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Bought a new to me banjo

Posted by AndyW on Tuesday, September 11, 2018

like this

Well, I was perusing banjos in ebay last week as I often do. One caught my eye as particularly cheap at £90 ($117 US) considering it came with lined plywood case, clip on tuner, shubb capo and a couple of sets of strings and spare bridge.

Only trouble was I am learning clawhammer and this was a resonator banjo. However, I thought "if it's good enough for Wade Ward."

The banjo was badly described by the owner which wax probably why no bidders, and I had to e-mail query re postage. The rim couldn't be seen in the picture, and there was no decal on the headstock. I thought it was likely to be some sort of Saga kit/Rover/Ozark(asian) type banjo, and I figured if I didn't like it I could sell it for much the same price and keep the sundries. So, at auction end I was the only bidder, and a few days later(yesterday) the banjo arrived.

The case had a broken hinge, quickly fixed by a close fitting bolt today.

Removing the banjo it indeed was a cast aluminium saga kit type. It looked in decent condition with straight neck. The bridge was completely deformed so I changed it. The planetary tuners ground a bit tuning up, but tightening the screws seemed to sort that out ok. The geared 5th tuner was loose, but after consulting the forum I removed it and then reinserted by mallet with paper shim after removing the button. It's now solidly in place.(It doesn't turn particularly smoothly though).

The banjo was very, very tinny/jangly at first, and I was a bit nervous as I didn't want to have to spend out changing from the (inner)frosted head. I removed the resonator, and it didn't really make any difference. (The tension brackets are shoed as well as passing through the flange so I can remove flange and turn it into an open back if I want.)  However stuffing the pot and relaxing the tension on the waverley tailpiece helped a lot. After putting the resonator back on I swapped the bridge for a heavy staircase one and that removed the last of the overtones.

The action is very low and it's impossible to thumb the 5th over the  neck so I've ordered a 3/4" bridge to trial out.  It plays ok over the head, but my wrist arches when I play there. I'm pretty happy with the sound, it has mellowed right down, and I may even move the stuffing away from the bridge to give back a little jangle.

All in all, I'm pretty happy. I have a banjo I can fearlessly strip down and play about with, and it's something I can break down to travel abroad with easily if need be.

I'll post a video later. 

4 comments on “Bought a new to me banjo”

Deleteme Says:
Tuesday, September 11, 2018 @11:17:53 AM

Andy, It sounds like you are banjo handy. That is exciting! I love the resonator banjo that I got. My husband asked if I only played that one now feeling bad the other one was going to waste. I assured him banjos are a bit like guns. Each is a little different and we can like them all.

AndyW Says:
Wednesday, September 12, 2018 @3:45:20 AM

As I wait on my 3/4 bridge it's back to the Gretsch Dixie Special for normal practice. [In fact I've ordered two 3/4" bridges and want to see if I get more 5th string pop on the Gretsch.

Today I plugged in my phone metronome [230/115 max] instead of my dial metronome [208/104 max].

I built Spotted Pony up through the speeds to warm up finishing at 230/115. I then had a go with Old Time Jam Machine and was almost there, only breaking down occassionally. It was my closest yet. I think Spotted Pony is running at around 250/125bpm on OTJ so a bit faster than my other tunes.

Then for fun I ran through my other tunes at 230/115 which I've never done before. I can't say they were all 'comfortable', but they were all easily manageable at that speed.

I'm finding now that whereas my right wrist is pretty comfortable at high speed and doesn't tire too easily, my left hand does, especially my pinkie. I can't really see any way past that except to keep playing and wait for pinkie strength/stamina to build up.

WayneConrad Says:
Thursday, October 4, 2018 @7:33:01 AM

There are also bridges made which raise only the fifth string. I have one of those on my Goodtime Parlor, which has a nice low action I love, but that action makes the fifth string impossible to clawhammer over the neck. The raised fifth string bridge does the trick without changing the action for the other four strings.

Judith511 Says:
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 @3:24:46 PM

Sounds like you got something useful to you Andy. Interested to hear it. :)

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