The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!
7065 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Directly from the maker
Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 1187 ($US)
I am a clawhammer player who likes fiddle tunes, traditional folk songs, 60s folkie stuff, etc, etc. My main player is a Bowlin 1865 low-tuned fretless. I wanted another fretless to play in “standard” G/C tunings. I also wanted something with a brighter tone, somewhere between the dark Bowlin sound and my steel-strung Wildwood tubaphone. This is an open back with a 12” block rim, calfskin head, 25 1/2” scale, a Dobson tonering and Nylgut strings. Tone-wise, it is pretty much what I wanted. After a couple months’ play, it is “waking up” nicely.
Sound Rating: 9
Sadly, the instrument arrived with some buzzes and I had to do some work to solve the problem. The ebony fingerboard was uneven, with a hump between the second and fifth “fret” areas under the first and second strings. A higher bridge took care of most, but not all, of the buzzing but the action was then higher than I wanted. There is no adjustable truss rod in the neck. So with a flat file, I leveled the offending area of the fingerboard, flattened out a couple other places, and took a bump and some tool marks off the treble edge of the fingerboard. I then polished the fingerboard with steel wool and oiled it with a good quality woodwind bore oil
I also lowered the action at the nut by filing the string slots deeper. Now I’m happy.
Setup Rating: 6
This is a plain but handsome instrument. The rim and neck are cherry, the fingerboard, peghead overlay, heel cap and custom violin-type tailpiece are all ebony. There are no inlays on the front at all. On the back of the peghead is a crescent moon with a lightly-etched face peeking out from among the tuners. The tuner buttons are black and the hardware is all chromed, except for the brass tonering. It may be too Spartan for some, but I like the way it looks. It has an oil finish which was fairly well applied, though a little thick in a couple places.
Appearance Rating: 8
The wood work in this banjo is very good and the components are good quality and sturdy. The calfskin head was properly mounted. The tuners are Gotoh. I doubt there will ever be a problem.
Reliability Rating: 9
I ordered the banjo directly from Wayne Sagmoen and we communicated through a half-dozen email excanges and one telephone conversation. The features I specified are on the instrument, and there were some unexpected nice touches, such as the ebony tailpiece and the decision to leave the peghead plain. We went back and forth over side dots on the fingerboard. I was expecting one each at the 7th and 12th fret positions, though I don’t need them. The banjo arrived with no dots, and I’m just as happy. Other than scale length, I didn’t ask about the neck and it is thinner, front to back, than I expected. At first I didn’t care for it, but it is nicely shaped and with the action now properly set, it is a comfortable banjo to play.
There is no stated warranty.
Customer Service: 7
Components Rating: 9
This is a sturdy, good sounding and attractive instrument. Despite the need for the extra work, with the gigbag and shipping, I feel I got my money’s worth.
Overall Rating: 8
'Lee Hammons' Callaway' 49 min
'1925 Gibson TB-4' 53 min
'Drop thumb' 3 hrs