7/29/2016

1910s Oscar Schmidt "Sovereign" Banjo Mandolin





Banjo mando sighting! Yes, this is the first of a batch of 3 to get finished-up before the month is out. It's a customer's instrument and it was fun to do-up as I haven't worked on a lot of banjo-mandos in recent memory (though I used to fix them all the time). This one was made by New Jersey's Oscar Schmidt and has their "Sovereign" branding which tells you it was their "upscale" model.

It has a spunover rim with nickel-plated brass sleeves on the inside and outside of the (maple?) rim, a 10 1/16" diameter rim, and a mahogany neck with fancy pearl inlays on the fretboard. When it came in, there was much to be desired -- the neck angle was terrible, the neck itself was warped, and it desperately needed an overhaul. I leveled the board, refretted it with medium stock, installed a new head, cleaned it up thoroughly, fixed the neck-angle issues, and then made a new adjustable (compensated) bridge to suit it. The result is something perfectly-playable and easy on the ears.



The headstock is bound and has a Brazilian rosewood veneer. The bone nut is original, too.


Because the neck was warped, there was no way this was going to play well without a board plane and refret -- which it got. The board itself is stained maple.



I made an adjustable bridge from scratch for this asyour average banjo-mando really does need a nice long foot to dampen the tone and increase tuning stability. Regular banjo bridges are almost always far too bright in tone to make these sound "right."

I also dampen the string afterlength under the tailpiece cover and mute the head just slightly with a bit of foam under the fretboard extension.



The dowel originally had a nickel-plated sleeve, too, though I had to recut it near the neck joint to solve for a weird factory-cut dowel opening on the rim that didn't allow enough up/down travel of the tension hoop. The old sleeve was too funky, after managing to get it off, to re-use.


The tuners got a lube and work alright but not beautifully -- modern StewMac repro-style units would be a big improvement, though they cost a bit.


This instrument is interesting in that it has an extra "neck brace rod" in addition to the hammered/screwed-in-place neck brace on the dowel. The stiffening rod is quite helpful in keeping this stable.


Note my cheesy way of re-angling the dowel a bit higher. It works fine. I had to keep this on a budget, mind you -- and I'd already filled a lot of that budget with refretting the neck -- which was necessary.






The original head has all sorts of Navy ships and ports-of-call on it, though the only date I found was in 1920.


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