10/29/2013

c.1925/1965/2013 Frankenstein Silvertone 5-String Banjo



So: a partser! This is a 1960s Silvertone (Kay-made) neck and dowel hardware mounted to a 1920s "archtop" tonering rim with the addition of some 2013 touches. This rim came back to me from a banjo uke partser instrument that had suffered neck damage in shipping (sigh). I've since come across this old 60s Silvertone neck from a buddy and after fixing it up (fret level/dress, new 5th peg and vintage friction pegs at the headstock, regluing one of the headstock "wings") I mated it to this rim plus a new head, bridge, and No-Knot tailpiece.

The result is a long scale (27 1/4") folk openback 5-string banjo with a super-fast and modern-feeling slim neck plus the tonal advantage of a fun old vintage pot.




The rim is a standard 11" and has a maple laminate center with mahogany veneer on the outside. It's also got an "inline" or archtop-style tonering which gives it a poppy but very sweet tone. This definitely has that old-school mellow clawhammer/two-fingers thing going on.


These pegs are old 20s ivoroid-buttoned friction pegs from my bin. The nut is new and bone. You can see that both the headstock "wings" have been reglued at different points (one side was done again by me).


The board is rosewood and has nickel-silver frets. The dots are plastic. I gave the 'jo a fret level/dress but it still has about a 1/32" relief overall. The action is light and fast and a hair over 1/16" at the 12th fret, so the relief (on such a long neck, anyhow) doesn't really amount to much in the way it feels. Action can further be adjusted on-the-fly by adjustment of the coordinator rod near the tailpiece (clawhammer players may like it better around 3/32" action).


New Grover bridge... I respaced the strings and compensated the slots for better intonation.

The new Elite (Remo Renaissance-style) head is a nice upgrade vs. original skin (more volume, better sustain, same sweet old tone).


The marquetry/wood-strip inlay is pretty nice on the rim's lower edge. The rim hardware itself is original except for two replacement (old) hook/nuts.







This is Kay's adjustable heel mechanism. I prefer to set it to one angle I like and then adjust action...


...on the other end, down here.



You may be wondering: why not hang the tailpiece from the original Kay/Silvertone endbolt? The answer is: this way the string height is adjustable via adjusting the coordinator rod. If you crank the endbolt clockwise the action lowers and if you release it the height rises. If I had the tailpiece hanging off of it I would have to remove it every time I wanted to adjust action on the fly (when the season changes or for clawhammer vs. fingerstyle play).

One has to be sure to loosen up the set-nut on the inside of the rim before adjustment, though!

1 comment:

sarahspector said...

but what is the price?