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Dec 15, 2019 - 12:26:08 PM
795 posts since 3/22/2012

I bought this from Andy's Banjos in Kent a few years ago for around £300 and I'm relaying what he told me about it.

He said it was probably from the 1890's and likely to have been made by Buckbee. The pot has a shell of nickel plated brass over unidentifiable wood. Mahogany neck with a thin veneer rosewood or possibly ebony fingerboard. Fret markers are boxwood and rosewood (or ebony). Tailpiece possibly original, but tuners replacement. 38 hooks and brackets, not all matching.

I've no reason to doubt any of this and the banjo is in pretty good condition. Nylon strings and pretty loud. The neck is pretty narrow and I find that makes it hard for me to play so it spends too much time in the case. But it's full of charm and I like it being around. I like to think what stories it could tell.

From basic Google searching it seems WTB Sterling would have been the retailer? It's clearly a very basic and undecorated banjo compared with others with the same trade mark.

I've no particular question, but I thought people might to see it. I wonder if the rather crude neck fixing is original? There's no sign of any other method having been used.

All comments welcome.


Edited by - Winged Words on 12/15/2019 12:39:53

Dec 15, 2019 - 12:29 PM

795 posts since 3/22/2012

Dec 15, 2019 - 12:33:05 PM

795 posts since 3/22/2012

Dec 15, 2019 - 1:58:55 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22740 posts since 6/25/2005

Sterling was a brand name of the Tonk Bros. music house, so Buckbee is quite likely based on that and the appearance of the banjo.

Dec 15, 2019 - 10:22:04 PM

795 posts since 3/22/2012

Thanks Bill.

I've now done what I should have done before I posted of course and used the search function here. The results were familiar, so I must have done it when I first acquired the banjo.

Enjoy the pics. I really must play it more.

Dec 16, 2019 - 2:22:52 AM

385 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Winged Words

Thanks Bill.

I've now done what I should have done before I posted of course and used the search function here. The results were familiar, so I must have done it when I first acquired the banjo.

Enjoy the pics. I really must play it more.


Hi Geoff,

I have a fretless "Buckbee" with the same marquetry flush frets and the same pebble finished pot. 

Of course it's not marked, but has different branding with a large capital C logo. Photos on my user page.

Here's a video of what it sounds like. I really like it. https://youtu.be/saiQ8cosRyc

Mine has a 3/8"  brass tube tone ring which just sits on the rim. 

There was a long debate on here about Cubley using Buckbee parts at times, but nothing conclusive.

Anyway, thanks for sharing!

Andy

Dec 16, 2019 - 4:41:34 AM
likes this

385 posts since 1/30/2019

Some photos of mine. Same neck attachment, apparently typical of Buckbee. Same maple flush frets. Same heel profile.
I like mine. To play, and to be around. The fret board has tiny bits of wear, showing it was played mostly in standard G tuning.
My research also turned up a 6 or 7 string also with a Sterling logo, so I guess made for UK market.
Enjoy it.


Dec 16, 2019 - 6:35:33 AM

4927 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Andyrhydycreuau

Some photos of mine. Same neck attachment, apparently typical of Buckbee. Same maple flush frets. Same heel profile.
I like mine. To play, and to be around. The fret board has tiny bits of wear, showing it was played mostly in standard G tuning.
My research also turned up a 6 or 7 string also with a Sterling logo, so I guess made for UK market.
Enjoy it.


gCGBD or just "standard" most likely.  "Bass Elevated" or "Bass to D" was secondary and many people actually avoided raising the bass even if it was noted on the music (I am one of those).

Bass Elevated only became the primary "tuning" after the popularity of Bluegrass' use of Hawaiian Guitar picks and wire strings.

Dec 16, 2019 - 7:46:08 AM

385 posts since 1/30/2019

That makes sense Joel, the wear is on 1st 2nd and 3rd strings, in all the positions you'd guess at with those strings tuned to GBD. No knowing at what point in its 130+ year history the wear happened though.
Just nice to imagine other hands through time pushing down and holding notes just like I do. Going over scales, exercises and tunes. And people smiling. Nice thoughts that are nice to live with.
I'm trying to learn a jig on my tenor right now. It's driving me (and my partner) a bit nuts. Guess banjos have always done this too!

Dec 16, 2019 - 7:52:13 AM

4927 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Andyrhydycreuau

That makes sense Joel, the wear is on 1st 2nd and 3rd strings, in all the positions you'd guess at with those strings tuned to GBD. No knowing at what point in its 130+ year history the wear happened though.
Just nice to imagine other hands through time pushing down and holding notes just like I do. Going over scales, exercises and tunes. And people smiling. Nice thoughts that are nice to live with.
I'm trying to learn a jig on my tenor right now. It's driving me (and my partner) a bit nuts. Guess banjos have always done this too!


Cool!  Wear patterns are something I always look at with old banjos.  Any banjo that survived the "folk era" unplayed will almost always show wear consistent with "standard" tuning playing in the three natural keys of C, G, and F.

There is usually wear to the back of the neck in the first position where the thumb is placed as well.  I'm not sure when the thumb over the top grip became common but I think it was later and into the "hillbilly music" era.

Dec 16, 2019 - 9:52:16 AM

795 posts since 3/22/2012

Andy
I haven’t had anything apart to check for a tone ring. It was nicely set up when I got it and I don’t plan to spoil it! I do like that tailpiece. I guess the fret markers are most likely maple, but I thought I was told boxwood

At some time I need to spend some concentrated playing time over a week or so with it: my intonation sucks. I’ve logged a lot of hours on cello and fretless bass over the years, but this short scale (630mm 24 7/8”) is a challenge. The narrow nut 30mm 1 3/16” I can cope with.

Thanks for the interest.

Dec 16, 2019 - 10:37:49 AM

385 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Winged Words

Andy
I haven’t had anything apart to check for a tone ring. It was nicely set up when I got it and I don’t plan to spoil it! I do like that tailpiece. I guess the fret markers are most likely maple, but I thought I was told boxwood

At some time I need to spend some concentrated playing time over a week or so with it: my intonation sucks. I’ve logged a lot of hours on cello and fretless bass over the years, but this short scale (630mm 24 7/8”) is a challenge. The narrow nut 30mm 1 3/16” I can cope with.

Thanks for the interest.


Cheers Geoff. 

I think the trick I learned is to use a tuning that gives lots of open string options, and hardly ever go over 5th (max 7th) fret. Not that I find it easy. Some tunes work better with nylon or nylgut strings too. And yes take time to get to know it.

I'm learning tenor now. Couldn't be more different!

All the best,

Andy

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