Hey there, everyone. I’m new to the Banjo Hangout and was hoping that someone could give advice on a repair/restoration project I’m working on. I recently got a banjo that was probably made in the late 1800s and is in a terrible state of neglect. I’m working to restore it for use with nylon strings due to the lack of a truss rod.
I’ve got a picture of the banjo below and you will see that it needs a tremendous amount of work. You’ll also notice that it has the original calfskin drum head on it, which was pretty neat.
A little bit about myself: I have been an amateur luthier for 10 or 11 years. Mostly, I’ve worked on fiddles, mandolins, and guitars. I got my start in Pendleton Oregon, where I had the tremendous good luck of building my first Mandolin with the help of banjo maker extraordinaire, Vern Marr. Unfortunately, I no longer live in Pendleton and am hoping that you folks can give me some advice.
There are two holes where the tailpiece should connect. Anyone know what that’s all about?
There’s a weird piece that shipped along with the banjo (picture attached). There’s a J hook where I would expect the tailpiece to be along with a different type of nut threaded onto the J hook. All the other J hooks use the type of nut pictured alongside the mystery piece.
My guess is that someone took the tailpiece and put a stray J hook in it’s place. Any thoughts?
Any recommendations for a good replacement tailpiece?
What type of geared tuners would you folks recommend for this project? I would like them to look as old school as possible.
If anyone has a clue about when/where this banjo was made, that would be awesome. I’ve got more pictures if that helps.
For what it’s worth, the top of the peghead is a straight 90 degree angle from the front to the back - it does not slope off the way most modern pegheads do. Also, the whole peghead is a little asymmetrical (after accounting for the missing part), which makes me think it was hand done, rather than machine made. Even the holes in the peghead are not exactly symmetrically place. Close, but not perfect.
Thank you all very much for your time and your help!
Edited by - RoosterMcNut on 12/07/2019 11:00:57
I'd use a No-Knot. This is going to be a labor of love. I don't think think it's a late 1800's. It looks like a Supertone from the 20's. The tailpiece lug looks standard. A No-Knot should come with a standard tailpiece bolt that would replace the j-hook
Edited by - beegee on 12/07/2019 10:01:15
It is a super Tone from the 1920s as BeeGee said.
Looks like a big labor of love, but could also be fun.
Thank you very much, Guys! I agree- sure looks like a Supertone. Great info!
Yes, it's a labor of love. I really enjoy repairing old instruments. It's not about resale value or anything like that.
Edited by - RoosterMcNut on 12/07/2019 10:30:07
Here’s a quick update:
Started repairing the cracked peg head and got a lot off the corrosion off the hardware:
So far, your wo5rk looks great.
The two holes at the tailpiece are because somewhere along the line the neck angle was changed from original; either the neck had bowed upward or maybe some player just thought he wanted a lower string action. The lower of the holes is the original.
That strange piece you mantion is not strange at all, but is a vital part of the benjo. It is the "end bolt" that screws into the dowelstick (the square rod that passes through the rim from the neck to tailpiece) to keep the neck and dowelstick anchored to the rim and also holds the bolt which the tailpiece attaches to. There should also be a part that fits the dowelstick inside the rim at the neck end to keep that end tight to the rim. There are many variations of this part, so I'd check google images of Supertone banjos to see just exactly what that part looks like (unless, of course, you have that part). I suspect it should be a triangular metal piece that screws into the dowelstick with two wooden wedges pressed between it and the inside of the rim.
You asked, "What type of geared tuners would you folks recommend for this project? I would like them to look as old school as possible."
Pegheds tuners look exactly like fiddle pegs, have a 4:1 reduction ratio, and definitely look "old school". You have to make a judgement call about how much you want to spend vs. keeping the old / original vibe.
Symmetry is over-rated, I appreciate me a bit of asymmetry once in a while.
'Gourd?' 9 hrs
'Early Nitty gritty B,G.' 11 hrs