4/27/2014

c.1960 British-made 5-String Resonator Banjo




This strange British-made 5-string banjo is a bluegrass-type resonator instrument though the rim features a very English-type tonering that's been around since the 1920s... it's a big aluminum hoop ring that's suspended "inboard" from the rim on little L-brackets and pushed "up" to make, in effect, an archtop-style tonering. I love the sound this produces and found it awesome on an old GH&S I worked on a bit ago. Here, combined with a thick maple-laminate rim and full flange and mahogany resonator, the sound turns out to be a bit of that warm sort-of John Hartford sort of tone. The soundclip doesn't really capture it but this thing has a sound that, while loud, fits somewhere between an old-time banjo and a full-on bluegrass 'jo.

Oh, and it's a customer's instrument, so hands off!




I don't know who made this but it's similar in many ways to some of the 40s/50s GH&S products I've seen... so maybe it's in that family?


Despite being a 60s banjo (the owner bought it in the UK in the 60s) the tuners are American-made units of the type seen on late-20s banjos... they're 2:1 ratio and turn the shafts backwards when tuned up... so you just sort of have to accept that your strings are going to around the shaft the wrong way unless you want to wrap your head around tuning up backwards with your hand...!


Rosewood, bound board over a maple neck. This had some twist and warp in it (no doubt to the 10s it seems to have rocked most of its life) but a fret level and dress has cured much of it. The action got cranked down to 1/16" at the 12th, anyhow, which is where I want banjos to be.




I compensated the bridge, too, during setup. The tailpiece is obnoxious but effective... you have to loop the strings over pins that are on the reverse inside of the tailpiece. Why? Who knows! It works but it takes a little getting used to.






All original, too. This poor thing played so poorly when it came in I wasn't sure how it'd turn out, but after all was said and done it turned into a great player with a pretty voice.

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