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100 Year Old Banjo

Posted by clawfootcurt on Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Well, it's a cheapie, but I got it.  For some reason I got it in my head that I wanted an old banjo.  I've been looking on Ebay and Craigs List for over a year but being cheap, it has been difficult to find what I was looking for.  One finally came along that looked like what I wanted and the bids stayed low enough, next thing I knew, it was on my doorstep. 

I was looking for one of the popular style from the turn of the century, combination maple pot, with nickel plated rolled brass, wooden dowel stick, and a hide head.  I found a no-name banjo, but according to the peghead shape, and Mugwumps web site, it was made by Lyon and Healy around the turn of the century.  It is an "a" scale banjo, which is 2 frets shorter than most these days.  I understand that most banjos prior to 1880 had these shorter necks, but I am not quick to say that I think it is that old.

The setup was very high.  The pot was kind of warped.  It was missing 3 hooks and nuts.  Two of the tuning pegs were locked solid.  The fretboard is beginning to come off, the frets are cheaply fit to the neck.  Strings were all there, but obviously old. 

I ordered some new Grover friction pegs (they match) and a couple of new hooks and nuts (these are close) took everything apart, cleaned off the grunginess and put it back together with new light to medium guage steel strings.  By evenly tightening the head tightening band down, a lot of the pot warpage went away, and the action is a lot better, although still high.  But, I can play it .

As a matter of fact, I figure if I work with this banjo for a while with it's high action, I should be that much better when I switch back to my "new" banjo.  I will probably try shimming the neck as time goes by to see if I can set it up better, but for now, I am very happy about it.

So, look out BHO, clawfootcurt has joined the ranks of the super-snobby "I own more than one banjo" crowd.

1 comment on “100 Year Old Banjo”

dbrooks Says:
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 @3:05:26 PM

Hi, Curt.  I own a couple of 1890's Bay State banjos.  One is an A-scale, a botton-of -the-line model in pretty good shape.  The other is a nicer model that needed some neck work.  I love playing these banjos, and I'm sure you'll get lots of enjoyment from yours too.

You may want to try some Nylgut strings on your banjo. I have them on my banjos, and they work well.  They put less strain on the neck and sound nice and tubby.  I have a few tunes on my homepage with the Bay State that may give you an idea.

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