7/31/2016

1920s Lange-made Rex Banjo-Mandolin





This instrument has a "Rex" branding decal on the back of the headstock, but it's definitely a Lange product out of New York. It even has a heavy-duty brass tonering supended on brads to seal the deal -- somewhat of a trademark for Lange design in the early/mid-20s.

It was also obviously upmarket when it was built, with a heavy multi-ply maple rim (and birdseye veneer on the outside), a many-layered "rim cap" on the back of the rim, many-layered edging at the fretboard's edge, and fancy pearl inlay in a dyed pearwood (or maple) board.

My work on this included a fret level/dress, new head, new bridge, much cleaning, setup, and conversion to a coordinator-rod setup instead of a dowel setup "under the hood." More on that, later -- but suffice to say it's a great-sounding, responsive, and nice-feeling instrument. Action is spot-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret and the coordinator rod means adjustment is really, really easy.


I used a Remo Renaissance head to replace the torn original skin one. Heads are easy to get as long as the rim is over 10" in diameter.


The pearl-inlaid headstock is nicely-done. Note how much of the dark stain has faded out of the pearwood veneer.


The neck was straight enough that a fret level/dress was all that was needed to get the frets in order.


I like the little detailing at the end of the fretboard. The multi-laminations under the board also keep the extension over the head nice and straight. I had to reglue a bit of the board, though, before work.


I usually use heavier, mandolin-style bridges on banjo-mandolins, but this one had a somewhat dark sound to begin with, so I used a banjo-style one and compensated it for mandolin stringing.

These are GHS A240 strings -- 32w, 20w, 13, 9 -- perfect for period mandolins. On this one's 13 1/4" scale, they feel slick and fast, too.



This originally had a maple dowel installed, though someone had reglued it with epoxy upside-down which mean for proper angle the dowel would be hitting the head. I could've done a lot of work to fix that situation -- but instead I cut it down and made a coordinator rod from hardware-store bits.

The rod is more stable, seats the heel firmly to the rim, and allows for action adjustment on-the-fly.


I had to lube the tuners and tighten them all up, as usual for these covered ones that haven't seen the light of day since they were installed. They're higher-quality units of the type I'm used to seeing on Vega or Larson high-end bowlbacks.


The two-piece maple neck has some birdseye in it.


The "rim cap" was delaminating in a number of places and I glued it up.


Here you can see the big, nickel-plated brass tonering. It rests on brads sunk into the top of the rim and gives this instrument a clear, sweet, balanced tone.

Luckily, all the rim hardware is original.


The remains of the epoxied-in dowel hold the neck "true" while the hanger-bolt/Gibson-style single rod setup holds the neck nice and snug.


The rim has nice birdseye veneer.





It's unfortunate, but the Waverly "cloud" cover for the tailpiece is missing. The foam under the string-ends mutes the overtones from the string afterlength.


An original, hard case (Gibson-style) comes with the instrument. That's a very nice touch!

1 comment: