4/11/2017

1920s Unmarked Hawaiian-decal Banjo Ukulele





Cool, right? Just like other gimmicky ukes, I had to have this one for the shop as soon as I saw it. It's so clean. The only real mark on it is a scratch near the heel on the neck's side and it only really needed a glorified setup -- meaning a fret level/dress, bridge fit, cleaning, new nut, and setup. It's playing perfectly (1/16" action at the 12th fret), strung-up with Martin fluorocarbon strings, and sounds nice and flapper-y. Charleston!

Of course, the coolest bit is the decal on that original skin head, but it's also a pretty good banjo-uke, too. It's a "typical" mid-grade instrument for the time with a 7" diameter, ply-maple rim and maple neck topped-off with a stained-maple (I think) fretboard. The neck shape (rounded C with a 1 1/8" nut width) is a bit mandolin-like, but that's par for the course for when this one was made -- probably the very early 1920s when the uke craze was taking-off.


Everything is original save the new bone nut and a replacement bridge. The bridge itself is period and the original bridge is included with the uke, but a little funkier.


I'm really not sure who made this uke but I would hazard to guess it's a Harmony (Chicago) product or a budget Lange (New York) product. It has a 13" scale which places it in the "earlier" camp of banjo ukes. Soprano scales started getting longer by the 1930s, for the most part.


I added side dots, too, after doing the frets. The frets themselves are low and small and nearly full-height. I didn't have to do much leveling on them.


I barely ever see decals in this good shape!



Excuse the foam under the string-ends -- it's there to mute overtones. The bridge is a tall, 5/8" unit.



The finish has UV-aged to a mellower creamy-yellow color, but otherwise it's just so absurdly clean.


I added an extra washer to each of the bakelite tuning pegs (friction pegs, mind you) to get them to turn more smoothly than "stock."







The tailpiece is an original "Elite" type -- but with a different brand on it.


Here's the original case, too -- though the "door" on the end needs sprucing-up.


I like to install bolts/screws to replace the "normal" neck braces (usually inadequate) found on most banjo ukes, but to my surprise...


...this one was "bolted" from the factory to begin-with! Nice.

3 comments:

charlie said...

Is that really a decal Jake? It almost looks handpainted with a wash in some parts (such as behind the feet). Regards Charles

Jake Wildwood said...

It's really a decal -- expand the photos and look closely -- you can see the waterslide lining around the edges of it.

charlie said...

Very Cool!