2/28/2015

2000s Enoch Tradesman Fretless 5-String Banjo




A customer of mine brought this recently-bought used Enoch banjo in for a new bridge and more accurate setup. What a treat! These are built after the fashion of my favorite old 5-strings -- Buckbees -- though with a modern twist. The Tradesman is an entry-level model (I believe) for Enoch instruments, but it has all that you could want: a sturdy walnut neck with nicely-carved "boat heel," simple wood (maple?) lightweight 12" rim, quality ebony fretboard, and classic looks supplemented with quality hardware. It has all the sound and feel that you need for a fretless.

Initially it looks like this was setup for steel strings but the new owner wanted to use nylon (in this case, Aquila Nylgut) setup for "minstrel" tuning (which is like banjo tuning but down a few steps). It's currently tuned to open E where it sounds great.



The Remo Renaissance (unbranded) head is a perfect choice for old-time applications.


Bone nut and classic "Buckbee" or "Dobson" headstock shape. The tuners are good-quality as well and I love the black buttons and aged finish.


While this is fretless and thus doesn't have a real "scale length," I've placed the bridge 25 1/4" from the nut because that means that on this banjo the 5th pip (usually located right at the 5th fret) acts as your "5th fret" marker.



I fit a repro minstrel-style 5-foot bridge to replace the funky Grover one that came with this banjo. This is much nicer for use with the Nylgut strings.


The dumb bit of rubber is acting as a mute for the string afterlength (which was buzzing on several strings because of the way the tail/head are situated) and also an "overtone mute" for the head.



Isn't it a classy-looking build?




This uses a rosewood "wedge" as the neck brace. This format (wood on wood and in the center of the dowel) is the best variant of "wedge" or "shim" neck bracing.


A bit of stick-on pickup gunk has been left on the instrument here and there. I tried my best to be rid of it but the stuff just does not like to come off easily. I'll let the owner scratch it all up removing it!



While reminiscent of the old Buckbee-style "boat heels," this has a cleaner and more elegant cut to the "cutout."

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