Hello all, I am currently playing a Bart Reiter Regent. I like it well enough. However I have fallen in love with the sound of a Chuck Lee Ovilla I have heard online. I am considering buying the Chuck Lee. Its a lot of money. However I have heard that Chuck Lee's have big necks. Does anyone have any experience with these two banjo brands first hand.. I have small hands so a big chunky neck would not be good for me... There is no place for me to try one out before I buy. So looking for some feed back. Thanks. Julie
I've got a Reiter A- scale and a Chuck Lee. The Chuck Lee measures about 1/8 inch wider at the 1st fret than the Reiter and about the same deeper. A Chuck Lee neck is a bit rounder than a Reiter. I have really grown to like the bigger neck. I have average sized hands for a guy and haven't had any issues with the bigger neck.
I play Bart Reiter banjos. I've owned a couple of dozen different Reiter banjos over several years and still have a nice assortment here now. The shape and feel of the necks is one thing that really attracts me to them. They are my favorites.
Chuck builds truly fantastic banjos too. I really like the sound and feel of them. I once owned an early Rose Hill model that was a truly fine banjo. In general, Chuck's "average" necks may indeed tend to be a little thicker than Bart's.
Would be BEST of you could play the banjo you are considering or a similar model to get a feel for it.
If that isn't possible, I think the suggestion that you request measurements is a good idea. That way you can compare to your current banjo for reference. Keep in mind that seemingly small differences may feel much more significant than expected in-hand.
I also think a phone call to Chuck might be advisable. If you are considering ordering a custom banjo from him - he might accommodate your size requirements (not sure).
Julie, I have two Reiter banjos: a Regent A-scale and a Tubaphone. They were built within a month or so if each other. I have small hands and like the Reiter necks a lot. (I also am more comfortable with an 11- inch pot than a 12-inch pot. )
John Balch will tell you that Reiter banjos can be set up to produce a variety of voices. Maybe you should describe what you like about the Ovilla’s sound. You may get advice on how to change the setup on you Regent to get the voice you like.
The Elderly website describes the 11" Ovilla they have in stock as having a nut width of 1 3/8". My Reiter banjos measure 1 1/4" at the nut. 1/8" is a very significant difference.
The Chuck Lee scale length is shorter (25 1/2" vs/ 26 3/16" for Reiter).
The Ovilla model is a wood rim with no metal tone ring. Rim size can be a big factor too. I think the Ovilla model may be ordered in 11" or 12" sizes. Depending on set-up, a 12" wood-rim banjo can have a deep, tubby tone.
There's a difference but Reiter necks have a fuller profile than most others to begin with—quite similar to vintage Vega. So, when you hear that Lee banjos are huge... compared to what? In this case, not by that much. Gibson style necks, OTOH, are generally a bit slimmer.
To some, any difference makes a big difference; to others, no big deal. I'm in the later category—no idea where you fit in.
Bart Reiter, Mike Ramsey, and Chuck Lee are my fave openback banjos, and I'm well-acquainted with these necks.
I love Chuck Lee's banjos and this doesn't keep me from playing mine, but his standard nut width of 1 3/8" is not my favorite. I understand he does custom nut widths, but I've never ordered. I'm not sure I've ever noticed anything extra thick or wide about the neck profile/thickness. Chuck's scale length is usually 25.5, which I love, and his rims tend to be deeper, also beloved on this front. I don't know how he does it but his rims or rim/neck combo, or something, give a very deep, warm, rich tone character while simultaneously providing more power than usual in an OB.
My favorite-feeling banjos evah for both nut width and neck profile or thickness are Bart Reiter's. His scale length of standard 26.5 used to be my less-favored, but it's been growing on me of late. His rim depth to me is kinda Vega-ish. Not the deeper rim that is currently very "in." The shallower Vega-ish rim gives a very clear, crisp sound that you can deepen with setup if you want.
I also like the nut width on Ramsey banjos, which I believe is also 1 1/4. The Ramsey "baseball bat" neck thickness doesn't bother me as I have long fingers. Ramseys are their own thing in terms of tone personality, but I don't think they're being produced to any degree at present.