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Help Identify some luthier details on this violin banjo

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Oct 23, 2019 - 8:43:54 AM
947 posts since 3/21/2013

Hello!
I posted this in collectors corner, but wanted to start a thread here in hopes someone could elaborate on the build of this banjo. It has a violin, minstrel style carved face headstock (someone mentioned Luke Mercier had done violin banjos, but I have not been able to find anything similar to this one). It also has a deer antler detail on the heel, wood block rim and fretless neck. It's coming from a seller in oregon who purchased it along with two other, much older high end banjos.

I am not sure if it was a custom or something 'in the style of'. Minstrel banjos didn't have block rims, and this one is 11" which is smaller than most minstrel banjos, so I feel like perhaps it's more of either a custom or artist design. The hardware looks handmade.

appreciate any and all discussion, as I haven't been able to find any leads in manufacturer. I feel like its a fairly modern banjo.


Oct 23, 2019 - 9:05:53 AM
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csacwp

USA

2409 posts since 1/15/2014

It's a fantasy instrument and isn't in the style of any surviving early banjo.

Oct 23, 2019 - 9:08:15 AM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

11944 posts since 8/30/2006

In my opinion, whoever did this was very well informed.

Looks like a block rim
The peghead carving is great
The neck was chosen
6 hooks
Emphasis on wooden voice
Lightweight
It takes time to build this well
Congratulations to the artist

Oct 23, 2019 - 9:14:31 AM
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beegee

USA

21371 posts since 7/6/2005

Have you taken it apart to investigate any maker's ID on the top of the rim or heel of the neck?

Oct 23, 2019 - 9:26:36 AM
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83 posts since 12/21/2012

It's really cool! Like @csacwp said, it's not a copy or anything.

I would take a wild guess and say it was made by a skilled fiddle/violin maker.

The pot and neck look really thick and beefy, which is more typical of home built banjos i've seen.

Yet the scroll, finish quality, and choice of figured woods are very violin like. Plus all the violin makers I know are very artistic and detail minded.

Edited by - Red Squirrel on 10/23/2019 09:28:26

Oct 23, 2019 - 9:34:39 AM

947 posts since 3/21/2013

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

Have you taken it apart to investigate any maker's ID on the top of the rim or heel of the neck?


when i receive it i will. After watching it for nearly a month, I managed to work out a deal with the seller. But it wont be here until after next week

Oct 24, 2019 - 1:52:22 PM

947 posts since 3/21/2013

What are your thoughts on the wood? Maple neck? Black walnut inlays or mahogany?

Oct 24, 2019 - 2:28:09 PM
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83 posts since 12/21/2012

Dark wood is for sure black walnut.

Light wood on pot looks to me a lot like cherry, but could be maple too.

Neck looks like quilted maple, but could be something else. Violin makers always use figured maple on fiddle necks, so I feel pretty confident that's what it is.

Oct 24, 2019 - 9:17:51 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22460 posts since 6/25/2005
Online Now

Luke Mercier made a violjo for Hank Schwartz. I’ve played it Cool instrument.

http://www.lukemercier.com/violjo.htm
 

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 10/24/2019 21:19:05

Oct 24, 2019 - 11:18:05 PM

947 posts since 3/21/2013

someone in collectors corner mentioned him and thought this may be a very early one of his. I emailed him, but have not received a reply.

Oct 25, 2019 - 6:12:26 AM

4782 posts since 9/21/2007

Could you help me understand why a banjo with a scroll peg head is being called a "violin banjo"?

Oct 25, 2019 - 7:05:16 AM

6255 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Could you help me understand why a banjo with a scroll peg head is being called a "violin banjo"?

 


Darned good question! Even the alleged violin style pegbox isn't really violin style. It's more elongated and most violins use a scroll rather than a face (note, I do not call this a human face.) This instrument could not be bowed except maybe on the two outside strings, and could not be tuned like a violin because the strings are too long.

As one can probably surmise, I think this whatsit is a hideous piece of tomfoolery, despite the care and craftsmanship that went into it. I wish that the maker had spent his time on better projects.

At least the head tensioning brackets are unique and nicely done.

Oct 25, 2019 - 7:21 AM

mdh1966

USA

37 posts since 10/21/2019

Edited by - mdh1966 on 10/25/2019 07:21:37

Oct 25, 2019 - 9:16:46 AM

947 posts since 3/21/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Could you help me understand why a banjo with a scroll peg head is being called a "violin banjo"?

 


I believe the name was coined by the luthier, who is primarily a violing builder, but ventured into banjos. SO really it cant be played like a violin, just shares some characteristic visually with one, mainly in the neck and headstock.  

Oct 25, 2019 - 9:18:10 AM

947 posts since 3/21/2013

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Could you help me understand why a banjo with a scroll peg head is being called a "violin banjo"?

 


Darned good question! Even the alleged violin style pegbox isn't really violin style. It's more elongated and most violins use a scroll rather than a face (note, I do not call this a human face.) This instrument could not be bowed except maybe on the two outside strings, and could not be tuned like a violin because the strings are too long.

As one can probably surmise, I think this whatsit is a hideous piece of tomfoolery, despite the care and craftsmanship that went into it. I wish that the maker had spent his time on better projects.

At least the head tensioning brackets are unique and nicely done.


I know its definitely not for everyone, but I am personally smitten with it and I am greatly looking forward to seeing these details in person and hearing it play. ;)

Oct 25, 2019 - 9:28:39 AM

947 posts since 3/21/2013

could be this....hahaha


 

Oct 28, 2019 - 10:34:58 AM
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Banjo Lefty

Canada

1695 posts since 6/19/2014

That headstock carving looks very much like Ron Cook's work. Try taking a peek at roncookstudios.com for comparison.

Oct 28, 2019 - 1:39:34 PM
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6255 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by jun3machina

could be this....hahaha


Definitely more my speed!

Oct 28, 2019 - 1:41:01 PM

947 posts since 3/21/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Banjo Lefty

That headstock carving looks very much like Ron Cook's work. Try taking a peek at roncookstudios.com for comparison.


Oooh you're correct! It's very similar. I'll message his Etsy shop and let you Know if I find out anything

Oct 31, 2019 - 11:29:05 PM

947 posts since 3/21/2013

received it today. everything is handmade. no signature anywhere

Nov 1, 2019 - 12:28:12 PM

947 posts since 3/21/2013

just heard back, its not by mr. cook. the mystery continues...

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