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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Banjo uke repair


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/350530

NTTD - Posted - 01/25/2019:  10:51:14


I apologize for cross posting, I posted a question in the "Collectors Corner" that really should have been here in this section.



I just purchased a vintage Gretsch Clarophone banjo ukulele.



Vintage Gretsch Clarophone Ukulele Banjo





This is my first banjo of any type so I'm learning as I go.

It's not here yet but from the pics I can see it's missing a bridge, two or three hook/nut/shoe sets and looks to need work on the nut. The head looks decent, hopefully I don't have to mess with that much.





As far as I can tell the "nut" is just part of the neck/head, or perhaps it is a similar color and therefore blends in?



If it's one piece I'm thinking of possibly building it up with glue/maple sawdust paste.

If it's a separate piece then I'm thinking an unbleached bone nut might look right and function well.





The "bridge" that it comes with looks basically useless, a triangular block of wood.

I ordered a Grover two leg one for banjo that I intend to make work for now.



I haven't a clue on action height yet, but at least I do know about the 12th fret measurement.

It was my researching about bridges that I stumbled across this wonderful site! :)



The pic with the bridge is not of mine, but from an old Reverb sale of one of these. It was said to be original in the description. Anyone have thoughts on that?





I'm also needing parts, Ideally I'd like them to match what's on there but I've been having a difficult time finding parts online that match exactly. The hook nuts in particular appear different from any I've found so far. They're hex at the base and at the end where many usually have a ball end.





Speaking of replacing hardware, does anyone know if the resonator cap comes off on these? It looks on there pretty good and I don't see any screws or anything. I'd prefer to add parts from the back vs removing the rings/head.





My overall goal is to have something that's playable first and as period correct as possible second.

I'm not looking to make a museum piece or anything but it'd be nice for it to look right.



Thanks in advance.


Edited by - NTTD on 01/25/2019 11:30:29





 

mike gregory - Posted - 01/25/2019:  11:44:52


Welcome to the HangOut.



First bit of Free advice:

Looks like steel strings.

Go nylon.

Second bit:

The nut is most likely a separate bit.

Making another, from a bit of bone, is easy.

(If it was hard, I never would have done it, so many times.)

Bit #3:

No need to buy a bone nut blank.

Just any old piece of stewpot beef bone, boiled and soaked in bleach.



Bit #4: Remember what My Hero, the late ALAN SHERMAN said about free advice:



 



NTTD - Posted - 01/25/2019:  12:09:54


quote:

Originally posted by mike gregory

Welcome to the HangOut.



First bit of Free advice:

Looks like steel strings.

Go nylon.

Second bit:

The nut is most likely a separate bit.

Making another, from a bit of bone, is easy.

(If it was hard, I never would have done it, so many times.)

Bit #3:

No need to buy a bone nut blank.

Just any old piece of stewpot beef bone, boiled and soaked in bleach.



Bit #4: Remember what My Hero, the late ALAN SHERMAN said about free advice:



 



 






 



Thanks for the info and the welcome!



I forgot to mention I've already ordered regular ukulele strings.  At least I knew enough to do that!



Obviously I'll know more about the nut once I get it in my hands.  I was a bit scared as it appears in the pics it's all one piece, neck-nut-peghead.



I've heard these were the cheap entry level instrument of their time so I thought perhaps they were made as one piece to save steps in manufacturing. 

mikehalloran - Posted - 01/25/2019:  17:54:36


The nut can easily be a piece of maple—even Martin ukes had maple nuts and saddles on their earliest ukuleles. Not unusual if old enough. There are lots of fretted necks out there but I’ve never seen one with an integrated nut.

On a vintage piece like this, bone is more durable but it’s not a big deal—if it needs to be replaced, do it. Bone won’t look out of place but maple can be used, too.

NTTD - Posted - 01/25/2019:  19:56:11


quote:

Originally posted by mikehalloran

The nut can easily be a piece of maple—even Martin ukes had maple nuts and saddles on their earliest ukuleles. Not unusual if old enough. There are lots of fretted necks out there but I’ve never seen one with an integrated nut.



On a vintage piece like this, bone is more durable but it’s not a big deal—if it needs to be replaced, do it. Bone won’t look out of place but maple can be used, too.






Ah, didn't occur to me it might be a maple nut. 



In my limited experience I've only seen bone and plastic ones.



 



I've got some trim scraps that I believe are maple.  Not sure if they're hard maple or not but I think I could make it work.



 



My thought was to use a piece of unbleached bone.  I figured that look would fit the age of the instrument and dress it up just a little bit.



 

mikehalloran - Posted - 01/26/2019:  20:22:01


With gut (back in the day) nylon or Nylgut, maple nuts are fine.



My favorite strings for these are Aquila 23U Nylgut Baritone Ukulele String Set - GCEA. It's actually an extra-long version of the Concert set but, as advertised, lets you string a bari as a tenor. Sometimes banjo ukuleles take a longer string because of the tailpiece. I use them on all ukes with re-entrant tuning. They're even long enough for most tenor banjos if you want to tune one as a uke.





Aquila 23U Bari tuned tenor.

link-o-sausages - Posted - 01/27/2019:  13:44:19


I have a bit of a collection of banjo Ukes and almost all of them have dyed maple/pear wood nuts. Some nicer ones have ebony and very rarely I’ll see bone but not in anything I can afford.
I have my great grandfathers supertone with original razor thin Ebony nut and it’s doing just fine after 90 years.

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 01/27/2019:  13:58:46


The photo shows there are chips in the nut, so you'll need a new one. Maple would be appropriate, and that material will be easier to work with than bone.

NTTD - Posted - 01/27/2019:  19:16:00


quote:

Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

The photo shows there are chips in the nut, so you'll need a new one. Maple would be appropriate, and that material will be easier to work with than bone.






Thanks for the information.



I've now decided I will try to fashion the nut out of maple.  Sounds like a great learning experience and a fun project.



I still may try my hand at crafting a bone nut down the road but I already have the maple on hand and the instrument (and strings) should be here tomorrow.

mikehalloran - Posted - 01/27/2019:  21:26:44


If you have a taste for the exotic, the sap wood of many ebonies is light colored including some varieties of persimmon. Yes, persimmon is a true ebony. Sap wood is often trimmed away. Perhaps someone has a scrap somewhere.

NTTD - Posted - 01/29/2019:  06:47:26


It arrived, I'm glad to finally have my hands on it.

I'm no expert but I'm thinking the tailpiece is wrong. I think it's meant for metal banjo strings.
The nylon uke strings will not fit in the grooves. I think I'm going to have to replace it.


As far as I can tell the resonator cap is permanently affixed, so I'll have to go through the top to add replacement shoes.

Any tips for getting this old top off in one piece? And for tightening it later? I understand old hide heads can be fragile, I don't want to damage it if possible.


Thanks again to everyone who has chimed in, such a wealth of information here!


mikehalloran - Posted - 01/29/2019:  08:57:19


That tailpiece was built for gut strings which were thinner than nylon and other plastic strings of today. Put a knot in the string and the slot secures it.

ekvin - Posted - 01/29/2019:  11:38:15


I have that same tailpiece on a Gretsch, and nylaguts did not fit... so I grabbed a thin strong piece of metal and did some cautious prying until it worked. YMMV.

NTTD - Posted - 01/29/2019:  19:09:11


quote:

Originally posted by ekvin

I have that same tailpiece on a Gretsch, and nylaguts did not fit... so I grabbed a thin strong piece of metal and did some cautious prying until it worked. YMMV.






I was considering modifying it, possibly filing or bending it as you did.



What I decided was to leave it alone and search for used vintage parts.  One day I'm gonna try gut strings so I have the perfect tailpiece for that.



 



In the meantime i'm getting a no knot tailpiece so I can get to playing.  I'm gonna try to "relic" the tailpiece so it doesn't look so bright and will fit in better.



 



I may have a problem. In my search for used parts ran across another Clarophone uke of similar vintage.  So I got that one too!  It makes more sense to get another one than to keep searching for parts that are hard to find.  Between the two I'm sure I can get one good authentic one up and running.  Heck, I'm even saving money vs the time and cost of finding individual parts.



Now, to sell that to the wife...wink

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