7/16/2015

2000s Enoch Dobson 12" Rim 5-String Openback Banjo




When old-time players ask me about 5-strings I often steer them towards new instruments because modern banjos are built with many of the items they want: scooped fretboards, 4:1 geared tuners, larger rims, often shorter scale lengths (this one has 25 1/2" vs typical 26 1/4"+ scales), and more durable construction. I have nothing against old 5-strings (I love 'em!), but modern players often don't realize that most antique 5-strings aren't really what they're after for practicality's sake. The older (pre-1920s) 5-strings do what I think they do best: fingerstyle or "classic" banjo frailing technique with nylon/gut strings. They're often not as adaptable for modern "old time" techniques which are, to be honest, more demanding of the instrument.

Kevin Enoch's banjos are often my first suggestion to those looking at readily-available US-made new instruments as all the examples I've held have been excellently-built and very sturdy. He also builds them in a style that takes cues from my favorite older banjos: Buckbees. The 12" model in this post is roughly analogous to his mass-market "Tradesman" model, though it's got the scooped fretboard and a big old "Dobson" tonering installed under the hood.

I've just done a fresh fret level/dress and setup and this instrument plays beautifully (1/16" action at the 12th fret) and has that big, rich, thrummy old-time sound that many folks are looking for these days. It also comes with its original Enoch-branded gigbag.



This instrument currently has a nice-quality skin head on the 12" rim, but is otherwise original. It'll come with a Remo Renaissance head as a "backup" head as well.


Walnut neck, Buckbee/Dobson-style headstock, nice Gotoh 4:1 geared tuners, bone nut, and...


...ebony fretboard (flat profile) with thin, narrow, vintage-style frets and pearl-dot inlay.



This is not the original bridge (it's a 1/2" tall, lightweight Grover-style one from my parts bin that I've compensated and fit to the instrument), but it does sound good. The original "half moon" Enoch bridge will be included with the instrument, but it's a 5/8" height that jacks the action up to 3/32" overall. It'd be a better option when the head is slack from wet weather.



Isn't that a gorgeous build? It looks practically new -- save one tiny scratch on the back of the neck and a little bit of nail-wear on the head.


Honestly, I like Gotoh banjo pegs quite a bit. They're smooth and look stylish (much better than 5-Stars). The only thing I like better are Waverly pegs.



Pretty "boat heel," huh?

This has a neck-brace shim just like on old Buckbees.


Here you can see the big Dobson "donut" tonering at the upper edge of the rim. It's definitely a certain sound and I'm actually most familiar with the Bacon derivation of the design from the early 20s. It adds an uncomplicated overtone series as well as a bunch of extra sustain and punch and is a lot less "ugly ringy" than using something like a simple, thick hoop tonering instead.







The no-nonsense No-Knot tailpiece works as it should.