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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Sullivan Tone Ring

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

lethegoodtimesroll - Posted - 06/25/2009:  15:16:45

Sullivan banjos that feature the Factory floor rim have 3 distinct tone rings. Festival pro has "new R&D Flathead". Festival Deluxe Custom has "Sullivan Prototype" . Mike Scott Signature Banjo has Sullivan Custom Flathead.Does anyone have any experience with these tone rings? I like the fact that Sullivan banjos have the Nitro laquer finish. I heard from Eric Sullivan that there is a new model coming that will be The most authentic pre war copy ever made..The price will be like a Martin D-18 A. I'm savin up!

KANINJACK - Posted - 06/25/2009:  16:42:24

I've got the Sullivan tone ring that has the "Sullivan" engraved on the side, I think it is the prototype. I've got great sound and have been very pleased with it. I put it on a Sullivan Bluegrass Jam and it definitely boosted the volume I was already getting. The improved sustain is what really got me though. If Eric has anything to do with it I'm sure it'll be good.

Retropicker - Posted - 06/25/2009:  17:05:56

The engraved ring is their Cryo ring essentially the Gibson Crowe ring.
Sullivan rings are excellent rings that because of their price might be considered 2nd tier. One of the best buys out there IMHO.

____Keep the hay in Bluegrass__________________________

Tim-mater - Posted - 06/25/2009:  17:19:35

I like my engraved ring (I guess it's a cryo ring - thanks RetroP). I am not sure how the rings compare, but I like the sound and solid construction of my Greenbrier. I would like to hear from someone who has compared them too.

Edited by - Tim-mater on 06/25/2009 17:22:44

goldtopia - Posted - 06/25/2009:  22:27:19

Why is it called factory floor ? It seems pretty daft to me as if the floor is being taken up to make banjos. I wonder who thought of it. I suppose they could have called it factory joists which would eventually make the roof collapse. No one has questioned this. A better name would have been more inspiring like Sullivan's Special Rims, simple and to the point.


silvioferretti - Posted - 06/25/2009:  23:31:02

The answer is very simple, Bill: that maple was taken from the floor of an old factory. It was a couple hundred years old, came from virgin forest, and that factory (and floor) had had heavy machines running constantly and vibrating that wood for about 150 years.

The name that the Sullivans gave to the old factory floor rim and bridges, though, is "Historical Growth": factory floor or old factory floor were given to that maple (and rim) by customers, I believe. And IMO all rims from the Sullivans ARE special..

"If you''re gonna have a vice, try to find one that will keep you outta jail and maybe alive a little longer" - Alvin Youngblood Hart.

Silvio Ferretti

AKUSfan2 - Posted - 06/26/2009:  08:31:09

Bill, Silvio,

I don't know how "Internet savy" you guys are, but, there is a YOUTUBE video in which the late Bill Sullivan completely documents the Factory Floor rims, starting with where the wood comes from, the making of "billets", slicing into veneer strips, sending to Jimmy Cox who makes the plys into rims, and the Sullivan lathes turning the unfinished rims into finished products.
Of course, Bill narrates it, and, I still get a little wet eyed as I watch it, and realize that this great man and great craftsman, is no longer with us.

I always figure that Bill is looking down at us saying, "yep, that's how I make them"...

go to You tube and type in Bill Sullivan in the Search box and you'll find it.

Gary Phelps
St. Louis, MO. 63129

2007 Stelling Sunflower Serial # 6393
Gibson Masterclone RB-250 with Sullivan Rim and Sullivan archtop.

JIMBO53 - Posted - 06/26/2009:  08:48:03

Here's the link to the Bill Sullivan You Tube:
The video mentions the rims are made of "hostoric old growth" wood, but doesn't specifically mention factory floor wood.
It's also bittersweet to hear and see Bill in this video. I never met the man, but talked to him several times on the phone-a finer gentleman and true craftsman you will never meet.

"Life Has Been Easier On Me Than Any Lazy Person Like Myself Has The Right To Expect"-Pete Seeger

cardinbanjo - Posted - 06/26/2009:  09:31:30

There used to be a video you could watch on the rim section of their website. I assume its still there.


silvioferretti - Posted - 06/26/2009:  14:09:18

Eric showed me that video at IBMA, before it got on YouTube, it's very interesting. And he was so kind as to send me some strips of that maple to build bridges out of it. First Quality Music is exactly what the company's name suggests, this is just one of the reasons why I've always been a big fan of them, THE main reason being that they've always been extremely accurate in studying historical instruments and parts and in finding builders and suppliers for them. They've also been extremely attentive to feedback, both from pickers and from builders and setup people. I'm a FQM fan first, an endorser and customer later.

"If you''re gonna have a vice, try to find one that will keep you outta jail and maybe alive a little longer" - Alvin Youngblood Hart.

Silvio Ferretti

lethegoodtimesroll - Posted - 07/19/2009:  05:31:36

Does anyone have any information about the Sullivan Thunderbolt tone that the same shape as Gibsons RB75/Crowe /Blackjack model?

Forrest - Posted - 07/19/2009:  08:05:20

It would be interesting if someone were to call FQMS and get the scoop on the Sullivan rings. I can see how this could be confusing.

"Run, Forrest, Run!"

Retropicker - Posted - 07/19/2009:  12:16:57

The Thunderbolt was in full swing R&D with a new line of banjos when Bill passed suddenly. They seem, understandibly, to have been put on the shelf. There were alot of other things that took priority.

____Keep the hay in Bluegrass__________________________

Edited by - Retropicker on 07/19/2009 12:17:21

lightgauge - Posted - 07/19/2009:  12:34:26

As I understood it from Eric, the Thunderbolt was a different formula from the Crowe/Sullivan Cryo ring formula. I have used several of the prototypes of the Thunderbolt ring in various stages of experimentation. When I tried to get another one from a certain batch, even Eric, had no idea what I had. That project started with he and Bill attempting to duplicate the sound of their own pre war flathead. I have not owned one with the name "Thunderbolt" stamped. All have been unmarked in any way and all have been good to my ear. I don't know if you remember it, Alan, but you played one of mine in a TB conversion with an RB 1 walnut neck at the Waffle House a couple of years ago. I haven't talked with Eric in over a year, but at that time, he was still experimenting and changing from batch to batch. I spent some fun time there with him in his "tone ring room" in the fall of 2007 and was amazed at all the research and experimenting he had done.

uncle.fogey - Posted - 07/19/2009:  13:55:36

I'm with Silvio about the factory floor wood. I think that the fact that it's been vibrating all those years is a key factor. Whoever realized that this would be great for musical instruments had their head on straight. All those multi-million dollar violins owned by the Metropolitan Museum and others are either lent to concert musicians or gotten out and played regularly to keep the wood vibrating.

ac5aa - Posted - 07/21/2009:  14:16:22

I'm sure crazy about my Greenbrier with the Old Growth rim in it. Took a few months to settle down, but teamed with the right bridge (Emerson Sweet II, in my case) it's an unbeatable sound!

Duane C.
Sullivan Greenbrier, Gibson RB-250

grich - Posted - 07/21/2009:  14:24:51

I talked to Eric yesterday and he's putting a no hole flathead in my new Recording King Top Tension that we are building together.

barry - Posted - 07/21/2009:  15:25:56

What is on your mind Greg we would love to know. Barry ( PS ) I am talking banjos here .

flake - Posted - 07/21/2009:  20:21:04

I'm not sure which ring was in it because I didn't get to take the reso off, but I played a banjo built by Clancy Mullins a short time back with a Sullivan in it that was a cracker jack.


Less is more. Unless you''re standing next to the one who has more. Then less just looks pathetic.

nittio - Posted - 07/21/2009:  22:34:56

Barry I have a Question For as long as you have known Grich why in the world would you ask him that
question even if you did qualify it first very risky for sure!!!!!!!

May all your picking be true!!

Williams Kenny Ingram #14
Frank (nittio) O.

barry - Posted - 07/22/2009:  07:54:59

Frank I must be nuts.

Michael Keith - Posted - 07/23/2009:  18:55:21

I have a Sullivan no hole ring in my Gibson it is loud clear and a great ring to it with low overtones.

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