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Finally - Gibson conversion comes to life

Posted by JohnWaters on Sunday, November 9, 2014

like this

I was very, very excited a while back to talk about a 1928 Gibson TB-1 conversion. I haven't spoken about it a while, because it was never what I hoped. (Even though I was told it was a "Hoss".)

The banjo is beautiful with a mahogany speed neck and mahogany-skinned maple resonator. The rim and resonator came from the same 1928 TB-1. The fingerboard pattern is RB-3. It has a JB Sloan unplated ring. I had very high expectations for the old wood and Sloan ring combination.

When I finally received the banjo, I could hear the sound I wanted, but it sounded trapped. Volume was weak; I could not feel the notes in the neck; it sounded a little like the strings were buzzing. So, it has just laid in its case, unplayed ever since. (After all, it had been assembled by an expert. What could I do?)

Today, I decided I would either get the sound to come out, or sell it cheap. I disassembled the banjo completely. (I had been fearful of doing this before.) 

First, I know that I am not a luthier. I am just one of the most curious people that I know. I have to understand how things work. I have approached banjos the same way and tried to absorb every thing I could from luthiers, professional players and the BHO forums. That said, this is what I found.

1) The neck was bolted firmly against the tone ring -- pinning it to the rim.

2) The tone ring and rim were so tightly locked together, it took almost an hour to separate.

I spent another hour and a half with a razor, slowly trimming down the wood under the tone ring skirt. Finally, the ring slipped on easily. Turning it over, the weight of the ring would separate it from the rim.

The tone ring just had a hole drilled in the side for the neck bolt. I took a saw and cut out a square that just cleared the neck allowing the neck to fully mate with the rim and NOT contact the tone ring.

Result? Indescribable joy. I have a Huber Berkshire that several folks have wanted, and I would not sell it for $10k. I have to admit that this Gibson now sounds better than the Huber.

PS: I have been told that many banjos pinch the side of the tone ring between neck and rim. Perhaps, it was just the tight ring/rim fit. Personally, I want the tone ring to be able to vibrate without restriction. In my unqualified opinion, it seems pointless to have a tone ring unless it can vibrate freely. In any event, I am thrilled to have this banjo rise above my expectations.




7 comments on “Finally - Gibson conversion comes to life”

Just Bill Says:
Monday, November 10, 2014 @5:22:02 AM

Congratulations, John! I wish you many years of enjoyment with your Gibson!

BanjoFlyboy Says:
Monday, November 10, 2014 @6:38:16 AM

I like a good story with a happy ending!

JohnWaters Says:
Monday, November 10, 2014 @1:47:45 PM

Thanks guys! When I was younger, too many of my stories that started off "I completely disassembled it", ended with "I took him a bag with all the parts and asked for help". I too am glad this had a happy ending. :-)

Just Bill Says:
Monday, November 10, 2014 @4:18:52 PM


Ks_5-picker Says:
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 @5:00:40 PM

You did great! It's always hardest the first time,but really,they are just nuts and bolts. You knew what it needed from reading the numerous setup postings here on the hangout,no doubt.

jswkingsfield Says:
Sunday, November 16, 2014 @7:54:44 AM

Good work, John, enjoy!

Goldstarman Says:
Monday, March 16, 2015 @5:53:36 PM

Im glad it ended up being what you wanted John.....there is no other feeling like it for sure

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