7/03/2015

1920s Gibson UB-3 Banjo Ukulele




A good customer/acquaintance of mine sent this cute little thing in for consignment. It's a 20s UB-3 which puts it right up the food chain of Gibson banjo ukes. In this case that specs-out to an 8" rim, full 13 7/8" scale length, and flatback resonator. Most of the hardware is original, though the tailpiece and two hooks/nuts are unoriginal.

I did a light setup on it which included making a new (more attractive) nut, reseating a couple of frets just slightly, adjusting the bridge, head, and coordinator rod, and cleaning it up. It plays spot-on with a new set of Martin fluorocarbon strings and sounds... vaudeville! It's got a big, projecting sound that's awesome for those closed-position 20s/30s chord changes. I can imagine doing triplets all night long and fading into slack-jawed joy.


The skin head has one tiny pinhole in it that's not causing any trouble (and won't).


The pearl-inlaid Gibson script and fleur-de-lis are classic "Gibson cool."


The fretboard looks like "ebonized" pearwood or maple. It's certainly not rosewood -- and this is pretty common on Gibson banjos I've had through the shop from the same time. Can't argue with binding and pearl all over, though.


The bridge is a modded, lightweight 5-string bridge that came with the uke, but it does supply a good tone so I didn't replace it.


Sunburst! The resonator's edge is bound, too.



The tuners are spring-loaded old Waverlies. Nice stuff.






I added a couple replacement hooks from my parts bin and also a replacement nut for the tailpiece hanger. Note how I've loaded the strings -- knotted "ball ends" that slip into the "tongs" and then wrap in through the holes.



Here's the coordinator rod which can help to adjust neck-angle and keeps the instrument rigid and true. I love me that simply Gibson contraption!



The uke comes with a nicely-fitted newer (import?) hard case. It's an arched-top model and works perfectly for it. When this came out of the shipping box I said, "dang, that's nice!" There's something about banjo uke cases that make me smile.

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