8/15/2015

1920s Lange-made Langstile II Openback Tenor Banjo




I worked on a slightly-fancier version of the Langstile II model a few years ago and was happy to pick another one up for repair and resale. This one doesn't have any model badging at the headstock so it may be something of a transitional or in-between model as it isn't as simple as a Langstile I from the time but doesn't have the extra purfling and Lange-patent tailpiece of the Langstile II, II, and IV tenor banjos I've serviced in the past. I'm pretty sure this one was earlier-on than others (probably right around 1920).

Regardless of what model it is, this simply a fun old-timey-style openback tenor banjo and sports a bigger 11 1/2" pot with a substantial brass hoop tonering over a big, thick, maple rim. Like a lot of Langes I've worked on, the neck has a bit of backbow when de-strung, so it can handle heavier gauges to bring it straight and steady. It's a short scale banjo (21") and I've currently got it setup for CGDA tuning with 36w, 22w, 16, 10 strings -- a step heavier than I'd usually put on for that pitch. It plays fast (1/16" action at the 12th fret) and is entirely original save the new head and strings.


I was fortunate to randomly have an 11 1/2" Renaissance head on-hand. While I've added a tiny bit of foam muting to cut down on overtones, the straight-up tone of this thing is big, warm, sustained, and punchy.


Maple forms the structure of the build and dyed-pearwood is used for the headstock veneer, fretboard, and heel cap. Check out the gorgeous pearl -- and also the original bone nut.


This is the first old instrument that I've touched in a year or so that didn't truly need at least a light fret level and dress. I cleaned-up the edges of the frets but left them alone, otherwise. I love the asymmetrical pearl pattern of the Langstile II inlays.



The original bridge was quite useful after a slight cut-down. I compensated it as much as I could, too.



The rim has birdseye maple veneer.


The friction pegs work just fine -- though a $100 Waverly-tuner upgrade would be a nice thing to have!


When I set this up I actually added a tiny shim to the bottom of the heel so I could avoid having a ridiculously-tall bridge. The current one is 5/8" and that's as tall as I (personally) like my bridges. It'd be easy enough to pop the shim out and go for a higher one, though.



This neck brace is super practical. It didn't originally have a protective plate to keep the adjustment screw from digging into the rim, so I added one from my parts-bin.


The rim hardware is all that nice old Lange stuff with the sort of textured barrels on the nuts.




The original Elite tailpiece will accept ball-end, loop-end, or gut/nylon strings.


The original chip case is beat-up but would serve for light carrying with a bit of duct-tape work!

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