5/30/2014

c.1925 Lyon & Healy "Mauna Loa" Banjo Ukulele




This no-frills 7" rim banjo uke was made/sold by Lyon & Healy under their Mauna Loa brand. It's very simple with a plain thin wood rim and no tonering but it's lightweight, has a decent old-timey tone and has that wide (side to side) but thin (front to back) neck profile like on a period Hawaiian-made soprano uke. This makes many more complex chord patterns and fingering in general a little more spacious and comfy.

Work included installing a new skin head (actually re-purposed vintage skin from my old heads box), fret level/dress, new bridge, and various setup concerns. This uke came to me with an extra coat of (modern) finish but it still has the same looks that it would've had to begin with. The hooks/nuts all seem to be replacements with some period and some later but they work just fine. The tuners are some same-period ones from my parts box as cheesy modern friction tuners had been installed.



The strings are a set of Aquila Reds and they give a nice, dry, thwacky sort of sound that suits this mellow instrument.






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Typically these necks are screwed onto the simple pot with one screw. It looks like at some point (probably when an extra topcoat was applied) the screw position was moved and a modern screw installed -- and fair enough, it works fine. I added the second (smaller, more vintage-looking) screw to the bottom of the heel to keep the neck position stable. With one screw the necks tend to roll side to side if they loosen up from the pot at all.


Action is spot on at 1/16" at the 12th fret.


Here are those 20s friction pegs from my parts bin. I added the extra washers between the bakelite buttons and the headstock to smooth their operation.

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