5/28/2016

1920s La Pacific California-Style Banjo Ukulele





I've worked on a lot of these banjo ukes over time -- and mostly for customers. I used to pick them up for resale but after getting burned on several that had necks that were simply too warped, twisted, or had fretting nightmares... I gave up on them. You can find these everywhere as they were the "general-issue banjo uke" available from all sorts of mailorder catalogs in the 20s. This is a customer's uke and I was so thankful to find that the neck on this is actually dead-straight and the tiny frets barely needed a level/dress at all.

That, of course, made the other stuff easier -- I pulled off the resonator backplate and installed a second neck bolt for stability's sake, swapped the Kamaka-style tuners out for something more period-looking from my bins, recut an old bridge to fit, restrung it, and set it up. It's playing on-the-dot with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and has that sort of raspy, ka-chunky, pop-pop sound that I'm so familiar with hearing from these ukes.


I love how simply beat this instrument is. It was obviously well-loved.

For those not in the know, the head is "top-tensioned" -- meaning that those screws turned clockwise tighten-up the head rather than hooks/nuts around the edge of the rim.



It's kinda great just how much wear this has.


It turns out that these simple, all-maple, Harmony-made bridges from the 60s are the ideal candidates for fitting to banjo ukes like this as their wide feet don't press the (already fairly-slack due to the rim design) heads down too much. This helps in the summer months when humidity can really loosen-up the heads beyond the adjustability range of the rim's tension screws.






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