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Help in identification of a brand and advice on restor banjo

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Feb 14, 2018 - 4:24:48 AM

JC Denton


2 posts since 1/30/2018

Hello! My name is Alexander, I live in the Russian Federation in Moscow. I am very glad to an opportunity to write here and to ask you council. I have bought the American banjo to carry out full restoration and I will be very grateful if to me help to find missing information as it is very difficult to find the person who understood - these questions in my country! )

1\I don't know age and the name (firm, a brand) of the my banjo - if someone possesses such information - tell me please!

2\Patinated brass and other metal parts of a banjo are made of the metal reminding duralumin or aluminum - it is possible - whether to chromeplate these details and whether they will look good after a covering chrome?

3\The plastic machine head elements have broken from time, but mechanisms still perfectly work and have no big wear - it is possible - whether them to repair without replacement?

Frankly speaking, I have a lot more questions, as in Russian I can find information very little)) Thanks to all who will read and will give advice!


Feb 14, 2018 - 5:15:12 AM

48567 posts since 12/14/2005

Welcome to the HangOut!

Thousands of banjos like that were made by only a dozen or so factories, and they would put any label on there, that the distributors wanted.


For example: A grocery store chain in Wisconsin had the name "CRESTWOOD" for their BAKERY products.

And when they decided to get in on the 1960's American FOLK MUSIC boom, they were selling banjos like that, IN the  GROCERY store, with the label CRESTWOOD.

So, Crestwood, Conrad, Penncrest, Lotus, dozens of different labels on the same instrument.

As for the tuning peg buttons:


I drilled holes in DICE and used epoxy to fasten them on.

Feb 14, 2018 - 5:29:58 AM
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1309 posts since 6/2/2010

Your banjo was made by Stromberg/Kay. You can buy new tuner buttons on ebay. To install them you get the metal shaft very hot with a soldering gun and then push the buttons on. The hot metal melts the inside of the plastic buttons.

Feb 14, 2018 - 5:33:54 AM
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1437 posts since 10/12/2011

They have plastic tuner buttons that glue on on ebay for 12 dollars US. As for replating the metal parts I'd say no. Its a vintage instrument and this one looks to be on the more economy level. Its better to just clean it up, get new strings, tune up the head and fix the tuners, and play it.

Feb 14, 2018 - 6:38:12 AM

4813 posts since 8/28/2013

Made by Kay, but probably sold under a different name. These are hard to put a date on, but a reasonable guess would be sometime during the late 1950's into the 1960's. Metal parts are probably pot metal, and not worth trying to re-plate.

Welcome to the Hangout. I hope you will continue to post updates on your progress with this banjo, and to ask any other questions you may wish to find answers for.

Feb 14, 2018 - 6:55:08 AM

10081 posts since 10/27/2006

Those are Kluson tuners on that 1950s era Kay banjo. If they’ve gone unlubricated, new buttons will not help as they will bind and be hard to turn. I have usually been disappointed when I’ve done this with old Klusons.

Any guitar tuners will work but if you want reproductions, Stew-Mac has them. Some may balk at paying nearly  $50 but, if you want, they got. 

Repro Kluson open back tuners

There are closed back Kluson style tuners from Gotoh and others with metal buttons. Co$t less, too. These will drop right in.

Gotoh Kluson style metal buttons

Edited by - mikehalloran on 02/14/2018 07:09:39

Feb 14, 2018 - 7:31 AM

rudy Players Union Member


12587 posts since 3/27/2004

StewMac offers the replacement buttons in many material choices.  If you choose to replace the tuners please visit the StewMac page here and watch the video showing how to replace the buttons.  Dan Erlewine shows the exact procedure that I use for drilling out ebony buttons without damaging them.

I personally would opt for replacement tuners with an inexpensive guitar-style vertical post tuners.

Feb 14, 2018 - 7:36:01 AM
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20756 posts since 7/6/2005

The metal flange is nickel-plated pot metal. It will deteriorate with age and the cost of chrome-plating will likely exceed the value of the banjo. Install a new set of cheap planetary tuners and play it.

Feb 14, 2018 - 8:07:12 AM

48567 posts since 12/14/2005

I basically agree with the above posts.
If price is a factor, try the dice, put some very light lubricant, like sewing machine oil on the gears, and if that doesn't work, replace the tuners.
Just use any cheap guitar tuners you can find.

Feb 14, 2018 - 8:52:14 AM

101 posts since 7/2/2012

Wow. I just bought a basket case banjo like this on eBay. Saved me a post to ask for ID help.

How does the resonator attach? Mine came to me in pieces, with absolutely no way to attach the resonator. No holes for missing brackets, nothing. Very confused...


Feb 14, 2018 - 8:56:29 AM

132 posts since 6/21/2014

Alexander, your banjo is a Kay model k-52. These were inexpensive banjos that were used by a lot of traditional musicians who did not have a lot of money to buy a fancy banjo. I have one. They can sound pretty good if set up right. If the action is too high, it can be adjusted using the mechanism at the heel. Best, -Peter

Feb 14, 2018 - 10:18:10 AM



20756 posts since 7/6/2005

there should be 2 small dog-leg brackets 180º apart screwed into the resonator wall with small round-head wood screws. These extend upwards into the corresponding small round holes in the flange. Two knurled nuts screw onto the posts.

Edited by - beegee on 02/14/2018 10:22:36

Feb 14, 2018 - 10:20:31 AM

101 posts since 7/2/2012

Hmm. I thought it would have something like that. But there is absolutely no sign of them there. No filled holes, nothing. Weird. Maybe this banjo was never put together in the first place, I dunno.


Feb 15, 2018 - 3:26:07 AM

JC Denton


2 posts since 1/30/2018

All many thanks for the help and good attitude!
Even I didn't think that I learn so much new about the this banjo )
I will begin (probably, first slowly) his restoration and surely I will post a photo and information on work advance here.
If it is possible, show me references to forum thems (if such is here) on restoration where, can be to eat video or photos.

Feb 15, 2018 - 6:57:03 AM

Helix Players Union Member


11225 posts since 8/30/2006

A banjo grows in Moscow.

Feb 15, 2018 - 9:11:15 AM

132 posts since 6/21/2014

Alexander, here is a link to an excellent article about restoring a Kay banjo.  this includes information about adjusting the action with Kay's proprietary adjustment mechanism.

Best, -Peter

Feb 16, 2018 - 6:08:41 AM

57 posts since 10/1/2017

That is pretty cool, the photos identifying the Kay banjo being played by the greats of Appalachian music above. I have often wondered what Roscoe Holcomb was playing in that picture. Goes to show it is more about just sitting down and playing than anything else. Though I am regularly guilty of banjo envy and coveting thy neighbors banjo.

Feb 16, 2018 - 8:19:13 AM

1000 posts since 3/17/2007

"Instruments don't make music; People make music."

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