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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Advertised as Rettburg & Lange... but unsure.

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:

greedyrick - Posted - 03/30/2021:  08:33:08

Its my first Banjo, and I didn't really know what I was looking for, but when I got it home I noticed things I didn't even think of before and had that feeling that dreaded feeling that I paid too much for it. It almost seems as if the neck and the pot are from two different Banjos (because there are these lines of slight corrosion(or something like that) that show the shape of possibly where a wider heal may have been. Also the heel is just slightly higher than the bottom of the pot by about 3/16 of an inch, although I am not sure if it is supposed to be flush or not.

In fact, there are probably a few things that were pieced together. I don't know anything about banjos, but from google searching, the neck does kind of look like a Rettburg & Lange from a sears catalogue. But the pot looks like a Buckbee. The hooks and the tail peace are definitely new, and the bridge looks like it was made from a piece of 2x4 wood in someone's home. The 5th string peg looks slightly older and a different material/color than the headstock tuning pegs.

One thing that makes me unsure of if it is a Rettburg & Lange is the piece of metal (possibly silver?) for the higher frets going over the drum head. I can't find that anywhere. There is absolutely no labelling anywhere, even under the piece of metal. Any ideas about this?

Also, I asked the guy if I could put steel strings on it, and he said it is not meant for that but it should be fine if I put a light gauge on. Is that fine?

More images here:

Edited by - greedyrick on 03/30/2021 09:15:23


woodchips - Posted - 03/30/2021:  08:38:59

Post a ton of pictures and we can help you. Top, back, sides, hardware, connections of pot and neck. Inlay patterns would help.

kyleb - Posted - 03/30/2021:  08:47:04

i can see why it was sold as an r&l, I cant say it is or isnt as ive never seen an r&l with that fretboard like that. The full clad pot makes its earlier than most R&Ls too. Usually see those more on late 1800s banjos than the 20s.

greedyrick - Posted - 03/30/2021:  08:53:46

Trying to get more photos in, it's just not letting me post.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 03/30/2021:  08:59:04


You only have 15 minutes to edit a thread. If it's been longer than that, you will have to post another text and add the new pictures. Also, you're a new member and it may be that's all the pictures you can post at this time.

Nothing is locked. Your account is still open

greedyrick - Posted - 03/30/2021:  09:14:41

Texasbanjo Thanks!

Okay, lets try this...

Oldtimefeeling - Posted - 03/30/2021:  09:15:05

Looks like a neat banjo. Sounds like it is a parts banjo but that shouldn't take away from it's ability to play and sound nice. It may require a detailed setup in order to sound it's best however.

I would suggest against metal strings but if you're going to use them at the very minimum use the lightest possible gauge.

If you're only wanting to use metal strings because a lack of volume then I'd suggest getting it properly set up first with nylgut/gut strings. As well as getting a bridge that's proper for said strings. You'll get the volume required with the proper setup and good set of strings.

As far as the silver plate is concerned it looks like it's original to the neck and i have certainly seen other banjos with plates that extend over the head and ones that are contained on the fretboard. So nothing too out of the ordinary but still unique for sure. If it was added later then they did a decent job from what i can see making it look like it belongs.

The headstock looks like a lot of R&L ones but i am not an expert so i couldn't say with 100% confidence. Sounds like your research and assumptions are pretty spot on.

When it comes down to the nitty gritty of it this is YOUR banjo now. You can do with it as you see fit. But as a suggestion again i'd say avoid metal strings if possible.

Look into a proper bridge from Joel Hooks (

and a set of LaBella No. 17 nylon banjo strings

I believe you'll find the sound as loud and pleasant as any metal strings and feel nice too.


greedyrick - Posted - 03/30/2021:  09:24:02

The reason I wanted steel strings on it is not because it is not loud enough. This banjo is actually too loud for my apartment, its more I just want it to sound brighter, tinny, and like Texas steel. Where as now it has more of a duller plucky loud outback swamp sound.

I will have a look at the bridge you recommend, but I ordered a compensated bridge before I posted this, as the intonation is not quite right when the 1st and 4th strings are intonated right, then the 2nd and 3rd are off a bit.

What exactly is the issue with putting steel strings on earlier banjos?

Oldtimefeeling - Posted - 03/30/2021:  10:11:23

I gotcha. Not a sound i prefer but to each their own! I'm not sure just changing to steel strings would make this banjo very "tinny" sounding but it's an easy thing to experiment with without much cost.

A few issues with steel strings on banjos meant for gut:
The nut, the tuning machines, the tailpiece, and the bridge.
1. The nut - If it has it's original nut still then it was made for the string thickness of strings used for it's time. which my guess would have been gut. So you'd have to alter the nut to get the strings to sit proper. Or install a new nut.
2. Tuning machines/pegs - This one isn't as important but worth noting. If it had violin style pegs it may be a bit mire black and white but it has friction pegs so not as big a deal. But steel strings definitely create more tension and some older pegs may not be able to handle that and constantly come out of tune. Constantly as in tuning would be practically impossible at an open G tuning.
3. Tailpiece - Antique tailpieces were designed for gut strings. Under the tension of steel strings they can bend and break. Plus gut strings were tied and not looped so the tailpiece designs can just be difficult or awkward with steel strings. Yours seems to have a new(er) no knot tailpiece so steel strings should be fine on that. But worth mentioning.
4. The bridge - Upon closer inspection of your new posted pics it seems the style of bridge would be era correct for it. But modern bridges are specifically designed for steel strings so the spacing would be off and the slots would differ from the thickness of gut/nylgut. But the current bridge looks like a reproduction of what could likely have been the original style or very close to it at least.

Oh! Also the neck! So this banjo won't have any reinforcement on the neck or a truss rod to adjust for tension differences... So steel strings definitely can warp an antique neck and though it's generally assumed it takes a long time to warp a neck it's not something i like to risk.

Again this is your banjo so feel free to do as you like and experiment.
If you don't like the sound i'd suggest maybe a resonator banjo.
I have one for sale if you wanna talk about it. Not trying to sell you anything but if you're curious feel free to reach out. I like what you have here as far as aesthetics it's a banjo i definitely would be eyeing!

Hope that helps some

greedyrick - Posted - 03/30/2021:  11:20:14

Yes that is definitely a huge help thanks a lot. I might consider another banjo later, but I think might best bet right now is to just get this one dialed in whether with the nylon or if I can steel.

I would guess the nut is original as it has some of the lacquer or paint the looks old and kind of clumpy kind of over the side of it. So yea, might have to replace that if I want steel on here.

The only thing I guess I need to worry about is the neck. I ordered the lightest strings I could find 9-20. I assume that light gauge wouldn't stress the neck too much more than the nylgut strings on it. Or that is what I am hoping, lol. But you are right, the banjo definitely has the look that I like. 

Edited by - greedyrick on 03/30/2021 11:21:39

Oldtimefeeling - Posted - 03/30/2021:  11:31:59

greedyrick My assumption is that light of a gauge should be fine. But time will tell! I hope it all works out for ya as yeah that's a cool looking banjo

csacwp - Posted - 03/30/2021:  14:37:17

Nylon strings are brighter than steel strings so long as you use a period setup. Ditch those terrible nylgut strings currently on there, use period gauges of nylon, and buy a period bridge from Joel Hooks.

Edited by - csacwp on 03/30/2021 14:38:06

greedyrick - Posted - 03/30/2021:  14:59:57

csacwp How do I find out the period gauges of nylon and where to get them? I tried a google search and am pretty lost.

csacwp - Posted - 03/30/2021:  16:06:52

Try .018", .022", .028", .024" wound, .018". Those are what I'm using these days. If they aren't bright enough, switch to the Van Eps gauges ... .017", .019", .023", .024" wound, .017"

Edited by - csacwp on 03/30/2021 16:07:08

mike gregory - Posted - 03/30/2021:  16:47:27

To make your banjo sound more like a steel guitar, a resophonic, a Dobro, try cobbling up a bridge out of brass bar stock.
If that's not what you meant by "like Texas steel", I withdraw my suggestion.

In any vent, I do wish you the best possible outcome in your quest for what sounds like what YOU want it to sound like.

Andy FitzGibbon - Posted - 03/30/2021:  18:00:07


Originally posted by kyleb

i can see why it was sold as an r&l, I cant say it is or isnt as ive never seen an r&l with that fretboard like that. The full clad pot makes its earlier than most R&Ls too. Usually see those more on late 1800s banjos than the 20s.

Rettberg & Lange made thousands of banjos with full clad rims. They took over Buckbee in 1897.

The neck and rim on this banjo look like they probably didn't start life together, judging by the fit at the heel. The metal plate was probably added to the neck as well.

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 03/31/2021:  07:05:01

Do as John Cohen suggests. Improper set-up is the most likely reason for that "plunkiness." Head tension, which is part of set-up, is a large part of banjo tone.

Nyguts, to me, do not intonate properly, are too thick and plunky, and break easily. The company also seem to change specs frequently, so I've never known what set to order. Use true nylon.

I would not put steel strings on this banjo. Besides all the reasons listed earlier, there are also these potenial problems with steel strings: the dowelstick can warp and the rim can be pulled out of round. Heavy fret wear can also be a problem.

Personally, I wouldn't worry about whether you've got a parts banjo or not. It's nice looking, appears to have been put togetehr well enough, and if set up properly. should play well and sound good.

That "compenstated bridge" you ordered is not the best for this lightweight banjo. Don't use it.

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