I have an old SS Stewart banjo which is in pretty good shape. It is a plain model - no carving or anything fancy. It takes five strings, four string pegs work fine but the fifth neck peg is missing. Looks to be mahogany, with a mahogany bridge.
Two questions: 1. Where can I get a reproduction for the fifth peg that will fit without the need to modify the banjo.
2. I've looked over your site, and see references to Stewart serial numbers, but I can't find one on mine. It is marked SS Stewart Philadelphia twice on the inside of the wood "drum", and once on the neck extension; but I don't see any serial number. Can someone tell me where it is hiding or why it might be missing? Is it possible to date it without a serial number?
As with many lower grade banjos, serialization was/is an "iffy" thing. I have seen some of the Stewart "Student" grade banjos with no serial number at all...although most of the 2nds are marked "2nd grade". I have what I believe is a very late Stewart "plain Jane" very much like you describe, no SN (no markings at all) but obviously out of the Stewart factory.
Stewart serial numbers are usually found on both the dowelstick and the inside of the pot. Our physical friend is right, check the back of the dowel. However, my guess is that if there is no S/N on the pot, you won't find one on the dowel either.
Thank you! That's where it was, back of the dowel stick. Its a Second Grade, serial number #22XX. It has one of the brands shown on the mugwumps page as being pre-1888, and its serial number puts it 1885-1888; And it has the "Common Sense" tailpiece WITH the ivory rosette. So very plain - nothing on the head and no decoration other than the round fret indicators and the tailpiece rosette - but certainly no slouch.
I didn't see a peg for it on the stewmac page that suggested it would work without modifying the neck (which I DONT want to do). Is there a picture of what the peg would have looked like? Would a violin-type friction peg work?
Is this worth enough that I shouldn't touch it, or is OK to make it playable as long as I don't modify it?
I've got a Stewart (S# is 1765, stamped on top of dowel) that seems to be similar to your description. In my opinion, if the hole for the 5th string peg is in good shape, then you may want to fit a violin peg to the hole .... don't alter the hole to fit a peg unless you have to, and don't expect to find a peg that will go right in without shaping.
Shaping a peg should be done with a peg shaver (rathed than by hand-carving , etc.) to give you the best fit & best tuning operation. Ebony violin peg should be fine. Use peg dope. Mine has tiny MOP dots on the skinny end of the pegs for strings 1-4 (these look original, my 5th string peg is a replacement).
I paid $300 for mine about a year ago, think this was a fair price, since it's in good shape. I play mine a lot.... has a nice, small dia. pot, sounds good w/ Nylgut Minstrel strings.
A man comes to this world naked and bare; He goes through life with troubles and care; He departs this life and goes we donít know where; But heíll be all right there if he lives all right here ............................................... Uncle Dave Macon
For the S/N, I would guess it was originally fitted with Violin type pegs...and you'll want to do as mralston recommends.
Typical Stewarts of the period were Cherry rather than Mahogany, sometimes it is difficult to tell as they all appear close in color. Lucky you to have the complete "Common Sense" tailpiece with rosette! I'd replace it with a "No-Knot" ASAP and hide the original someplace safe. Those rosettes are just barely held in place.
"If banjos needed tone rings, S.S. Stewart would have made them that way."