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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: RS Williams & Sons ECHO 800 open-back


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/284697

percyvera - Posted - 05/11/2014:  16:07:03


Seems I may have a rarity of a banjo in my possession. With help of Steve Prior, I have been bringing it back to life, and now have it in playable condition and mostly original spec., very little different from the attached extract from the Williams catalogue of 1905.



Are there any others presently in the UK, and in playable condition?



Edited by - percyvera on 05/11/2014 16:08:31



   

chadp - Posted - 05/11/2014:  19:00:37


I have seen and played one in Halifax, NS and I have a more budget model RS Williams myself.



Can you post some photos of yours?


Stephen John Prior - Posted - 05/12/2014:  00:04:56


Well done John. I would think its a pretty unique instrument here in the UK. It will be interesting to see if any others surface.

Asp - Posted - 05/12/2014:  02:35:37


Lovely looking thing, I second the call for photos!

percyvera - Posted - 05/12/2014:  05:11:16


Reluctant to photo it in its present (dirty) condition. But, if you're happy to see it "warts and all" ............................... ?


chadp - Posted - 05/12/2014:  05:48:17


i'm sure it wouldn't be the ugliest banjo i've ever seen.



Edited by - chadp on 05/12/2014 05:48:31

percyvera - Posted - 05/12/2014:  10:23:58


Here you go, then.

And Yes, I know the skin, the tailpiece and the bridge are not "correct" but these are on the To-do list. Those presently fitted are to get the show on the road, playable.

I am particularly pleased to have got the original string tuners tight enough to hold the (steel) strings in constant tension ................... not bad for over a hundred years old , eh?

And it is especially pleasing to be able to send these photos "home" to the part of the World from which the banjo originated. Hope you like what you see?



Before restoration





   

Joel Hooks - Posted - 05/12/2014:  15:10:43


quote:

Originally posted by percyvera

Here you go, then.



And Yes, I know the skin, the tailpiece and the bridge are not "correct" but these are on the To-do list. Those presently fitted are to get the show on the road, playable.



I am particularly pleased to have got the original string tuners tight enough to hold the (steel) strings in constant tension ................... not bad for over a hundred years old , eh?



And it is especially pleasing to be able to send these photos "home" to the part of the World from which the banjo originated. Hope you like what you see?







Very nice!



Add strings to your list.  The banjoist that would have bought that banjo would have never put wire on it.  Wire was the lowest and cheapest option.  Wire on that 'jo is like putting Walmart house brand tires on a Ferrari.



You can still buy gut-- silk on the other hand...



I like nylon for the longevity.


chadp - Posted - 05/12/2014:  15:17:45


quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

quote:


Originally posted by percyvera

Here you go, then.



And Yes, I know the skin, the tailpiece and the bridge are not "correct" but these are on the To-do list. Those presently fitted are to get the show on the road, playable.



I am particularly pleased to have got the original string tuners tight enough to hold the (steel) strings in constant tension ................... not bad for over a hundred years old , eh?



And it is especially pleasing to be able to send these photos "home" to the part of the World from which the banjo originated. Hope you like what you see?








Very nice!




Add strings to your list.  The banjoist that would have bought that banjo would have never put wire on it.  Wire was the lowest and cheapest option.  Wire on that 'jo is like putting Walmart house brand tires on a Ferrari.




You can still buy gut-- silk on the other hand...




I like nylon for the longevity.







Yes. Nylon. Get a skin head for it as well!


flailing - Posted - 05/12/2014:  17:26:56


That is a very nice banjo John.  I have an Echo 700 and until now, have never seen an 800. 


percyvera - Posted - 05/13/2014:  01:32:46


Thanks for your interest and for your advice, fellas. Reason for steel strings is that my main instrument is strung that way, and I have become used to playing with fingerpicks. I will make the effort to learn to play properly, with bare fingers. The plastic head was fitted way back in time, when I first acquired the instrument with the original natural skin in tatters, but I take your point about that, too. No point in spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar, eh?

percyvera - Posted - 05/13/2014:  01:40:25


Would love to see your ECHO 700, Gordon. How does it play?

Asp - Posted - 05/13/2014:  02:18:56


An interesting point about the strings - what would be the ideal 'authentic' set then?

I'm quite used to putting together sets of unusual strings, I do a lot of work with peculiar and early instruments. I know from dealing with 19th C. guitars that you can get overwound silk strings, but they're usually paired with steel trebles, and I've had some good results with Aquila's nylgut (synthetic gut) strings as a more reliable gut alternative. That or be a bit creative with classical guitar singles.

Spend a bit of time playing with a decent string calculator like Arto's and you should be able to work out a nice set of 'bespoke' strings to suit such a fine instrument.

Fitting a decent skin head is very straightforward too - you'll have that beaut up and running in no time!

percyvera - Posted - 05/13/2014:  06:41:03


Thanks for that, Alex. I was thinking about giving nylgut strings a try next.

On the point of the head, what is the concensus of opinion about the Remo fibre skyn, please?

trapdoor2 - Posted - 05/13/2014:  10:33:48


quote:

Originally posted by percyvera

Thanks for that, Alex. I was thinking about giving nylgut strings a try next.



On the point of the head, what is the concensus of opinion about the Remo fibre skyn, please?







Consensus? You want consensus from BHO? Ask for money! You'll get better results. big



As much as I love fiberskyn heads...they are not quite responsive enough for the average nylon-strung banjo/banjoist. I prefer a "less brilliant" tonal coloration and have used fiberskyn on a few of my nylgut/nylon strung banjos...and have been pleased. I really like them for steel-strung banjos (clawhammer and bluegrass).



However, nothing beats a properly done vellum (calfskin) head. The Remo "Renaissance" (or "Elite", same/same) heads are quite good...but a bit too bright for me.


davidwigal - Posted - 05/13/2014:  10:55:18


Marc nailed it, for that awesome vintage banjo you are really going to want to go with calf-skin; I recently put a Fiberskyn head on my Mike Ramsey "Electric" with the White laydie tone-ring and it did just what the folks here on the Hang-out said it would do, it darkened-down the bright tone. Now it has the deeper tone that I wanted.


percyvera - Posted - 05/13/2014:  12:19:40


Thanks Guys. Consensus or not, you're all steering me in the same direction!
Now, where did I put that skin hoop?

flailing - Posted - 05/13/2014:  12:46:30


John – Here are a few images of my Echo 700.  It has several missing inlays that I plan to have replaced at some point, but overall it is in very good condition.  It has that deep V neck, the optional neck adjustor, and what may be the original Rogers hide head.  I have it strung with Aquila nylgut strings and really enjoy playing it.



Cheers



Gord



 







percyvera - Posted - 05/13/2014:  13:54:13


Thanks for that, Gordon. I can certainly see similarities with my ECHO 800. Yours has cleaned up much better than mine would ever be capable of, short of replating the copper!
Like your bike, by the way. I am into the classic bike scene, too. Have been since my teens.
Take care.
John

Stephen John Prior - Posted - 05/14/2014:  01:49:20


Gordon. That's a really fine example. Any idea on the date ? The pot looks very similar to the Washburn style of construction. Plus nice 2 point bracket shoes. Lovely.

flailing - Posted - 05/14/2014:  18:05:12


Steve - I think these were made about 1911-1915, but not sure of the exact date.



Gord


percyvera - Posted - 07/03/2014:  07:00:36


Just to say, the Echo 800 is now restored to much closer to its original specification, so should please the purists out there (?) Thank you all for your earlier comments and suggestions.
Calf skin head, Elite tailpiece, nylon strings, etc. fitted as suggested, replacing my "stop-gap" fittings.
Still plays well, and is holding its tuning on the original Champion pegs.

Recent photo attached (I hope!)



Now restored to original spec.

   

flailing - Posted - 07/03/2014:  09:03:45


Beautiful John.



Enjoy!



Gord


percyvera - Posted - 07/03/2014:  14:12:46


Thanks Gordon. Knew you would appreciate it, although the photo hardly does it justice. I will try to post a better one when the camera is more cooperative (Bad workman always blaims his tools, so they say!).
Best regards,
John

lazlototh - Posted - 07/03/2014:  17:57:08


Beautiful banjo, John.

I play with picks with steel strings and have two Stewarts strung with nylon that are a joy to play without picks.
There are times it just feels right.

Have fun!

tom in maine

percyvera - Posted - 07/04/2014:  01:23:24


Thanks Tom, and it's a pleasure to hear from you. Sounds like we have a similar approach to our banjo playing, although I have yet to get better used to playing without picks on nylon. I shall persevere, though!

Take care.

John

chadp - Posted - 07/04/2014:  08:09:59


AMAZING. looks fantastic. would love to see more detailed photos. one was in a shop here in Halifax NS a year or so ago, and to the best of my knowledge a musician from Ireland bought it. Don't know who.


percyvera - Posted - 07/04/2014:  12:54:07


It didn't become mine, Chad, which I've had now for best part of 30 years (Only just got round to doing it up!). So there must be two on this side of the Pond, at least? Nor am I Irish, by the way; never been there ............... yet.

Detailed photos to follow, although they won't show much difference from those already posted.

Take care.

John

percyvera - Posted - 07/13/2014:  03:52:45


quote:


Originally posted by percyvera

It didn't become mine, Chad, which I've had now for best part of 30 years (Only just got round to doing it up!). So there must be two on this side of the Pond, at least? Nor am I Irish, by the way; never been there ............... yet.



Detailed photos to follow, although they won't show much difference from those already posted.



Take care.



John






Sorry for delay, but hope these photos come across OK and give a better impression of the restored condition of the Echo. I have tried to show the generally now-more-clean state of the instrument, the fitting of its new calf skin head, replacement bridge and nylon stringing, and the Elite tailpiece according to the original catalogue specification, this latter item having been supplied by Steve Prior with adaptation borrowed from my Clifford Essex antique mandolin banjo.






Stephen John Prior - Posted - 07/13/2014:  09:02:53


Beautiful John. Good work. I love it.

Will1717 - Posted - 07/13/2014:  21:59:40


John:



I have a couple of the R S Williams banjos plus several that I need to rebuild for the great grandson of Mr. Williams!  He actually lives in Toronto, Canada and I met him by chance a couple of years ago while attending an awards presentation for Lenord Cohen  at Massy Hall in Toronto. He was sitting at our table and overheard me discussing my banjo building. He introduced himself to me and arranged to meet me at my shop with some of his instrument collection. During the meeting he explained to me the history of the R S Williams company and how the name got changed from RS Williams to R.S. Williams and Son. Talk about a small world! According to Mr. Williams, the original R. S. Williams company subcontracted the banjo building to a US banjo manufacturing firm. They also offered numerous other stringed instruments, including autoharps etc. which were also subcontracted out. It wasn't confirmed, but it would appear that their banjos were possibly built by the S.S.Stewart Banjo Company as the parts are fully interchangeable.



I was able to locate a book awhile back titled "Under the Sign of The Fiddle" which covers the history of the original R.S. Williams Company. According to the book the company operated one of Canada's largest  musical instrument retail stores in the late 1800's. The store was originally located on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto, plus they had a mega sized manufacturing facility located around the Oshawa Ontario area. The main products that they manufactured were pianos and organs, of their own design. I was also surprised to learn that during the 1800's and early 1900's, Southern Ontario was known as a major manufacturing area for the manufacturing of high quality pianos and organs. How time has changed, as this area now has none of this manufacturing left what so ever. I'm 100% confident that if you brought up the topic of piano building on a large scale in Southern Ontario people of todays generation wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about!



If you have the time possibly you could forward me some photos of this particular banjo that you own, with some good detail shots plus the serial number of the instrument so that I can pass them on to the present Mr. Williams. I'm certain that he'd be real pleased to receive any details that you can pass on, as he's in the process of gathering as much information as possible in regards to any R.S. Williams instruments that still exist. Also get in touch if you need to replace any missing hardware, as I'm in the process of manufacturing reproductions of the original hardware, as I rebuild several banjos for Mr. Williams.



Hope you find the above of interest.



 



Bill Rickard  smileysmiley


percyvera - Posted - 07/14/2014:  01:36:05


Thank you so much, Bill for a fascinating and informative addition to the RS Williams thread initiated by myself here on the Hangout, and for confirming from a knowledgeable standpoint much of my research into the RS Williams story.
I would be delighted to take this further with you, and to be of whatever assistance I can be as the owner of a Williams instrument over here in the UK. You will find several of my admittedly-amateurish photos of my banjo on my Home page, and repeated here on this thread. Please feel free to take copies of these as you feel fit. If you need others, please specify the detail you need shown and I will be glad to have another go with my camera.
Please also, through your good offices, put me in touch with the present Mr. Williams if you feel that would help. I would be pleased to make the connection, believe me!
It is a pleasure to have made your acquaintance, albeit by this medium.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 07/14/2014:  04:04:51


Hi Bill, by 1905 there was no "S. S. Stewart Banjo Co."  So it would be impossible for them to be making these banjos (reference John Hoft's great research).



The Bauer Co. was making S. S. Stewart branded banjos.  That company could have been making these. So it would be the Bauer Company, who also was making Stewart branded banjos at that time, that made these.



Other than the name, SSS banjos  from the Bauer Co. were basically less expensive copies of the Pre 1898 Stewart banjos.



Edited by - Joel Hooks on 07/14/2014 04:05:51

percyvera - Posted - 07/14/2014:  09:30:52


Thank you, Gentlemen, for your interest and for any further emerging discussion. Please let me see how your thoughts continue to develop.
For the record (and I have omitted to mention it previously, for which I do apologise) the "perch-pole" is marked on two faces in a way which doesn't show in any of the photos that I have posted.
A Makers mark within an elongated oval under the neck adjustment rod (if that is what it is?) states "THE RS WILLIAMS & SONS CO LIMITED MAKERS TORONTO" and an adjacent face is marked "ECHO STYLE 800 + 13910 + ", the latter presumably being the serial number which you have requested, Bill?
I hope this further information helps?

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