3/29/2017

1920s Slingerland-style Princess Resonator Banjo Ukulele





I've worked-on and sold dozens of this same-model (or close to it) uke under many different brand names -- the most common being Slingerland, Slingerland's MayBell line, or the Concertone name. I think I've worked on perhaps two Princess-branded variants, though, as well. I still have no clue as to the actual maker of this type of banjo uke, but I call them Slingerland-style and it's more than likely they were made in Chicago by Regal or Harmony.

This one was probably made on the earlier side because its original neck brace is a simple friction-set wedge. It also has the earlier (presumably), shorter, 13" scale length (as opposed to 14") and a cool "pie plate" resonator on its rear, set-off from the back of the rim by rubber grommets. The ply maple rim is 7" and thus bog-standard in diameter, though it does have more hooks than usual at 16. Two of the hooks and shoes are replacements, though, but period and from my parts-bin. There's also a fat, hoop-style tonering sitting on the top of the rim.

Work included a fret level/dress, addition of a "bolt" neck brace (a screw!), general cleaning, a new bridge, and a good setup. It's playing on-the-dot with 1/16" action at the 12th fret, fluorocarbon strings installed, and ready to go. Tone-wise it's punchy and direct, with a nice cut that would make it ideal for jam or band use.


The headstock originally would have had a celluloid "Princess" logo on it, but it's long-gone.


I love the one-piece, quartersawn maple used on the necks for these. They  have a "Telecaster" look to them, don't they? The "board" dots are pearl and I added side dots, too.



The bridge is a nice, lightweight, vintage maple unit. Note that I've stuffed a bit of foam to mute the string afterlength behind the bridge (die, overtones, die).



While the shafts are original to the uke, I replaced the original buttons with the exact same button type (and same period) from my parts-bin. The originals had dryness splitting in them and I did not want them failing on someone down the line.



Slightly-figured maple veneer is used on all the outside edges of the rim -- including the resonator's rear.







Here's an inside shot. Note the foam stuffed under the dowel to slightly mute the head and kill overtone ring from that big old tonering.


In addition to using the hammer-in, friction-set neck brace wedge, I also installed a simple screw through the rim into the heel. This insures proper alignment of the neck in the joint and also an absolutely-secure hold on the neck that doesn't stress the dowel. It's hiding behind the wedge, anyway.

I retrofit a lot of old banjos this way, now, as the "road report" for wedge-in neck braces is not good. Most players don't keep them tight and so the action rises once they've lived in the real world for half a year. Well -- the action rises or the neck twists side-to-side a little and throws action off. Either way it's annoying!

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