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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Alvarez Tone Ring


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Dan Pennington - Posted - 08/28/2007:  12:17:39


I just bought an old Alvarez bluegrass banjo. Played it for 10 minutes, then took it apart. (Doesn't everybody?) It has a 1/2 inch (10 mm) multi-ply rim. My question/comment/observation is that the tone ring is about 3/4 inch wide and extends inside the rim without touching the rim. There is about 1/16 inch gap between the ring and rim.
This takes the tone bell system to extremes. This probably contributes to the sound of the banjo. It has good volume and very good clear tones. (But, what do I know, I'm an open back banjo guy?) If this is representative of all the Alvarezes or Alvarezae, I can see why they sold so many of them.


Dan in Minneapolis

Richie Dotson - Posted - 08/28/2007:  12:33:22


They are all like that. I have seen hundreds of them from that time period. All is normal ... for this banjo.

Richie Dotson
Craftsman, Teacher
9 Ratcliffe Place
Newport News, Virginia 23606
http://www.BanjoResource.com
(757) 223-7891

Dan Pennington - Posted - 08/28/2007:  12:57:39


Another thing! When the neck is bolted up tight to the pot assembly, there is a gap between the neck and the rim at the lower part of the neck heel. That's where the single coord rod screws onto the lower neck bolt. At the upper neck bolt, the neck has full contact with the rim and tone ring. Back to the lower neck bolt. The hole in the rim is large enough for the coord rod to pass right thru, but the coord rod is not long enough to reach the neck and bottom side of the rim at the same time. So, the coord rod is squeezing the rim against the flange and the neck.
Since I have not had the pleasure of taking apart a Gibson bluegrass banjo, is this Alvarez setup similar to many other classic BG banjos or just a strange Alvarez design decision?


Dan in Minneapolis

Cliff. Johnston - Posted - 08/28/2007:  13:05:23


Dan,

What model is your Alvarez?

I've got a Denver Belle. It looks as if you have either an aluminum or plated bronze tone ring. I was told that mine was aluminum, but when I checked it out more closely it turned out to be bronze that was plated, much to my pleasure. Most rings are said to be bronze. Someone who had a copies of several 1970's catalogs from various years emailed me that all stated that the Denver Belle tone rings were bronze. This makes me wonder if the few reports of aluminum rings on Denver Belles were swap-outs.

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay


Edited by - Cliff. Johnston on 09/23/2007 12:44:45

Dan Pennington - Posted - 08/28/2007:  13:52:07


How does one tell what model it is? Here's a photo of the neck/peghead. The upper corners of the peg head were broken off in a bar fight in Alaska. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)


Dan in Minneapolis

Cliff. Johnston - Posted - 08/28/2007:  17:13:52


Dan,

Can you post a pic of the entire banjo? The inlays look like "bowtie". Is there a sticker inside the resonator? It may have some information on it, particularly the model #. Mine had 4300. In addition "Denver Belle" is engraved on the rod cover of mine - made it simple for me.

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

grm405 - Posted - 08/28/2007:  17:49:10


This appears to be the generic Alvarez Bowtie banjo. They seem to differ mainly by the amount of fake pearl inlay an the back of the resonator and the headstock. I have the very similar banjo with the same rim and zinc tone ring. I replaced the rim and ring with a FQMS rim and Sullivan ring. It still doesn't sound very good and never has. I also replaced the clunky square Klundsen type tuners with 5 stars and the coordinator rods with a dual Gibson style set. I also had to replace the cast zinc tension hoop with a brass one as the zinc one bent irrepairably.

I am not sure why it didn't sound good, it may be the short scale (about 24.5" I think) and/or the multiply resonator. Short scale means slacker strings and moving the bridge closer the head center. Whatever the reason I would recommend using it as is and not spending much money on upgrades. Upgraded it is not nearly in the same class as my Goldstar, despite ending up costing about the same.

Gerry

BanjoSKP

kat eyz - Posted - 08/28/2007:  17:49:14


Dan, ...looks like my old Alverez...no model # ..no serial # ..just a banjo ... mine was made with a generic type mahogany neck .. plastic bowtie inlays and a walnut veneer on the resonator backside with a little inlay work in the center of the resonator back. Mine also had the black stained junk wood rim. I put a 3 ply hard maple rim in mine and it went from a banjo that sounded like it had a head cold to a pretty decent sounding banjo....i think the tonering in these banjos are better than one might expect...its just that they didnt couple it with a decent rim in some models. You can find this very banjo with "Concord" stamped on the peghead instead of Alverez and probably a few other name brands too.

mike smith www.kateyzbb.com

Dan Pennington - Posted - 08/28/2007:  17:56:57


Sorry, Cliff, no sticker or info of any kind. It's in pieces. It looks just like this Alvarez in the classifieds:
http://www.banjohangout.org/classif...asp?cid=2468

But my question wasn't about what model it is or the age of it. I was asking about is this standard construction for BG banjos to have the gap between the neck and the bottom of the rim or is this just Alvarez or Korean banjo strangeness.

Dan in Minneapolis


Edited by - Dan Pennington on 08/28/2007 18:05:23

grm405 - Posted - 08/28/2007:  20:31:32


No, this not a standard construction. It would be considered a major, major flaw in either design or construction in any banjo.

Gerry

BanjoSKP

Richie Dotson - Posted - 08/29/2007:  09:03:22


It was how they constructed them, though. The lag threads both into the heel and the coordinator rod with the same thread and passes through the rim without a stop. This is one of the many reasons that they don't make em like this any more and why this banjo isn't a very pricy one. They work and are a lot better sounding than one that you could buy new for the same money. They often had very clubby necks on them, too.

Richie Dotson
Craftsman, Teacher
9 Ratcliffe Place
Newport News, Virginia 23606
http://www.BanjoResource.com
(757) 223-7891

Dan Pennington - Posted - 08/30/2007:  14:54:20


Thanks for the info, Richie. And I just found a photo on Elderly"s site that shows an Alvarez just like mine with the space between the neck and rim: http://elderly.com/images/vintage/7...814_heel.jpg

Mine is back together and on Craigs List for local sale.

Dan in Minneapolis

Cliff. Johnston - Posted - 08/30/2007:  15:16:12


quote:
Originally posted by grm405

No, this not a standard construction. It would be considered a major, major flaw in either design or construction in any banjo.

Gerry

BanjoSKP



Gerry,

Aren't you being a wee bit hard on the Alvarez design - major flaw??? Who set the design criteria in stone that makes it a major flaw? Where is it written? It was/is their standard design. They sold/sell an appreciable number of similar designed banjos, and considering how long they've been selling them they must have a market for them. My Denver Belle has it. Yesterday at a music store with 4 others it got a good going over. All declared it to have an excellent sound, followed by an offer to buy it for considerably more than I paid for it. If that's a major flaw, I'll keep it gladly for the price. Mind you it's not a Deering Golden Era, but then it's not that price either...

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

picnparty - Posted - 08/30/2007:  22:31:22


Its a 4282 thats the way they are. I have a 4282 and a 4289. 70's Bowtie "lawsuit" by Alvarez.

Thats the way they are.....Here's a terrible tale. I had a local luther do some fret work on my 4289. It needed a slight adjustment on the action. He took the liberty of cutting and modifying out the 1 piece flange cut and ruined my 4289's neck completly. Thats the way they are he should have left it alone. I did not give him permission to do anything but re crown the frets. I could'nt believe it!!!! I won't forgive him or let him work on any of my instruments. On top of all that It was my Grandpa's That JERK!!!!

In case you wondering: The 4289 much harder to find in fact I have'nt seen another. It looks like the 4282 but Differs a little. 4289 was semi-gloss finish instedd of matte, came with better tuners and better rim (5/8 3 ply )mine had a 4 hole ring like the real bowtie. Serial # on the heel of neck. Still was a 70's Bowtie "lawsuit"


Take it easy,
Bootes...

grm405 - Posted - 08/31/2007:  11:05:40


Well, with all the talk from the luthiers about the importance of a perfect neck/pot fit, a 1/4" or so gap seems to not fall into that category. I can see it from the point of making a neck with easily adjustable action, but you are really supportijng the neck with only a screw into the neck under tension. It is a very loose joint to say the least. It is going to be highly flexible and it is going to absorb a significant amount of the energy in the neck and pot. It is going to greatly change the "Q" (mechanical absorbion of energy) of the banjo. I would expect it to make a dead banjo. There were a bunch of "better ideas" used Japanese mastercloners of that era, including the weird coordinator rod attachment of my Hondo ll, the steel rod inside the tone ring by Kakuga,..... None of them stayed around.

It was only used by a certain manufacturer (Kasuga) for a short time. It has never been used by another as far as I can tell. I didn't think my Alvarez was all that bad until I compared it to some better banjos (GF85). Then I realized that the neck felt like a 2x4 on edge and that the sound was lousy, even with a good ring and rim.

The Denver Belle may well be a much better banjo than the bowtie, and may well be built by a different manufacturer. Alvarez was just a name stamped on a line of banjos spec'd by an importer. The Bowtie was sold under several different names, including Kasuga, the actual manufacturer. I once had a Alvarez/Yairi guitar. It was really good. The Bowtie doesn't fall into that category.

Gerry

BanjoSKP

Michael Keith - Posted - 09/23/2007:  16:31:24


I have an Alvarez Silver Bell and it sounds great. Other then tho volume you can't tell if I am playing the Alvarez or the Granada. Although the action and neck will never come close to the Granada the sound is defiantly there.


Edited by - Michael Keith on 09/23/2007 16:35:38

FXHERE - Posted - 09/25/2007:  09:33:05


These banjos were made under many different names--Conrad, for one..They have an alloy tone ring, but sound pretty good and usually plenty loud with a 2x4 neck..It was my first banjo and I still have it...Doug

No such thing as a bad sounding banjo

Cliff. Johnston - Posted - 10/01/2007:  17:36:39


I just looked at a Stelling banjo and was both surprised and pleased to see that the bottom of the heel does not touch the rim. This is the same design feature that my Alvarez Denver Belle has. This casts serious doubt about any statements concerning how a banjo should be made and design flaws.

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay

JoeDownes - Posted - 03/26/2008:  13:45:33


I own a Kasuga made bowtie masterclone of the same type, branded Aria. I've found some other brands Kasuga used: Alvarez (most of them), Kasuga, Aria, Ayoma, Contessa, Dorado,Orpheum, Pan, Univox, Ventura and probably some others. (Thanks to Paul Hawthorne's site: http://hawthorne.fastie.net/asianbanjos/index.htm)
I got it for about 220 dollars and right now I upgrade it with new pegs (Schaller planetaries), a new head and brigde.
Mine has got a 20 hole tone ring (aluminium?) with a bronze rod underneath (inside) it (where the top of the rim meets the tone ring). Anyone seen this before?
Would it make any sense to close the gap between the neck and the rim with a piece of mahagony?

Dan Pennington - Posted - 03/26/2008:  16:48:13


The Alvarez I was talking about last year was an older model that I sold last year. I bought another newer one early this year. It's a model 4280 and it is built the same way, with the space between the bottom of the heel and the rim at the lower coord rod. Both these banjos were very good sounding bluegrass banjos. I don't think that it would be worth the effort to close the gap. I tried it on the first one and got no improvement in the sound. But, I'm not a bluegrass banjo setup expert, so my opinion and a dollar might get you on the bus.

Dan in Minneapolis

Mumble Peg - Posted - 03/26/2008:  17:37:04


The system they used worked like this:

the lower co-rod passes through the rim and is threaded into the heel. The other end of the co-rod is used to adjust the action. If the inside nut is loosened and the outside nut tightened, then the action is lowered by drawing the heel closed to the rim. Conversely, loosening the outside nut and tightening the inside nut will raise the action by pushing the heel away from the rim.



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