8/13/2015

1920s Puntolillo Majestic "The Bell" Tenor Banjo




This over-the-top archtop tenor banjo was in for general setup/adjustment work and boy is it very, very cool. It's apparently made by the New York-based Gaetano (Thomas) Puntolillo of "Majsetic" brand banjo fame, though his outfit made for other brands (notably some SS Stewart stuff from the time) as well. I almost feel like some of these Puntolillo-derived instruments may be linked to Lange but I'll hold my tongue on that since I can't prove it whatsoever.

At any rate, she has a 12 1/4" rim with a giant donut/swelled-wall archtop tonering and "vented" or "porthole" outer rim-ring. That's the engine. Add to that an extremely ornate, carved-like-mad neck and generous amounts of off-the-charts back-strapping, headstock veneering, and oodles of furniture-trade marquetry... and you certainly have a fancy number.

Oh, it sounds good, too!



Like I said, the work involved was general setup: pop on a new compensated bridge, string it up, adjust the coordinator rods, clean it up, and make sure it's ship-shape to go. It already had my favorite of heads -- a Renaissance -- installed.

The biggest trouble with this banjo is that the neck had some ugly backbow which I dealt with by jacking the string gauges up like crazy. This is a 21" scale instrument and I strung it with 40w, 30w, 18, 11 for use in CGDA (standard) tuning. That's heavy-duty! Fortunately, it allowed the neck to snap back to almost-perfectly-straight and so the action is dialed a standard fast 1/16" at the 12th fret and it's not buzzing from the backbow. Lovely!

The thick strings also give this plenty of punch -- as one would expect.


Pearl is everywhere...


...and very well-cut, too, I might add. The neck is birdseye-ish maple with a dyed-maple fretboard and generous binding and purfling.



I'm guessing by the hardware style that this dates to the early-mid 20s.



Hubba-hubba, huh?


One friction peg's ivoroid button was shot -- but fortunately I have period spares.



Wipe that drool, fool.


...or otherwise the lion might getcha!



These Majestic-style banjos have a single coordinator rod setup which lacks the "tightening bolt" on the neck end but works just fine. It let me adjust the neck angle and setup quite easily.




Here's that gorgeous furniture-trade marquetry that was standard on a lot of Puntolillo instruments.





2 comments:

Scott L said...

Oh my God! That thing is amazing!!

Nate Banton said...

Hey, I've got one of these coming in the mail to me. You say you could adjust the neck angle easily with this coordinator rod setup, would you mind describing that? Cheers!