2/25/2015

1910s Oscar Schmidt-made Openback Banjo Mandolin




This banjo mando is a customer's and is equivalent to Oscar Schmidt instruments made under their house "Sovereign" brand. It's actually nearly identical to a Sovereign-branded Schmidt I worked on a while back.

The "plus" side of OS-made banjos is that they tend to have a warm, woody tonality and a lightweight feel with classic ragtime/early blues looks. The "minus" side is that the rims tend to be underbuilt and the overall structure not thought-out well enough to support tension over decades of use.



This instrument has much of its original gear, though it's got an "aftermarket" pickguard mounted, new rosewood bridge, lacks its Waverly "cloud" tailpiece cover, and I've also modified the neck brace joint.

It had some hack work done in the past including a botched dowel reset (it was reset at way too shallow an angle and then adjusted "up" to compensate) but a decent repair to a hairline-cracked heel. The owner also sent me a slightly later (1930s) metal Elton banjo pickguard to add but that unit wasn't going to work on this instrument for a variety of reasons so I subbed in one that's similar (but flatter) which I cut down from a 50s metal guitar pickguard of almost the same shape.

Other work involved regluing half the length of the fretboard, a fret level/dress, cutting that new rosewood compensated bridge, installing a hanger-bolt style neck attachment to replace the (next to useless in this context) shim-style neck brace, tuner reconditioning, and setup.


The fretboard and headstock veneer are dyed maple. The nut is bone.


Nice pearl inlay is set into the bound fretboard. The frets are typical narrow, very low stock as seen on period mandos.


I made a one-foot mandolin-style rosewood bridge for this instead of a maple banjo-style bridge. These are way more stable, mellow out overtones, and keep tune better as they spread tension over a wider area of the head.

The original skin head was retained as the rim is an odd size to find a Remo-style replacement head.





It's hard to see in the pics but the heel had been cracked/repaired in two places before. So far, so good.

You can also see my new hanger-bolt style "neck brace" mod. This relieves direct pull-off neck tension on the dowel so that it can perform its more useful job of holding the pot together and relieving string tension over the thin pot.


These little mods to "get away" with using an incorrectly-angled dowel are still working just fine...


...as evidenced by the nice 1/2" tall bridge I'm running on it.




Here's my adaptation of a metal guitar pickguard to use as a banjo-style pickguard. The customer supplied one of these (minus brackets) for use but its folded-over edges meant that it couldn't fit comfortably for this application. An old archtop guitar bracket served to hold one side while a modified hook holds the other.

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