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Cricket55 - Posted - 02/10/2023: 20:03:51
Hello All -
First time poster. I have been researching on the forum and haven't found the answer to my specific question. Hoping for advice.
Lost my #1 banjo bud, my father, 1/5. Inherited his banjos. I used to call him every night. Lately, I've been playing his banjo instead... an older Vega Folklore long neck. Taking time to understand this beast before doing anything to it.
Thanks to my dad, banjo was my first instrument, but he had an aluminum pot, Japanese made, single rod banjo back then. He bought the Vega in the '80s. I never played it much over the years, and I'm only now realizing some of its quirks.
I know for true my dad never adjusted anything on this banjo other than an occasional string change. So, the action on it is really high. My main banjo is a Deering Boston, which hasn't needed any adjustments since I acquired it in the 90s. It's been really stable. So I have little experience with this.
When I first played the Vega, it had a lot of weird overtones etc. I could see the bridge had a lot of sag. I bought a new bridge, and it sounds beautiful now. Even so, the action is pretty high. It's about 1/4" at the top fret.
The old bridge was 7/16" high. Sounded plunky but ok. According to my research, the Vega Folklore came with a 5/8" bridge standard. I bought a 1/2" bridge which sounds really good, but the action is high, imho. A fat 1/4" at the top fret.
My question for those more knowledgeable is what to do. I know how to adjust the coordinator rods in my Deering. These look similar, except they are only about 1/2" apart. It looks difficult to get a wrench in that space to adjust the rods. In addition, there are 4 set screws that the label says are for adjusting the action. Not sure how I would adjust these.
I also don't know what to do about the bridge/scale. I know my dad just kept his banjo capoed at the third fret. I don't think he used the lower keys. So my question is, where do people set the bridge to account for the difference between the open "E" of the longneck and the capoed "G" ?
So what do more knowledgeable people say? Do I try to adjust the action? Do I leave it high and accept the newly improved sound? Can I get the action down to 1/8" or around that? If so, how?
Thanks for any help,
35planar - Posted - 02/10/2023: 20:16:44
The 60s and 70s Vega banjos have an easy way to tilt the neck. But if you don't have the original pot, then it isn't going to work. I'll add a photo showing what I mean. If you had the original pot and no one flattened the base of the heel, then you're golden. It's easy to adjust the neck angle, or a luthier wouldn't charge much at all to do that--if you have the pot.
Edited by - 35planar on 02/10/2023 20:20:23
Helix - Posted - 02/11/2023: 04:14:08
Try to get us a picture of yours.
The rod adjustments are made with those cap nuts remaining tight (the ones shown)
The two little holes are for allens threaded into the rim. They adjust "string line." Right and left.
the rim rods will be adjusted internally at the heel, pictures?
The 1/8" you are looking for at the heel is totally obtainable and she'll play like a dream, hope, hope.
I build longnecks. It's interesting to see hollow aluminum rim rods and such from the older days.
Cricket55 - Posted - 02/11/2023: 04:18:42
Thanks for the reply. Mine looks similar, but with 4 set screws instead of 2. Not 100% sure of what I'm looking for, or what the set screws do. I tried to add a photo... not sure why it didn't upload.
Cricket55 - Posted - 02/11/2023: 04:28:11
Tried again with the photo... not sure what I'm missing.
Cricket55 - Posted - 02/11/2023: 04:30:22
35planar - Posted - 02/11/2023: 06:27:06
Before you loosen the strings, think about how much you want to lower the action. A slight change in the neck angle tilt is all it takes to lower the action where you want it. Make certain you have exactly the right sized box wrench for the coordinator rod nuts and the exact size allen key wrench for the black set screws. I usually loosen the strings and remove the tailpiece, thn I can check the neck angle as I got bey putting the tailpiece back with the third string still attached, just to eyeball it. It might take several back and forths to get the angle exactly where you want it. Then, slowly loosen the aluminum nuts on the coordinator rods until the heel has some play. Don't touch the small black set screws yet. The set screw act as leveling devices which rest against a thin steel plate on the heel's base. The idea is that the front two set screws are at the same height. And the back two set screws are at their same height. So, if you want to lower the neck angle, you would either lower the rear set screws or raise the front screws, but not both. Why? Because some point of the curved heel needs to be in contact with the pot when you retighten the coordinator rod nuts. DO NOT TIGHTEN THE BLACK SET SCREWS WITH THE COORDINATOR RODS TIGHT OR THE THREADS IN THE WOOD POT WILL STRIP...You want to feel that the set screw is slightly pressing on the heel's metal plate, resting on it, not pressing into it. That can split the heel laminates. Accessing the bottom coordinator rod nut is a little difficult with the head in place, but you need the head in place to check the angle. So, if you want to not mar up the coordinator rod nuts, just go slow. Sometimes you'll only get at 1/16 of a turn, but it beats rounding the nut. Anyway, I play 60s Vega banjos. I love FP-5s and PS-5 Excel. I've done this neck adjustment on a few dozen Vegas, every model of the big four. Or, take it to a goog, well respected luthier who knows banjos. They'd probably charge $35-$50 to do that here in Atlanta--a one time repair. Cheers! Folklores are great longnecks!
Edited by - 35planar on 02/11/2023 06:32:55
Cricket55 - Posted - 02/11/2023: 08:03:25
Thanks for your reply. So, to clarify... I loosen both rods first, then adjust the set screws to change the angle of the neck? Then tighten the rods back up when the angle is good?
Just want to make sure I understand what I'm doing before I mess with these. Sounds very different from how the rods in a Deering work. I've done a lot of work on guitars, so I'm fairly confident I can get this in order as long as I'm clear on how it works. Always better to ask a question before you break something.
Cricket55 - Posted - 02/11/2023: 08:11:31
Btw, do any long-neck folks have thoughts to share on setting intonation? It seems like setting the bridge for G tuning is less than optimal when the capo comes off. Do people compensate in some way? Or just live with it being a bit off? Or ???
As I said, I don't think my dad ever really used those lower keys. He was a big fan of the KT, Tommy Makem etc., and just always wanted a long-neck.
Another quirk with this instrument: there is a single capo spike on the 9th fret (?). I never noticed that until I started playing it. I knew it was there but assumed it was on the 8th. Dad never did anything but change strings, so I'm sure it was like that when he got the banjo. Any thoughts on why someone would have it there, besides possibly making a mistake? Seems strange to me.
35planar - Posted - 02/11/2023: 08:18:35
Yes, that's how I do it. First, though, I loosen the strings and set the tailpiece aside with the middle string still attached so I can check the action before I tighten everything up. After I retighten the coordinator rod nuts, I gently take up any minute slack in the set screws, just so it's resting on the heel base's metal plate. Just bring it up until it stops and don't turn further. It's easy, and with your fuitar experience, no prob at all. Post the results if you can. Cheers!
banjo roo - Posted - 02/11/2023: 13:46:14
Regarding bridge position, look up some you tube videos on how to set bridge position on a standard banjo. It is no different for a long neck. When setting the bridge position don't have the capo on the banjo. The bridge should be pretty close to twice the distance from the nut to the 12th fret. When counting frets, start at the nut, not at the 3rd fret where the nut normally be.
Cricket55 - Posted - 02/11/2023: 15:24:09
Many thanks Mark. Followed your most excellent directions and it came out great. Not as much of a hassle as I thought, especially since you mentioned that bottom nut might only be able to be turned a tiny bit at a time. I though I was at 1/8" but looks more like 3/32" ish. May even need to raise it a bit now. Also amazing (to me) how little you need to turn the set screws. Going to give it a day to see how it settles in first. Thanks again.
35planar - Posted - 02/11/2023: 16:02:23
Awesome Christopher! True about the turns on the set screws. 1/4 turn might be 1/32" at the 12 fret. Great story about it being your pop's banjo, too. My condolences to you and your family.
Edited by - 35planar on 02/11/2023 16:03:41
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