1/25/2017

1930s Concertone Banjo Ukulele





What a strange (but absolutely normal, in most ways) banjo uke! I'm used to seeing Concertone-branded ukes bearing a typically-Slingerland design style to them (and this one has an identical heel and rim design), but this uke has a more 1920s Gretsch-ish fretboard and nut look combined with a "wave" headstock shape. It's peculiar and so I can't nail the maker down -- but it's close to my heart, in a way, because of all the banjo ukes I've owned my favorite is a roughly-similar Harmony-made instrument. I like the mellow, folksy, horse-cloppy sound these non-tonering, 7" rim jo-ukes get. They're not really punchy enough for band work but they're great to sing and record with.

I worked on this for a customer and that entailed a new skin head (reclaimed from a larger vintage banjo head with a tear in it), fret level/dress, side dot install, and general setup. The owner wanted it in GDAE (mandolin) tuning and it's wearing a set of Aquila 5th-tuning (GDAE) strings to do that. It sounds great! I like this way better than the usual "melody banjo" (4-string banjo mandolin) tone you get with steel strings. It's more "round" and less piercing but plenty loud all the same.


This instrument has a multi-ply maple rim with birdseye maple veneer on the outside. The neck is also maple and has a sort-of cigar-box-mahogany (or low-grade rosewood?) fretboard material. I'm not exactly sure what it is.




While an original bridge came with the instrument, I replaced it with a slightly-taller same-period bridge.

Note the skin head maker's mark which I accidentally put on the front of the rim! When the head was wet I couldn't even see it as the whole thing had darkened. It's kinda neat, though, on the front. I recycle old torn-at-the-edges 1920s skin heads all the time and many of them bear the drum-head-manufacturer Jos. B. Rogers mark.




The bakelite-buttoned friction pegs have washers already added under them for smoother operation.





All the hardware is original except for...


...the endbolt hanger. When I removed the endbolt to get the neck off for work, I found out that the hanger for the endbolt was stripped and so it wouldn't hold the endbolt in place anymore. I used an L-bracket hanger off of an old Gibson (I believe?) and a simple screw from my parts-bin to replace the endbolt's functionality.

I just didn't have any threaded screws around that matched any of my banjo shoes, unfortunately.


The uke came to me in its original shipping box from Montgomery Wards!

No comments: