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The day after New Year I drove from my home in northern Vermont to the scenic little village of Ulverton Québec to take two old banjos in need of repair to Carl Arcand to see what he could do with them. While there I started looking at banjos he has restored and made.When I picked up a 12 inch Tubaphone he had made I knew the purpose of my trip had changed. It has 2 ply maple pot and curly maple neck with beautiful top of the line hardware.The inlays are lovely with a fleur de lis pattern on the peghead and another complex inlay where the neck meets the pot. The neck is scooped there but with a very pleasing serpentine shape instead of just being squared off. It has a natural thick goat skin head and a crescent shaped "moon" bridge for compensation. It chimes perfectly across all the strings. The bottom of the pot has a beautiful herringbone inlay (purfling) that really dresses it up.
When I played the banjo I got the throaty, rich sound one associates with a Tubaphone. It has excellent sustain but it also fades fast enough so you are not left with discordant sounds when you move to the next note or chord. The sound up the neck is pure all the way to the throat. With a twelve inch pot it has lots of volume which can project when playing with others but it can also sound sweet when played with a lighter touch which I like because I like to put a crescendo in songs then fade down to softer sounds.
End of story, I traded the two old, in need of major repair, banjos to Carl for a down payment on the Tubaphone. He gave me a very fair price for them and the price on the new banjo was very reasonable especially considering the neck and pot details, the inlays, and the expensive hardware. I have never seen a new banjo of this quality for the price he charged. A banjo playing friend and I spent two hours there talking to Carl, playing banjos, and visiting his shop. He loves bringing old instruments back to life and making new ones, one at a time rather than in an assembly line fashion.
If you need a new banjo or an old one repaired, call Carl. His website is Second Life Banjos. Carl takes great pride in his work and it shows. I could not be more pleased with my new Arcand banjo.
Overall Rating: 10
''Tennessee Waterfall'' 9 min