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Mar 14, 2018 - 3:39:23 AM
34 posts since 3/14/2018

Hello Everyone!

New member here, so please bear with me as I get my footing. I have just acquired my grandfathers 4-string banjo. It's in need of some TLC and thought that you folks might be able to help. No manufacturers markings on it, but there is a large, 6-pointed crown logo with Weather King stamped on the head. Two brass resonator retainers, Grover tailpiece. It has a nice art-deco circular patten on the pot. It's pretty beat up, but I'd like to do what I can with it, though I'm a novice player. One thing I'd like to upgrade, would be the old machine head tuners. Is there anything to be said for keeping the original parts, or are upgrades advisable? I'll post a few pics when I can figure out how to do so. Thanks for any suggestions, advice or recommendations. 

Edited by - GreybeardGunner on 03/14/2018 04:30:08

Mar 14, 2018 - 4:04:46 AM

4511 posts since 5/14/2007

Hello, Shawn, and welcome.

We do need your photos here. The crown and "Weather King" are trademarks for Remo, the company which made the head, not the instrument.

Most people try to use the original parts as much as possible.

Mar 14, 2018 - 4:12:50 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

11288 posts since 8/30/2006

Tuner upgrades and other parts are quite available. Let's see what you might need. Good project.

Mar 14, 2018 - 4:18:39 AM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

Thanks, John! I appreciate the info. I'm flying home from Ontario to Nova Scotia today, with the banjo in tow. I'll have a better idea of how to proceed once I have a chance to take a good look at it. The banjo seems to be of entry-level quality. Pretty simplistic. Hopefully I can get it identified. Thanks for your help. 






Edited by - GreybeardGunner on 03/14/2018 04:29:14

Mar 14, 2018 - 4:25:29 AM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

I appreciate the help, Helix! Thanks.

Edited by - GreybeardGunner on 03/14/2018 04:28:42

Mar 14, 2018 - 4:41:36 AM

4319 posts since 3/22/2008

Welcome to banjohangout.
Your banjo was made by Stromberg Voisinet company of Chicago probably late 1920's.
As you noted it was made for the amateur market.
It originally had a skin head. From memory plastic heads came out around 1958 so the original skin was replaced with the WeatherKing. Some folks here are acquainted with the plastic heads timeline but I think the WeatherKing crown was early.
The original tuners were friction tuners and they have been hastily replaced with the guitar style tuners.
I can't tell from photos but the nut may have been worn down and it appears from photos that some kind of effort was made to raise the strings at the nut. Can't really tell.
The banjo probably does not have a tone ring and may not have a tone hoop on the top of the rim.
You may be able to see when you take the resonator off.
If no tone hoop at all and the head fits against the top of the wood rim the banjo will probably not have a great deal of projection.
Hopefully others here will weigh in and correct the errors in this assessment.

Mar 14, 2018 - 4:54:42 AM

Alec Cramsie

Canada

235 posts since 2/4/2015

Hey Shawn,
Welcome to the hangout, looks like you have a fun project! What part of Nova
scotia are you from? If you are looking for help restoring the banjo Halifax folklore is where I would go, Tom the owner is great with old instruments, just got an old mandolin back from him and he really does a great job. I play the five string, but a four string is great for Celtic music and jazz. Good luck with your new banjo!

Mar 14, 2018 - 5:41:27 AM

48935 posts since 12/14/2005

Welcome.
Nice to think of some old banjo being played again.

Mar 14, 2018 - 5:50:47 AM
likes this
Players Union Member

lab_dad

USA

163 posts since 5/14/2004

IMO you have an heirloom.
I'd say get it in good playing condition (if you can) without breaking the bank.
Once your skills improve you'll likely want another banjo but having that treasure will become a joy to play. It's special so enjoy it!

Martin

Mar 14, 2018 - 6:17:28 AM

1563 posts since 5/2/2012

John, could that be a zero fret by the nut? Like the resonator -- looks like bird's eye maple to me.

Mar 14, 2018 - 7:41:11 AM

4319 posts since 3/22/2008

Zero Fret?
I thought the same thing but this banjo is a Chicago USA made S/V. No zero frets there.
I thought maybe a piece of fret wire or guitar saddle bone had been placed on top of or to the side of the nut to raise the strings to get rid of some possible string buzz?

Mar 14, 2018 - 8:00:04 AM

4899 posts since 8/28/2013

This could very well be a Kay banjo, the somewhat later name for Stromberg-Voisinet. A metal plate between the neck and rim would confirm this.

I would guess that someone fitted a zero fret after this had been around a while, just as the tuners were replaced. It's likely the original nut had gotten chipped.

Good luck, and have fun. This might not be a great banjo, but it'll certainly be a good start. It appears to be in reasonably good condition and easy to get playing.

Mar 14, 2018 - 9:08:05 AM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

You guys are a wealth of knowledge! It certainly is appreciated. I realize that this isn't a top notch instrument, but I just couldn't let it sit, ignored and damaged any longer. I remember my grandfather playing this, when I was a kid. I'm originally from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, but moved to Nova Scotia for the navy. I live in Timberlea, N.S.

I recently sold my Fender FB-58, and picked up a used FB-54. The 58 was just too much banjo for me, and I wasn't engaged to play it. I had a Washburn years ago, but got out of the hobby. Well, I'm back in now, lol, and noodle quite often on the 54.

My hope is that I can get this to a playable state, even if the tone isn't very good. It's more of a nostalgia thing for me.  Now that I've been supplied with an approximate manufacture era of circa late 1920's, early 1930's, I think I may opt to have it looked at by a competent, professional luthier, as it is much older than I thought it was. (Thanks for the recommendation Alec). I wonder...would a set of friction pegs be adviseable in terms of the rebuild?

Thanks again for all the interest and for the help.

Edited by - GreybeardGunner on 03/14/2018 09:19:21

Mar 14, 2018 - 9:15:22 AM

2350 posts since 6/19/2008

One thing no one has mentioned is that the tuners on the treble side look like they were meant for the bass side - so they are installed backwards. Possibly someone had a six-on-a-plate set of guitar tuners and simply cut the plate up so they would go in the holes. This means that those two tuners turn the opposite direction from what they should. Not a big deal unless it bugs you. If the tuners are functional and turn more or less smoothly, I wouldn't replace them. Otherwise, a set of economy guitar tuners can be had for $10, better ones for $20 or so. Planetary banjo tuners (where the pegs stick straight out the back of the head) are much more pricey - expect to pay $60 to $100 for a set of four decent ones. Less than that, you are likely buying crap - except they wouldn't even be useful as garden fertilizer.

Edited by - Jonnycake White on 03/14/2018 09:16:19

Mar 14, 2018 - 9:26:39 AM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

Speaking of which...I'd be interested to get an idea from you guys as to a restoration budget on this. I am currently restoring a '73 Dodge Dart, so I know the vagaries of such things, lol. I'm just wondering if $500 - $1000 is reasonable.

Edited by - GreybeardGunner on 03/14/2018 09:29:42

Mar 14, 2018 - 9:36:44 AM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

The banjo wasn't really taken well care of at any time in the past, ao I expect a bit of financial pain to get her back to a playable state.

Edited by - GreybeardGunner on 03/14/2018 09:45:15

Mar 14, 2018 - 9:39:40 AM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

Bit of damage




 

Mar 14, 2018 - 9:47:42 AM

918 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Jonnycake White

One thing no one has mentioned is that the tuners on the treble side look like they were meant for the bass side - so they are installed backwards. Possibly someone had a six-on-a-plate set of guitar tuners and simply cut the plate up so they would go in the holes. This means that those two tuners turn the opposite direction from what they should. Not a big deal unless it bugs you. If the tuners are functional and turn more or less smoothly, I wouldn't replace them. Otherwise, a set of economy guitar tuners can be had for $10, better ones for $20 or so. Planetary banjo tuners (where the pegs stick straight out the back of the head) are much more pricey - expect to pay $60 to $100 for a set of four decent ones. Less than that, you are likely buying crap - except they wouldn't even be useful as garden fertilizer.


 

looks to me like half a set of mandolin tuners, cut up.  I agree-- take them apart, clean and oil them, and make sure they are mounted so they can turn freely before thinking about replacements.  

It should be real easy to get around the handedness problem:  Normally one tightens the strings on the bass side tuners counterclockwise and the treble side clockwise.  If you string it so all four string posts turn the same way to tighten, the pegs will behave in the normal fashion.  Which way will depend on how those gears are cut.

Mar 14, 2018 - 9:54:28 AM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

The machine tuning knobs strike the head stock when turning. They seem very cheap and jury-rigged to me and I'm pretty sure they're going to be scrapped. Any suggestions as to a suitable replacement?

Edited by - GreybeardGunner on 03/14/2018 09:55:22

Mar 14, 2018 - 9:55:05 AM

6807 posts since 1/7/2005

The original nut appears to be the one next to the fretboard. When the slots tore out, someone added the black nut to hold the strings in place.

I agree with Jon that the tuners look like guitar machines that someone cut apart. The original tuners were probably simple friction pegs. You could replace them, but I doubt if you will be playing the banjo too much.

Even though it has modest collectors or player value, I'm sure it does have some personal value. If nothing else, it would make for a good decorator object hanging on the wall. Give it a coat of paste wax, buff it to a nice shine and it will look a lot better. You could certainly return it to playable condition, but I wouldn't put much money into it.

DD

Edited by - Dan Drabek on 03/14/2018 09:56:12

Mar 14, 2018 - 9:58:26 AM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

I hear you, DD.  I'm not much of an instrument-wall art type of guy, though. If I can play it to any degree, I'll keep it. If not, I'll pass it off to another family member. Thanks for the head's- up!

Edited by - GreybeardGunner on 03/14/2018 10:00:22

Mar 14, 2018 - 10:00:14 AM

4319 posts since 3/22/2008

I'm out of my element here but I'll tell you what I would do.
This banjo doesn't really need much to make it look nice and play too.
I'd take it apart and scrap the guitar tuners. The flat head wood screw heads are unsightly.
Check the diameter of the shaft holes in the peghead and shop ebay for some period friction tuners that's fit seamlessly (less than $50 on ebay with shipping).
Get a new nut. Luthiers charge for nut replacement. So, check the width of the neck at the nut. If 1 3/16" you can get a plastic one from a guy on ebay ($7). Otherwise you'll have to shop to get a smaller size ready made. You could make your own but I can't.
Probably new tenor banjo strings (loop end) and a 4-string bridge. Check now to see what the current height bridge is on there. You can get 1/2" or 5/8" (if you need to raise string height) bridges from a place like Elderly Instruments online ($20 with shipping).
The plastic head is probably okay. If not call Bob Smakula and talk to him about your rim and he'll fix you up with the right plastic head.
Then, take off all the hardware (tension hoop, bracket shoes, bracket nuts, bracket bolts and washers and shine 'em up inside and out. (I like gleaming bracket bolt heads and washers when you peer inside a banjo rim) and as gleaming as possible outside the rim but there'll be some crud on the hooks so you do the best you can. I use 0000 steel wool to get off the crud and Mothers metal polish to finish up. Other guys here swear by some other metal polish.
Then I clean up the wood and wax the rim & resonator with old fashioned Johnson's paste wax which I've been using since Johnson sponsored The Fibber McGee & Molly radio show.
I like guitar polish for the neck.
Put it back together and look for a lucky star.
Some come out good looking and playing.
Some come out so's to make you cry.
Now we'll let the really good restorers give you proper advise.

Mar 14, 2018 - 10:02:28 AM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

Actually John, you just described my initial plan almost to a 'T', lol.

Mar 14, 2018 - 10:16:59 AM

4319 posts since 3/22/2008

I figured the resonator attached with the screen door loop before you showed the picture.
I've seen several, several like that so it must be common, even factory?
On ones I worked on I left them just like that after a bit of shining (if possible) as I think that was one inexpensive way of putting on a resonator back in the day.

Mar 14, 2018 - 1:10:13 PM

34 posts since 3/14/2018

The banjo wasn't really taken well care of at any time in the past, so I expect a bit of financial pain to get her back to a playable state.

Mar 15, 2018 - 6:08 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

11288 posts since 8/30/2006

confer with Bob Smakula, the right tuners will come to light, same for a new head.

Way less than $500, the tension hoop looks over-tightened, the hex shoes and hooks are reuseable, but rusty.

I think she'll play, I think she wants to, that's what she was made to do.

I have about 3 tools of my father's, that's all there was.

Regardless of the outcome, the journey is there in your words, to just hang it on the wall is a shame. it's had enough neglect, let the girl dance.

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