10/05/2015

1920s Oscar Schmidt-made Banjo Ukulele




Like the Stella tenor banjo in the last post, these little banjo ukes seem to be all over the place up here in the Northeast. This was made by Oscar Schmidt (though it's unbranded) in probably the late-teens, early 20s. Other examples of the same type can be seen here (as a "Winner) and here (unbranded) and this same design later (I think) changed into the typical "Stella" openback banjo uke I see more often.

At any rate, these always sound nice and have a very "uke style" neck in that the board is a little wider side-to-side and the neck has a soft C profile. It's a standard OS-style soprano scale at 13 1/4" long. Work included a fret level/dress, new nut, replacement (vintage) bridge and (vintage) tailpiece, a couple replacement (same type) shoes and hook/nuts, cleaning, replacement (vintage) friction tuners... and general setup. It plays spot-on and is strung with Martin fluorocarbon strings.



The head is original and certainly has wear-and-tear from use. Someone did some scribbling/doodles on the back as well.

One 2" section on the side has started to peek out at the flesh hoop on the outside (where the skin curls up and back over and under the tension hoop) but it's still taking tension nicely and I have no fear of its falling-apart. I know... because I've owned jo-ukes that have the same for years and have had no trouble with them. Once the skin is dry after mounting it stays put pretty well -- like a drumhead.






The new nut is plastic -- but nice and slippery so the strings won't bind.

The neck on this is mahogany and the frets are set directly into its top face (just like old ukes).


The frets on this are tiny and narrow -- just like any other old OS uke. I like the feel but it's different from a modern instrument. It makes for really easy slides.


I used an older (1890s?) 5-string-style "tie on" tailpiece and a Grover Non-tip (1920s) bridge to replace damaged original stuff.




These are 20s friction pegs I've adapted to this instrument. It originally had wood friction pegs but those are a hassle and two were missing.


The rim's cladding is a little warped at this point in the rim but it makes no structural difference. It's all nice, tidy, and stable.





I love the look of aged spunover rims -- they just look "old time" to me.



Here's one doodle...


...and here's the hilarious one: "Oh dam. It sour. Eh?" What the heck???

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