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Feb 18, 2020 - 9:39:17 PM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

I'm enclosing a photo of a portion of the top of the rim of a 1925 TB3 Ball Bearing I just purchased on the Hangout. The gentleman who sold it to me was selling it for a friend and wasn't familiar with these banjos  (truthfully, I'm not either).  This is a zoom-in of one of his photos from the ad.

I've never actually seen this banjo and it won't be shipped to me for another week but I've been studying the photos he took of it. He stated that the hardware (springs, washers, and balls) were missing. When I look at this photo though, the rim holes don't look empty. Do any of you ball bearing owners think you might know what you are seeing in the holes? Are we just looking down to the bottom of the holes? Are they plugged with something else or could that be the top washer of the hardware stack...with only the top ball bearings missing? Can the top washers wedge themselves in there so tight that someone who didn't know what they were looking for might miss them? I know he cleaned this banjo up nicely when he took it apart and nothing apparently came out of the holes in the process. I emailed him about it but by then the banjo was already packed up and sealed in prep for shipping. He says he didn't notice the holes being plugged with anything.

Either way, I'm excited to get this banjo.  It will be my first old Gibson.  I will have my answer soon enough when the banjo arrives next week, but I was just curious if you guys had any opinions based on the photo.

One more: What was the idea behind the shotgun skirts on the 1925s?  It seems to me the holes just press up against the outside of the rim and wouldn't really serve any sonic purpose.  Weight saving?


Feb 18, 2020 - 10:05:28 PM
Players Union Member

eMike

USA

1302 posts since 2/5/2006

I had a 26 BB which I sold a few years back. What I see in your photo is the washers that the ball bearings sit on. The bb tone ring sits on that and then the head over that. It looks like the washers shown are near the top of the holes which would be the case if the springs were in place beneath the washers. If the ball bearings are missing, you should be able to find suitable replacements.

Feb 18, 2020 - 10:52:53 PM
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10652 posts since 10/27/2006

The balls are easy to replace. You do not want to be on the hunt for missing springs.

Feb 18, 2020 - 11:15:16 PM

329 posts since 3/26/2015

Here’s what the assembly should look like... it’s hard to tell on your picture but I am either seeing the washers or empty holes.

As far as the shotgun ring, I believe the original patent paperwork is available via Google perhaps that would shed some light

Chris




 

Feb 19, 2020 - 4:31:35 AM
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774 posts since 5/19/2018
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Having owned a number of Ball Bearing banjos over the years, and also having the great misfortune of dumping all the balls and springs on the floor on the first one I ever took apart, ( it was the 80’s and before internet, who knew anything about these...) it looks like what you are seeing are the tops of all the washers. If that is the case, you are pretty fortunate if the springs are still intact underneath.

The one thing I question is that those washers and springs tend to be pretty free fitting in those holes and will just drop out if you turn the rim over. Yours look tightly wedged in, so I wonder what has caused the wood to swell or why the holes in the rim are reduced in size to make the holes small enough to not to allow the hardware to be able to drop out.

As for the shotgun holes, I believe it was to allow for changes in humidity and temperature to be able to have free access to all areas of the skin head. That and to just look good.

Really love those early Ball Bearing Mastertones.

Feb 19, 2020 - 5:27:34 AM

12667 posts since 10/30/2008

If you learn the proper diameter of ball bearings, looks like you can put 'er right back in business! Someone here will know.

Feb 19, 2020 - 6:41:42 AM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

Thank you all for the responses.  It's my impression as well that it doesn't seem like the photo is looking down to the bottom of the hole.  Whatever is there seems to be right almost at the top of the hole.  Like Alvin mentioned though, from everything I've read about these banjos, you usually have to be very careful not to just dump all those items out of the holes.  It is hard to imagine the gentleman I bought it from being able to take it all apart to clean it up without at least some of those components being loose enough to be evident.  It would be wonderful if it's all there except the ball bearings, but I'm not going to get my hopes up too high.  I'm just hoping those aren't tight plugs of some kind that would keep me from ever restoring it to its original intent.  The comments about the shotgun holes makes sense.  I hadn't thought of the humidity factor.

Chris, I will have to look for the patent on that.  That would be an interesting read.  Thanks also for the pictures.  That's the first shot I've seen of the ring detached with the skirt still attached to it.  Those are actually separable...correct?  That looks just like mine - with the scalloped ring and the shotgun holes.  Serial number is 8049-10.  So I know it's an early one.

There have also been multiple comments I've run across about these banjos (when they are in their intended ball bearing form) being hard to dial in (settings-wise), sensitive to temperature change, and difficult to keep in tune.  I assume that's probably tied to the rim/ring contact point being kind of "floating".  In everyone's experience, do the positive tone effects of using the ball bearing system overweigh just resting the ring right on the top of the rim?  Is there something soundwise to be gained from the ball bearing system making it worthwhile do deal with the tuning/setup sensitivity issue.  Or is it more just the idea of keeping the banjo in its historical intended condition?

Feb 19, 2020 - 6:47:01 AM

2902 posts since 5/29/2011

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

If you learn the proper diameter of ball bearings, looks like you can put 'er right back in business! Someone here will know.


5/16"

Feb 19, 2020 - 7:05:37 AM

Foote

USA

316 posts since 3/25/2009

I have a '29 bb that I bought 40 years ago and hardly have played due to the dead sound. I recently took it apart after reading a thread here on bb set up. My mistake was that I was missing 5 washers that left those bearings lower than the rest. I read that Gibson originally took paper circles from a paper punch to put in the bottom of the low holes (I used old business card). Once I had all the bearings up where the ring wouldn't touch wood and dialed the head to 90, the result was amazing. It is louder and brighter than I thought possible. I'm now playing it a lot. If you have the washers and springs, definitely get the bearings. If that's the case, you got this banjo at a very good price!

Feb 19, 2020 - 8:05:32 AM

Emiel

Austria

9363 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Bribak

That's the first shot I've seen of the ring detached with the skirt still attached to it.  Those are actually separable...correct? 


Yes, that's correct.

Feb 19, 2020 - 8:06:34 AM

Emiel

Austria

9363 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Bribak

 

There have also been multiple comments I've run across about these banjos (when they are in their intended ball bearing form) being hard to dial in (settings-wise), sensitive to temperature change, and difficult to keep in tune.  


I never experienced any of that…

Feb 19, 2020 - 8:24:59 AM

kat eyz

USA

1094 posts since 10/1/2003

My first ballbearing was a 1925 tb3 with an Ed Fuess conversion neck. I played this banjo several years in its original form . I was told by someone that i could turn the tone hoop over and it would give a more "flathead" tone. The tone hoop is a round tube with a slightly smaller round tube attached to the top of the bigger hoop(basically a early form of an arch top ring) .....so when you flip it over the bigger hoop is now on top and when you put the head on it the vibrating surface of the head has become slightly larger "more similar to the surface area of a flathead banjo but not quite" ..i did like the tone better and kept it that way for years . a few years later i traded it for a 1925 ball bearing granada ...i eventually went to flip the tone hoop on the granada and to my surprise it would not flip without issues ...cant remember what was different but it just wouldnt flip . i eventually converted it to a huber flathead ring that was a "drop in" for the 1925 rim. Its still in this manner and it sounds real nice as a flathead. Also back in the early 90's i was told that the design of a ballbearing banjo was to have spring loaded pressure on the "skin" head and when humidity changed the springs tension would keep the head tight . This made since to me so i had no argument with the theory. I was later told that the design had nothing to do with head tightness and was just a "new design called a floating head" ..which i have been told that Lloyd Loar was involved with ...there again makes since to me . Both my ball bearing banjos had all the springs and washers and over the years had them in and out of the banjos for tinkering issues ....the very bottom washers were always a bear to get in and out of the holes ...i would take an awl or and old ice pick to retrieve them ....also the "shotgun skirt " was something that i was always told was called a "beauty ring" that basically was cosmetic.

Feb 19, 2020 - 8:33:02 AM

Emiel

Austria

9363 posts since 1/22/2003

Yes, both on the shotgun and the 1926 ball-bearings, the skirt was called "beauty ring".

Feb 19, 2020 - 8:41:06 AM

6876 posts since 8/28/2013

Although you have to be careful lest you lose the washers and springs, it could be that the person who took the photo was very careful. It does appear that everything except the balls are in place.

Feb 19, 2020 - 8:58:24 AM
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774 posts since 5/19/2018
Online Now

“Beauty Ring” - never heard that before, but I’ll run with it.

In regards to those “Beauty Rings”, there is a very slight variation between the very early ones and the later ones.

The very earliest ones have a 1/16” brass “L” spacer between the Beauty Ring and the wood rim. Only seen it on a few very early Mastertones. Take a look on yours, maybe early enough to have it.

Feb 19, 2020 - 9:09:11 AM
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Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

I really appreciate all your comments and shared information. I'm really anxious to get my hands on it and see what kind of tone I get. I will be leaving it a tenor and playing Irish music on it (tuned GDAE). I play with a thumbpick and one fingerpick. I come from a 5 string bluegrass background and really love that old Gibson tone. I'm hoping I can find some of that with this banjo (even in that GDAE tuning).

Feb 19, 2020 - 9:46:12 AM

774 posts since 5/19/2018
Online Now

I would say for the style of music you play, and how you play your instrument, you made the absolute perfect choice.

Enjoy it and play in good health for many decades to come.

Feb 19, 2020 - 10:07:49 AM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

“Beauty Ring” - never heard that before, but I’ll run with it.

In regards to those “Beauty Rings”, there is a very slight variation between the very early ones and the later ones.

The very earliest ones have a 1/16” brass “L” spacer between the Beauty Ring and the wood rim. Only seen it on a few very early Mastertones. Take a look on yours, maybe early enough to have it.


Interesting.  I will look for that.  It's not apparent in any of the photos.


Feb 19, 2020 - 10:10:11 AM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

I would say for the style of music you play, and how you play your instrument, you made the absolute perfect choice.

Enjoy it and play in good health for many decades to come.


Thank you.  The same to you.

Feb 19, 2020 - 10:29:25 AM

beegee

USA

21537 posts since 7/6/2005
Online Now

There are 2 washers in each hole, one at the bottom , and one atop the spring. The washers have a slightly countersunk hole where the ball bearing is supposed to sit. I restored a shotgun BB and could not find any washers. I had all the springs and most of the original washer. The machine shop department at my local community college made some replacement washers for me, using one of the originals as a pattern. The ball-bearings are easily replaced. The springs are die-springs, but I have never sourced those. You'd have to have an exact measurement and spring tension

Feb 19, 2020 - 11:00:49 AM

774 posts since 5/19/2018
Online Now

Here is a closeup photo of that 1/16” brass “L” ring that sits underneath the now described “Beauty Ring” and sits that BR onto the wood ogee of the pot itself.

The photo is from my Style 4 Mastertone which dates from one of the debut batches of instruments made.


 

Feb 19, 2020 - 11:09:27 AM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

Interesting.  I don't think mine has that.


 

Feb 19, 2020 - 11:59:32 AM

Emiel

Austria

9363 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

Here is a closeup photo of that 1/16” brass “L” ring that sits underneath the now described “Beauty Ring” and sits that BR onto the wood ogee of the pot itself.

The photo is from my Style 4 Mastertone which dates from one of the debut batches of instruments made.


I don't see any "L spacer" or "L ring" in this picture. I'm at a loss… Where is it?

Feb 19, 2020 - 12:26:27 PM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Emiel
quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

Here is a closeup photo of that 1/16” brass “L” ring that sits underneath the now described “Beauty Ring” and sits that BR onto the wood ogee of the pot itself.

The photo is from my Style 4 Mastertone which dates from one of the debut batches of instruments made.


I don't see any "L spacer" or "L ring" in this picture. I'm at a loss… Where is it?


The circled area was what I was thinking.  But actually, that might just be the wood rim with the stain scraped off.  So I'm not sure either.


 

Feb 19, 2020 - 1:22:36 PM
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774 posts since 5/19/2018
Online Now

Drawing of what I am describing is below.

The archived forum that goes into detail on this is here:

banjohangout.org/archive/324831

I really don’t know how many of the early Mastertones have the brass ring. I was told maybe the first 100 or so. I have only seen two over the years, so...


 

Feb 19, 2020 - 1:44:57 PM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

OK, that really clarifies where it should be and in the photos of mine it doesn’t look like mine will have the L spacer. Thanks for the link also. Some good information there.

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