Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

387
Banjo Lovers Online


Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!
Nov 16, 2019 - 2:43:48 PM
3 posts since 11/16/2019

First post. I recently received my grandfather’s banjo that he purchased new in 1919. It had been under my uncles bed since my grandfather died in 1977.

It is a Vega Fairbanks plectrum No. 2 4 string. looks to be made 1919 based on serial number.

I took it apart and did a quick clean and polish.

I plan on taking some lessons.








Nov 16, 2019 - 6:58:30 PM
likes this

10475 posts since 10/27/2006

Look under the head below the round rod. There should be points from the scalloped ring below indicating that this is a NO 2 Whyte Laydie — which should be stamped on the side of the dowel. It should look like this:

If not, it's an oddball — those did happen at Vega,


Nov 16, 2019 - 8:20:49 PM
likes this

12355 posts since 10/30/2008
Online Now

If you can play a guitar or ukulele, you can play plectrum banjo with no trouble.

Nov 16, 2019 - 9:00:54 PM
likes this

10475 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

If you can play a guitar or ukulele, you can play plectrum banjo with no trouble.


Amen to that!

I had three. One in standard C plectrum tuning, another in Celtic (octave mandolin) tuning but, for playing Guitar/Banjo books in Broadway show orchestras, my third plectrum was tuned like the top 4 strings of a guitar. This is also known as Chicago Standard or Chicago — some old timers still call it it Bastard Standard.

Nov 17, 2019 - 10:17:12 AM

Bill H

USA

1277 posts since 11/7/2010

Sure looks like a Whyte Laydie No. 2. That is great banjo. Looks to be in fine condition as well.

Nov 17, 2019 - 12:42:49 PM

Doran4x

USA

3 posts since 11/16/2019

It is a Whyte Laydie Number 2. It is missing a couple of the tension hooks but other than that it is in great condition. The case is another story. I need to stabilize the lid as it is worn though and the top and sides are separating in a couple of areas. Any suggestions on fixes would be greatly appreciated.

Nov 17, 2019 - 12:50:38 PM
likes this

Fathand

Canada

11518 posts since 2/7/2008
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Doran4x

The case is another story. I need to stabilize the lid as it is worn though and the top and sides are separating in a couple of areas. Any suggestions on fixes would be greatly appreciated.


I would keep the case as is retaining all your Grandfather's wear, tear and mojo and purchase a new serviceable case for transporting the banjo.  

Nov 17, 2019 - 1:20:50 PM
likes this

4498 posts since 3/6/2006

Aside from missing a tailpiece and fretboard binding, it appears to be in original condition, other than the brackets being a mix of ball end and open end nuts. If it were mine, I would replace the tuners with narrow shaft planet tuners, which requires carefully opening the four holes to 5/16" to accommodate the 9/32" shafts. I wouldn't refinish it or add a resonator, as it will sound wonderful as is. I would look into restoring the case, but leaving the mojo that your grandfather added. Plectrum banjos are fun to play, and one can sound reasonably good just by learning a few basis chords to start with, and playing with a thin (.060 or .073) flatpick. I would NOT succumb to any temptation or suggestion to convert this to a five string, especially considering it's a family heirloom. But that's just me.

Nov 17, 2019 - 2:00:55 PM

52859 posts since 12/14/2005

Oh, you lucky [EXPLETIVE DELETED]!

As stated above: Learn a few basic chords, and get that banjo ringing.

AS I tell everyone who will listen ( and a few who won't)

When you're sitting around with family and friends, they do not care if you can play like Eddie Peabody, George Formby, Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin.

They care "Do you know the three or four chords for most of the songs we like to sing?"

My first banjo was a SLINGELRAND Maybelle plectrum, and look at me now!

Welcome to the HangOut.

Nov 17, 2019 - 2:03:09 PM
like this

52859 posts since 12/14/2005

As to the case:
You may be able to repair the worn bits, glue down the loose bits, and cover the whole think with some kind of clear topcoat.
MIGHT want to start a discussion about ONLY that part of it, so as to attract the attention of folks who have DONE it.

Nov 17, 2019 - 3:24:15 PM

Doran4x

USA

3 posts since 11/16/2019

Thank you for the info and suggestions. I will get it up and running soon.

Nov 17, 2019 - 10:02 PM
like this

72 posts since 9/30/2009

An interesting thing is that the case is for a 5 string. It made me take a look to see if the banjo was originally 5 string also, but with its neck slimmed. The symmetry of the position markers shows that it was indeed a plectrum and not modified. A very nice banjo! There is a vintage musical instrument case group on Facebook that can give lots of information on the origins and care of the case. It's a beaut, especially with the painting on it. Good luck!

Nov 18, 2019 - 4:59:05 PM

10475 posts since 10/27/2006

The nuts should be closed balls with a 9/32" hex.

On old Vegas, Bacons and many other banjos, they are nickel plated brass (outside—unplated on the inside) while the hooks are nickel plated steel. Any moisture creates bi-metallic galvanic corrosion—literally a low strength electric weld.

Problem is when someone goes to turn the nuts, the thread often comes off. This can be minimized by using a penetrating lube (WD-40 dripped onto the threads with a toothpick works great) and letting it sit 24 hours but that should have happened decades ago. When we see the mismatch like this, on a hundred year old banjo ... let's say that no one is surprised.

Bob Smakula has the real deal and if you needed only a few, that would be my recommendation.

In your case, I'd recommend getting a reproduction set. Rickard will sell you a set in nickel plate for $63 + shipping. These have the correct 8-26 threads. The hooks are brass instead of steel but no one can tell under the nickel plate. The nuts are on page 3; hooks on page 4.

https://rickardbanjos.com/product-category/hardware/

Yes, new ones are so shiny but leave them alone enough years and the nickel plate will get its own patina and you won't mind.

The original tailpiece was a 4 string NoKnot. Rickard has those, too. A lot of players prefered a Kershner — so many Vega plectrums have them that many think they were original (only on some of the fancy banjos, never a NO 2 or NO 3). 

Greg Boys has a nice modern version for $57.50.

Prucha 4-string Kershner

 

Edited by - mikehalloran on 11/18/2019 17:16:22

Nov 18, 2019 - 5:24:22 PM
likes this

10475 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

The nuts should be closed balls with a 9/32" hex.

On old Vegas, Bacons and many other banjos, they are nickel plated brass (outside—unplated on the inside) while the hooks are nickel plated steel. Any moisture creates bi-metallic galvanic corrosion—literally a low strength electric weld.

Problem is when someone goes to turn the nuts, the thread often comes off. This can be minimized by using a penetrating lube (WD-40 dripped onto the threads with a toothpick works great) and letting it sit 24 hours but that should have happened decades ago. When we see the mismatch like this, on a hundred year old banjo ... let's say that no one is surprised.

Bob Smakula has the real deal and if you needed only a few, that would be my recommendation.

In your case, I'd recommend getting a reproduction set. Rickard will sell you a set in nickel plate for $63 + shipping. These have the correct 8-26 threads. The hooks are brass instead of steel but no one can tell under the nickel plate. The nuts are on page 3; hooks on page 4.

https://rickardbanjos.com/product-category/hardware/

Yes, new ones are so shiny but leave them alone enough years and the nickel plate will get its own patina and you won't mind.

The original tailpiece was a 4 string NoKnot.

Rickard has those, too.

https://rickardbanjos.com/product/4-string-no-knot-tail-piece/

 

A lot of players preferred a Lyon & Healey Kershner Unique — so many Vega plectrums have them that many think they were original (only on some of the fancy banjos, never a NO 2 like yours or a NO 3). This is a long one — my short one is similar down to the 5 string posts on a 4-string tailpiece.

 

Greg Boyd has a nice modern version for $57.50.

Prucha 4-string Kershner


Edited by - mikehalloran on 11/18/2019 17:25:29

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.234375