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!
7088 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: directly from Bart
Just a VERY positive "shout-out" for Bart and his superb bridges. Everybody deserves to have one of these on your banjo. After experimenting for several years with different bridges, I've come to favor the Veerman bridge, especially on my '63 Vega Scruggs model. Bart's mystery wood bridge "WOKE" this banjo up when 8-10 other professional bridges could not. The clarity, tone, and power achieved through using this mystery wood blew my socks off....especially when this bridge gave my Vega a BOOMING 4th, which I had been unable to find previously. All of Bart's bridges are special.
Bart is also very easy and fun to deal with. Very respectful and obliging, and he delivers on time when he says he will. Aside from his standard work, he also performs custom requests. Along with all the 5 string bluegrass bridges he's made for me, he recently made me an 1890's 2 footed classic style bridge, to spec per my measurements. I must have given him 20 different specs, and he nailed it. Very happy with Bart's service and work over the years, I wont use anything else.
Just trying to spread the word here....these bridges and Bart are special. Thanks Bart!
Overall Rating: 10
I met Chris by chance, through a random WANT add that I had created on BHO, looking for an old Morrison banjo. He ended up selling me an old Morrison that he had had for years, at the same cost that he had payed for it, a very stand up thing to do. Throughout that interaction, Chris had been so pleasurable and easy to deal with, and happy to talk banjo and share knowledge on the instrument in general. Having never met him, I could still tell that he was highly dedicated to his work, not only as a respected professional, but in a recreational aspect also, he has a true love for anything banjo. And aside from the whole business perspective, I also made a friend through Chris, he is now somebody that I can talk with anytime about banjo, music in general, or really anything in life. He's a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, and his steadfast attention to detail and dedication to perfection are what set his work ethics above other luthiers. So, as it turns out, with all this in mind, it came easy for me to select Chris out of a long list of luthiers for a challenging banjo restoration project that I have had for sometime. I wasnt comfortable enough with just "anybody" re-working this banjo, and after interacting with and then later researching Chris' qualifications and work history, I felt like he was the right man for the job.
The banjo in question was a 1963 Earl Scruggs model Vega. They are quite rare, and although they bear Earl's name on the truss rod cover, they are also not the best designed/built banjo straight from the factory. I had had mine for 15+ years, and it was a COMPLETE DUD. ZERO volume, ZERO tone, hard to play, just downright embarassing, especially with Earl's name on it. Some of them are better than others, but many of them all suffer from the same flaws...mainly a poor neck heel to rim fit, which kills the tone. Mine, like several others, had a 1/4" gap at the bottom of the neck heel when attached to the rim. And there is a metal plate between the heel and rim that 2 allen screws butt up against that are used to adjust the neck left or right. Some argue that this is a good set-up, but most of us with these models, and who have had them re-worked, have seen the dramatic change in the instrument once the gap and metal plate are addressed. This banjo needed several other little things as well, but the neck fit was the main focus of the restore.
Since I live near Seattle, and Chris in Tennessee, I couldnt just walk onto his shop every weekend to discuss plans. But it did not hinder this project in the least sense, Chris dedicated many hours of conversation over the telephone and also through email. He took several hundred pictures throughout the project, of before and after, as well as current step by step detailed procedural photographs showing me just exactly what he was doing, and this was all free of charge. It was very convenient for me to be able to track and keep up on his progress.
The work he did to transform this banjo was phenominal. He completely disassembled, inspected, cleaned, polished the brightwork and wood finish, giving this instrument a sparkel it never knew. Sanded and polished the fretboard and fretmarkers to a luster never acheived before, the pearl went from a greyish white to a beautiful shiny silver with hints of red, blue, and yellow. Replaced the old frets with new stainless steel frets, which will not only last longer, but assist in better sound transfer through the neck. COMPLETELY rebuilt and had re-finished the neck heel, which allowed for a super flush/tight fitting result afterwards, no more gap and tone loss. Refit the tonering to the rim, and flange to the rim. He made several other slight alterations here and there for optimum performance. Rebuilt all 4 original Elton pancake tuners, and also installed a set of Hoppers cam D tuners in the peg-head. He had several other chrome parts re-chromed, where the chrome was damaged and flaking off, he installed anew arm rest per my request also. And top it all off with an expert set-up afterwards....VIOLA!
This instrument was transformed from an introvert into an ANIMAL! Before it was gutless and embarassing, where as now it has piercing tone and volume, and great playability and response. i'm very proud of it and the work Chris did. It sounds easy on paper, but it was not. This was a lengthy challenging project, but it did not deter Chris at all. He persevered and presented me with a very special banjo that I will always enjoy having in my posession and playing. Where it was shunned in its case under a bed before, it now will be proudly displayed and make music for people for years and years to come. Chris is a true genious in banjo restoration, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to work with him, and have him bring this banjo back to life, it was an honor.
Overall Rating: 10
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