This banjo, Serial Number 12 is a faithful reproduction of the HC Dobson 1881 Silver Bell Patent banjo design with a double spunover rim. These reproductions have resulted from some slightly obsessive personal research into the materials and processes used to manufacture the original Dobson banjos.
The rim, cladding, and tone ring is fabricated using traditional hand cranked tin smithing machines and metal spinning forms to mirror the historic 1880’s New York job shop banjo manufacturing process. The tone ring is hand spun with a thin 24 gauge brass material, heat treated, and work hardened during spinning to mirror the resonant properties and weight of the original tone rings. The rim is 2.5” deep plus the tone ring arch height. A 5/16” diameter brass hoop on the top/bottom edges are encased by a 24 gauge nickel silver sheet metal which wraps a thin maple core rim. An additional sheet of 24 gauge nickel silver also encases the ¼” wood rim on the inside of the pot, making for a tone that is stronger and more focused than the standard spunover model.
The original double spunover HC Dobson models are highly desirable given limited production volumes in addition to the the more focused tone that this rim construction affords. Modern players such as Adam Hurt and Leroy Troy have antique banjos featuring double spunover rims that are featured on numerous studio and live recordings. Unfortunately, this rim construction was somewhat tedious to manufacture and only a limited number of these original double spunover banjos exist today. Making the interior cladding is quite an involved process, and it is completely understandable why the mid 1880’s banjo ads would upsell this option by $10 to $20 (or $300 to $600 approximately at today’s inflation rate)! I have had the fortune and opportunity to study and play numerous original double spunover rims from Buckbee, Lyon & Healy, JB Schall, and the later Wurlitzer/Gretsch models. My doublespun rim design parallels the construction of the Buckbee and L&H rims, but uses the lightest reasonable gauge sheet metal to preserve the dynamic responsiveness that the thicker/heavier clad rims seem to loose. To my ear, the heavier rims (antique and modern) will add a bit of “compression” to the sound. It is easier to maintain a consistent tone on the heavier clad rims, but seems to come at a loss of the dynamic range and tonal color potential that a lighter rim banjo can give by slightly varying plucking force, angle of attack, position of the pluck relative to the bridge, and general playing style.
The neck profile and shape are modeled after a few of my favorite HC Dobson original designs. The length from the nut to the rim is 18.5” with a comfortable 1 5/16” width at the nut. There are 3 small variances from the original Dobson neck design I made to allow for steel strings and improved playability including neck reinforcement, a minor 1.5 degree neck angle, and a rosewood dowel stick for improved rigidity. The banjo can be kept with the current steel string setup, or changed over to nylon, nylgut, or fluorocarbon prior to shipping.
The unique 5th string tuning peg nut is located at the 6th fret to parallel the majority of Henry Dobson’s original banjo designs. This affords a little additional maneuvering room and comfort when playing below the 5th position. The tuning pegs are Pegheads brand with a 4:1 gear reduction allows strings to be tuned more easily and accurately than traditional wood pegs without compromising the aesthetic that ebony violin style pegs give.
The general banjo specifications are as follows:
11? Nickel Silver Double Spunover ¼” Rim
Nickel Silver Cladding Encasing the ¼” Maple Core
Hand Spun 24 gauge Brass Tone Ring
Figured Walnut Neck
Paddle Headstock Shape
1-5/16? Black Oxe Nut
26 1/8? Scale Length
Oiled Rosewood Fingerboard
Rosewood Peghead Overlay
5th string at 6th fret position
Nickel Silver Fingerboard Extension
Mother of Pearl Inlay Dots
Menzies Light Spotted Goat Skin Head
Dark Golden Antiqued Brass Hardware
Pegheads Geared 4:1 Violin Style Tuning Pegs
Nickel Plated Steel String Custom Dobson Tailpiece
18 Hook Notched Tension Hoop
Vintage Hand Rubbed Semigloss Lacquer Finish
Please see the Youtube video links to reference the sound, and check out my website for more information:
United States, Liberty Twp, OH, 45011
Shipping approx. $75 USPS
Check/Money Order, Cash (in person), Paypal
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Returns accepted. Buyer must contact seller within 2 days to arrange return. Refund will be given as Money Back. Buyer pays return shipping.
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