.


Bone nut, rosewood headstock veneer with nice pearl inlay, and note the nice "ledge" style binding on the board. The pearl at the headstock looks super crisp because I removed the last little bits of yellowed varnish left clinging to its edges.


Cool star inlay!

Unlike most plectrums of this era, the neck relief is not much to write home about: slightly over 1/64" overall after the fret level/dress which gives this jo a super-slick fast feel and action of 1/16" at the 12th fret.


I love that Waverly tailpiece cover.



All rim hardware (and for that matter, everything except the bridge and head) is original.




I love that rosewood binding.





I love the "Little Giant" name! Definitely a play on "Little Wonder..."


Rosewwod binding on the inner edge, too, as well as a nice decorative capping of the rim's foot.



Good-lookin' tailpiece!


There's that 1" tall, big old hoop "Little Giant" ring!

Update: Just a note, this banjo has its original hard case in tow, but it's not even worth taking a shot of as it is of little use except for storage in the house purposes.

1 comment:

Viper said...

What a great looking banjo. Too bad it's not a five-string. Love the peg-head inlay. Cheers!