12/10/2014

1920s Regal-made Sterling Electrified Tenor Banjo




So... I worked this one up from a customer request for an electrified (rather than "electric") smallish tenor banjo. That means an electric guitar pickup (magnetic) stuck up under the head for plugging in rather than an "acoustic electric" pickup to simulate the acoustic sound of the instrument.

I've worked on scores of this same general model of instrument and I've seen it sold under many, many, many brands. This one happens to be the Tonk Brothers "Sterling" name but they were all, almost certainly, made by Regal for various distributors (including Slingerland which many of these are branded).


This has almost all its original hardware though I've retrofitted a new compensated bridge to its original skin head. My usual banjo work applied: fret level/dress, seating frets properly, a good setup, cleaning, yadda yadda.


The customer requested guitar-style tuners and these grungy 50s Klusons were perfect for it... especially with the new black buttons.


The fretboard is dyed maple with pearl dots and the nearly full-height frets (they're small to begin with) are in good order. The scale length on this guy is 20 3/4" so it's just shy of the 21" benchmark for short scale tenors.


This bridge is compensated for CGDA (2 plain, 2 wound) tuning. I've used nickel-wound strings to help out the electric pickup.



I deviated from the original plan slightly by including a drilled-through jack on the rim rather than a "loose" jack tied off or taped to the dowel. I had several options for removable jacks but considering the fact that the dowel needed to be modified slightly to make a pickup mountable and the relatively lower value of this type of tenor I figured a solidly-mounted jack would make it more practical in regular use.


Here are the funky old Klusons.


I converted the neck joining method to a Gibson-style hanger-bolt/big nut style attachment rather than the regular adjustable neck brace. I didn't want bulky metal contraptions hanging around the pickup and dislodging it or whatnot. Besides... this is 300% sturdier and more stable.

The pickup is a GFS "Brighton" Strat-sized unit and while it looks Stratty it sounds more like a warm P-90 or a clean vintage humbucker in practical use. One screw mounts to the backplate right between the center polepieces (there was a tiny hole there to begin with) and works for seating.


Excuse the masking tape wrap. No reason not to keep things simple...

The ground wire is going to the bolt that secures the endbolt that secures the tailpiece that secures the strings...



Right... I forgot to mention woods! It's maple throughout with a 1-piece maple neck and multi-ply maple rim.



The practical Waverly tail lets one use ball or loop-end strings.

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