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Another Lyre Peghead Example

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Feb 6, 2020 - 5:19:38 PM
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116 posts since 8/24/2008

Recently ran across the discussion about a lyre peghead banjo someone found in an antique store and thought this might be of some interest. I've owned this instrument for 35 years, having rescued it from a pile of items heading to the junk. Remarkably all of the original hardware (except tailpiece and pegs) was intact and the neck was still attached to the rim.

The rim is a single ply, red paint on the interior and a faux rosewood finish on the exterior. The neck has turnings just above the heel, suggesting it was produced in part on a lathe; heel is stacked. Hardware is extremely delicate: very thin hooks with simple brass threaded ferrules serving as nuts; shoes are stamped brass clips that pierce the rim and are tacked in place with brass brads.

For years this simply hung on the wall as it was found, but Jim Hartel was kind enough to fit it with a head, make a tailpiece and fit some pegs, thereby making it playable again.


Feb 6, 2020 - 5:55:48 PM

53992 posts since 12/14/2005

Let us raise our glasses in a toast to Mr. 51 for rescuing it, and Mr. Hartel for making it playable.


Feb 6, 2020 - 8:16:47 PM

782 posts since 5/19/2018

That is an incredible instrument. Not the first banjo I’ve heard of being moments away from being thrown in a dumpster. Glad that fate had it that you got in it’s path to a potential final demise.

Would love to see a few more detailed photos when you have time to post them.

Feb 7, 2020 - 7:22:29 AM
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beegee

USA

21540 posts since 7/6/2005

I wonder if they turned the neck on a lathe and then bisected it and shaped the 5th string profile and peghead and heel in the flat?. Way cool banjo

Feb 7, 2020 - 7:49:15 AM

5071 posts since 9/21/2007

This is a SUPER COOL early banjo!!! You did a service to American history by saving it.

Re the neck carving. This table leg aesthetic was fairly common for early banjo necks. I have often tried to envision how they would turn it and then cut the neck out. My conclusion is that it was carved to look like it was turned but not actually turned.

But I don't know for sure.

It is a cool detail.

That style of thin folded hardware and painted rim is often seen on Boucher banjos. Many people who have not seen original banjos (but have seen the reproductions) can not fully realize just how thin and cheap (and and sometimes poorly assembled) they were.

I do not have the experience or authority to say who made this banjo but it does share some details with early Boucher banjos. Pete Ross or George Wunderlich could tell us.

Feb 7, 2020 - 8:13:01 AM

782 posts since 5/19/2018

I can’t tell from the pictures, but it almost looks as if the fifth string assembly is mitred to the neck. If that is the case, it would be possible to turn the neck blank on a lathe, cut it on center and in essence have two necks to work with.

If at all possible, if you post more photos, please post detailed photos of the area of the neck around the 5th string.

As said by many, exceptionally cool banjo.

Feb 7, 2020 - 9:58:41 AM

1004 posts since 3/1/2012

Love, Love, Love these early instruments!

Feb 7, 2020 - 10:45:34 AM

1320 posts since 4/25/2007

Excellent post. A friend of mine, a professional wood turner, recently made a couple of banjo necks turned from one piece of timber. Next time i speak with him I'll ask if he photographed the project.

Feb 7, 2020 - 11:44:06 AM
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116 posts since 8/24/2008

Had no idea this would generate so much interest. Thanks to all who have responded. I've attached a couple of additional photos and will take more as time allows. The fifth string section isn't mitred in--it's simply carved in place. Re: the decoration on the back of the neck, I showed this several years ago to a woodturner who was quite certain it was something he could do, and Jim Hartel was of a similar opinion; it certainly looks like it was done on a lathe rather than carved, given how smooth the surfaces are, but I doubt we'll ever know for sure.

I failed to mention how remarkably lightweight this banjo is: 29 ounces on my digital scale. It's also remarkably loud. Jim Bollman, Peter Szego and George Wunderlich have all seen this over the years, but no one has yet had a firm opinion as to its origins.


Feb 7, 2020 - 5:50:14 PM

bubbalouie

Canada

13451 posts since 9/27/2007
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If you split a 4x4 of neck wood & glue it back together with a piece of paper in between you could add the turned bit & carve the rest of it after you split it apart. Making 2 necks,  

It's different that the center of the lyre isn't cut out. but cool. Would make a nice spot for an inlay.

Feb 7, 2020 - 5:56:27 PM
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6912 posts since 8/28/2013

The builder certainly didn't turn the peghead, 5th string peg area, or the compound curves near the neck heel on a lathe. That makes me think the "table leg" feature was most likely carved.

Feb 7, 2020 - 6:11:44 PM

bubbalouie

Canada

13451 posts since 9/27/2007
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You leave the peg head as a block & saw that out after. 

Edited by - bubbalouie on 02/07/2020 18:15:02

Feb 8, 2020 - 3:03:32 AM

1577 posts since 1/13/2012

Checking the ornamented area with a gauge to see if it is a perfect radius would help indicate whether it was turned or carved. This one looks like it may have been turned to me. Others I've seen, like Joel says, appeared to have been carved in the style of a turning.

Any asymmetrical shaping of the heel, peghead, ect would not preclude turning just the ornamented section of the neck.

Andy

Feb 8, 2020 - 6:38:20 AM
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6912 posts since 8/28/2013

My point was simply that it would seem somewhat silly to use a lathe on such a small portion of the neck since so many other features wouldn't have been turned. Anyone who could create that headstock could surely carve a couple of grooves while he was at it.

I also note some inconsistencies in the grooves, but that could have been the results of an inexperienced operator on a treadle powered, low speed machine, which would have been the norm when this banjo was made.

Feb 8, 2020 - 7:36:04 AM

bubbalouie

Canada

13451 posts since 9/27/2007
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Having worked in a turning shop for 3 years I can see how it could be done but maybe not with the equipment of the day. You'd have to miss the peg head, fifth string &  heel.

I do love the design! 

Feb 8, 2020 - 8:28:51 AM
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mbanza

USA

2188 posts since 9/16/2007

That would be easily turned on even a rather primitive lathe. Leave peghead block square, turn neck profile leaving a boss at fifth bump, turn beads. Rip in half and form peghead and heel, carve fifth bump.

Feb 8, 2020 - 9:45:12 AM
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1004 posts since 3/1/2012

So...I passed this thread along to a banjo builder in England who is interested in this, and today I discovered that I am now officially 'notorious' internationally! How cool is that!


 

Feb 8, 2020 - 10:49:52 AM

1489 posts since 2/12/2009
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I met John at a Clarke Buehling gig in London last year and, he is a food guy and makes cool banjos, Jim, most banjo folk in the UK know who you are, notorious ? well, I am not sure about that !

Feb 8, 2020 - 11:09:49 AM

1004 posts since 3/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by spoonfed

I met John at a Clarke Buehling gig in London last year and, he is a food guy and makes cool banjos, Jim, most banjo folk in the UK know who you are, notorious ? well, I am not sure about that !


OK...now I'm worried...

Feb 9, 2020 - 12:25:36 AM

1320 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by IMBanjoJim
quote:
Originally posted by spoonfed

I met John at a Clarke Buehling gig in London last year and, he is a food guy and makes cool banjos, Jim, most banjo folk in the UK know who you are, notorious ? well, I am not sure about that !


OK...now I'm worried...


Consider it an unofficial badge of honour Jim.

Feb 9, 2020 - 8:36:36 AM

1004 posts since 3/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior
quote:
Originally posted by IMBanjoJim
quote:
Originally posted by spoonfed

I met John at a Clarke Buehling gig in London last year and, he is a food guy and makes cool banjos, Jim, most banjo folk in the UK know who you are, notorious ? well, I am not sure about that !


OK...now I'm worried...


Consider it an unofficial badge of honour Jim.


Any monetary rewards?

Feb 9, 2020 - 9:15:32 AM

1320 posts since 4/25/2007

Sadly it's just an honorary position Jim

Feb 9, 2020 - 2:01:08 PM

1004 posts since 3/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior

Sadly it's just an honorary position Jim


 

Not even a Dukedom? I could use a castle to hold the banjos.

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