7/18/2015

1979 Richard Raimi 5-String Openback banjo



This banjo just came in for consignment and it's a nice old US-made instrument that was built in Seattle by maker Richard Raimi (an original receipt from the owner dates it new in 1979). It's mostly original save for a compensated bridge, Remo FiberSkyn head, No-Knot tailpiece, and fretboard "scoop" -- all of which were added by Smakula at some point in time. These are all thoughtful upgrades for an old-time player.

Features include a fast Gibson-y profile neck (thin and C-shaped), longer 26 5/8" scale length, mahogany neck with aluminum non-adjustable truss rod, ebony board, 11-ply maple laminate rim and has narra-wood veneer (which is awfully pretty -- sort of like koa in the curly grain). The rim is a standard 11" in diameter, sports two coordinator rods for full neck/pot adjustment, and the build is sturdy all-around. The neck itself is dead-straight even with its relatively quick profile -- something I say thanks to for that nice big old block of aluminum installed under the board. This has a standard brass "hoop style" tonering which gives it a classic 20s/30s voice when combined with the long scale.


My work included a fret level/dress to remove mild pitting in the frets, a good full setup and adjustments, and cleaning. She plays great with 1/16" action at the 12th fret (spot-on) and has a nice, sustained, old-time sound.

Mileage will vary depending on the kind of head this wears, but the FiberSkyn tends to mellow out the high-end. I'm guessing with a Renaissance head you'd get a bit more highs and perhaps a sunnier low-end, but this is a good choice on this type of banjo build (which tend to have a lot of overtones due to the long scale and simple hoop ring).


The rosewood headstock veneer has some discoloration at the low D-string tuner area. The bone nut is original... and I had to add an extra washer to the B-string tuner to be able to tighten it fully to the headstock. The tuners themselves are Grovers that look like Schallers -- go figure! They work just dandy.


Ebony is nice to have an looks pretty traditional on a 'jo like this. I fully embrace the choice to use a tiny screw as the 5th pip, too! That's very "1910s" of the maker.



The compensated bridge keeps it nicely in-tune up the neck.



I've added a couple foam pads to cut down on overtone ring. This is more of a "player's choice," however. My play-style tends to add a lot of overtone color which my ears don't particularly enjoy.

Note a small chip-out of the "rim cap" veneer...


There's a bit of use-wear here and there, but the glossy original finish still looks great and if I weren't told the age, I would assume this could've been built recently.





The hardware is all heavy-duty standard-fare and has held up very well.





It comes with an original, slightly beat-up but fully-functional hard case.


Here's the maker's info.

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