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the dating game: 7 string slotted peghead banjo

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Feb 17, 2020 - 7:05:08 PM
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1005 posts since 3/21/2013

So this thing has had me going back and forth all week in terms of dating the details.
It appears to be a UK made 7 string banjo, with slot headstock and slotted 5th tuner. The hardware looks like square nuts, rounded bolt to tie tailpiece on and slightly bent J-hooks which make me think earlier... however the metal rim and rough cast shoes make me think later. I cant tell if some of the frets were flush frets, and then later frets added on... also, the seller told me the head was approx 13-14" (not sure if they guessed wrong, or if this is indeed the measurements).

Curiosity got the better of me, so it's being shipped down from canada and I need to look into the best way to repair the dowel stick. But I am curious what experts might think in regards to the approx date of the given parts. I know the pictures are not the best and I will post more details once it arrives.

Thanks in advance for any opinions!
 








Edited by - jun3machina on 02/17/2020 19:05:49

Feb 17, 2020 - 7:23:14 PM
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762 posts since 5/19/2018

From the tuners and the hardware, I would put a guess of late 1870’s to early 1880’s.

Feb 17, 2020 - 9:21:41 PM
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93 posts since 10/8/2018

quote:
Originally posted by jun3machina

So this thing has had me going back and forth all week in terms of dating the details.
It appears to be a UK made 7 string banjo, with slot headstock and slotted 5th tuner. The hardware looks like square nuts, rounded bolt to tie tailpiece on and slightly bent J-hooks which make me think earlier... however the metal rim and rough cast shoes make me think later. I cant tell if some of the frets were flush frets, and then later frets added on... also, the seller told me the head was approx 13-14" (not sure if they guessed wrong, or if this is indeed the measurements).

Curiosity got the better of me, so it's being shipped down from canada and I need to look into the best way to repair the dowel stick. But I am curious what experts might think in regards to the approx date of the given parts. I know the pictures are not the best and I will post more details once it arrives.

Thanks in advance for any opinions!
 


I was watching this one as well. I was also thinking the tuners reminded me of U.K. banjos, but the hardware on the rim looked Buckbee/Dobson.... looks like only 12 or 14 bow tie shoes which makes me think early 1880's or late 1870's but I'm no expert. The case was pretty cool. Look forward to some more pics when you get it.

Feb 18, 2020 - 11:26:43 AM

1005 posts since 3/21/2013

ok, thank you! i wasnt as far off as I thought. The tuners started to throw me and I felt like they were later and I may be misjudging the age and it wasn't as old as I thought. I did some more searching last nite and managed to find a few unmarked examples of similar banjos from NY manufacturer. So now I really am not sure where it may have originated. The case is very similar to a Tunbridgeware banjo I have which came from a museum. I think I am most curious to see how big the head actually is. I dont think I have ever come across a 13-14" metal rim before. I am going to work on making a tailpiece so I can string it up when it arrives

Feb 18, 2020 - 1:02:01 PM
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1000 posts since 3/1/2012

Artfactorum, on Etsy, sells large diameter skin head heads. 18 inch diameter (and you need extra to work the hide onto the rim) is $19.99 plus shipping.
I've used them several times.

Feb 19, 2020 - 3:31:26 AM
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m06

England

8384 posts since 10/5/2006

I'll come in and second the 1870's or (possibly) early 1880's date. Doesn't have features that suggests earlier than that to me. Probably originally fretless with frets as a later add-on?

The crown gear tuners look to be in good shape. On a similar age banjo I had to have a crown gear remade due to a damaged tooth. So that's a bonus. The floral engraving is typical of the period too. I have sets with oak-leaves/acorn engraving. The Phillips or cross head screws aren't 1870 though! Counter-sunk single slot screws were more usual. If you remove one of the modern screws you may reveal a small counter-sunk hole. Much neater.

Nice case too. I have 7-string with an original, black-painted beize-lined case but that one is coffin-shaped. The iron handle and clasp hardware can also be a date clue.

Did you pick it up in the US? At first glance I would've said English-made too, though I don't know what you've seen that is similar from the NY area? 7-string certainly leans toward what was going on musically this side of the pond. But we have to remember that there was a huge trans-Atlantic to-and-fro of people, objects and ideas at that time.

Edited by - m06 on 02/19/2020 03:45:20

Feb 19, 2020 - 8:01:40 AM

1005 posts since 3/21/2013

quote:
Originally posted by m06

I'll come in and second the 1870's or (possibly) early 1880's date. Doesn't have features that suggests earlier than that to me. Probably originally fretless with frets as a later add-on?

The crown gear tuners look to be in good shape. On a similar age banjo I had to have a crown gear remade due to a damaged tooth. So that's a bonus. The floral engraving is typical of the period too. I have sets with oak-leaves/acorn engraving. The Phillips or cross head screws aren't 1870 though! Counter-sunk single slot screws were more usual. If you remove one of the modern screws you may reveal a small counter-sunk hole. Much neater.

Nice case too. I have 7-string with an original, black-painted beize-lined case but that one is coffin-shaped. The iron handle and clasp hardware can also be a date clue.

Did you pick it up in the US? At first glance I would've said English-made too, though I don't know what you've seen that is similar from the NY area? 7-string certainly leans toward what was going on musically this side of the pond. But we have to remember that there was a huge trans-Atlantic to-and-fro of people, objects and ideas at that time.


Yes, glad you brought those screws up. I noticed that too. I wonder if i could find period specific screws on ebay, or if they were swapped for a reason (stripped out hole or something)

This is coming to me from Canada. Near Toronto, so close to NY. So it very well could have come from either side of the pond. Berninzio had two, not identical, but unmarked and with the slot head, i found on google that they attributed to a maker in NY. Biggest difference was probably the fact this has a metal pot and those were wooden.

Feb 29, 2020 - 1:14:23 PM
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1005 posts since 3/21/2013

arrived today, will work on additional pictures.
things to fix:
missing 2 hooks
dowel needs replacement or repair.
new head

The pot is actually 11.5" acress diameter, a lil bit more with the tension hoops. Appears to me spun metal, cut to fit the neck and round brass tailpiece hardware, so i think it's original. Some of the frets have been replaced with heavy brass frets. it appears it was originally flush fret, so thats a bit of a shame and I am going to look into maybe returning it to a flush fret. Head repair with dowels, looks old. A bit dissappointed as I has hoping there were no more breaks, but the repair looks old and solid so here's to hoping it is problem free.

head is very old thick calf but needs to be replaced as the hooks have worn into the edges.

Should be a fun lil project. I think the dowel is going to be the hardest repair for me. so any tips, lemme know

Feb 29, 2020 - 2:30:14 PM
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6853 posts since 8/28/2013

For the dowel, look into "scarf joints" to add wood at the broken end. That type of joint is less difficult than many other methods, will save the majority of the original dowel, and is actually quite strong.

Edited by - G Edward Porgie on 02/29/2020 14:32:29

Feb 29, 2020 - 5:18:05 PM

1005 posts since 3/21/2013

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

For the dowel, look into "scarf joints" to add wood at the broken end. That type of joint is less difficult than many other methods, will save the majority of the original dowel, and is actually quite strong.


Thank you!

Feb 29, 2020 - 5:27:38 PM

1005 posts since 3/21/2013

Theres a Roman numeral 7 (VII) carved in the dowel stick as well as engraved in the pot. Not sure if this was just to let the builders know this was a 7 string or what...








Feb 29, 2020 - 5:30:07 PM

1005 posts since 3/21/2013

A few of the case hardware. The lining is shredding so I'll probably remove entirely, regular some of the splits and re-line in a mohair or velvet. It fits this banjo quite perfectly




 

Feb 29, 2020 - 5:33:38 PM
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6853 posts since 8/28/2013

I think the "7" was just to match a particular neck to a particular pot, and had nothing to do with the number of strings. The number could just as easliy be "3," "9," or or "12" depending on how many banjos the company produced that day.

Feb 29, 2020 - 8:14:34 PM

1005 posts since 3/21/2013

A few more pictures. Appears the neck had a wood shim...or something.








Mar 1, 2020 - 6:46:32 AM
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1317 posts since 4/25/2007

Could well be English. JHB parts ? I've seen a few with that tailpiece dowel end fixing.
You could repair the dowel and then just veneer over the whole thing. You may have to adjust the pot where the dowel passes through slightly.
Date maybe around 1890 but hard to tell. The earlier ones tend not to be spun over.

Mar 2, 2020 - 6:16:15 AM
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m06

England

8384 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior


Date maybe around 1890 but hard to tell. The earlier ones tend not to be spun over.


Spun over rims were not that uncommon, certainly from the 1870’s. This is borne out in newspaper music store advertisements and private ‘for sale’ ads from the period. 

Mar 2, 2020 - 10:10:12 AM
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1000 posts since 3/1/2012

Are you liable to fix that rimstick? Might be easier just to heat up that hide glue with a hairdryer, remove that rimstick, and put in a replacement.

Mar 2, 2020 - 7:25:08 PM
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6853 posts since 8/28/2013

I've reglued dowelsticks in the past, and it's not always easy. The heat can have little affect on a deep joint, so the glue sometimes doesn't soften enough. There can be a bit of clean-up involved after the dowelstick is finally out, and many of these were not well fitted in the first place, making proper neck alignment tricky. I've seen dowelstick mortise and tenon jounts where the tenon had been shaved in order to angle the neck properly, and gaps that had been filled with gobs of glue. Another factor to consider is if there are any factory marki9ngs on the original dowelstick that should be saved.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't simply replace the dowelstick, but I think you should know some of the difficulties that can sometimes occur.

Mar 2, 2020 - 9:24:27 PM

1005 posts since 3/21/2013

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

I've reglued dowelsticks in the past, and it's not always easy. The heat can have little affect on a deep joint, so the glue sometimes doesn't soften enough. There can be a bit of clean-up involved after the dowelstick is finally out, and many of these were not well fitted in the first place, making proper neck alignment tricky. I've seen dowelstick mortise and tenon jounts where the tenon had been shaved in order to angle the neck properly, and gaps that had been filled with gobs of glue. Another factor to consider is if there are any factory marki9ngs on the original dowelstick that should be saved.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't simply replace the dowelstick, but I think you should know some of the difficulties that can sometimes occur.


agree with this. Ive reset 2 dowels. and exactly as you say. sometimes its much more work dealing with a primitve joint fit, etc...plus this is nice and tight and fixed well with the neck, id rather not mess with it. I like to keep things as original as I can and I am rather fond of the VII mark. I think joining it is the easier fix in this case

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