7/14/2015

2000s Eric Prust 5-String Fretless Minstrel Banjo




This banjo came in for consignment the other day and yesterday afternoon I gave it a good setup and proceeded to do a bit of frailing for the next half hour or so (it's fun). Having handled a number of Civil War (and just post-CW) banjos, I have to say that this design gets it really close with perhaps a little bit of upgrade as far as rim stability goes (while keeping the good looks).

It was made by Eric Prust and has a 13" single-ply black-finished oak rim with a skin head, brackets and hooks so it's adjustable like early "production" minstrel banjos, and a nice, heavy-duty fretless maple neck. The pegs are all well-fit and after my setup on it (I have to admit, it was funky when it came in), it plays very well. It's wearing "minstrel gauge" Aquila nylgut strings which means it's tuned down from G-tuning to an open E chord instead. This makes use of that big rim's extra warm bottom-end.


I've always preferred the translucent skin look to the "white skin" look.


The neck and headstock are cut big and unpretentious -- just like the original banjos of this caliber were.


The neck has some medium figure here and it gives a nice look overall. I love the little wood 5th-string "pip."


The oak tailpiece is held on with actual gut...



...and doesn't that brass hardware look lovely with the banjo's build?





The neck "tensions up" to the rim with this wedge-shaped shim. I find that this design is by far the most practical of all "shim" style neck bracing. It was used on old Buckbees all the time and always holds the necks better than anything aside from adjustable screw-tension neck braces or actual coordinator rods.




The 'jo is in great condition and looks very little-played.

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