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Feb 25, 2020 - 10:19:06 AM
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316 posts since 3/25/2009

I bought a 1929 TB-3 ball bearing Mastertone in the late 70's. Over the years I have gotten her out and tried to get the set up right but could never get much volume, so she mostly sat In her case. Recently I saw a post here of a member looking for a bb, so I got her out to clean up and maybe sell. I looked up threads here re bb set up and for the first time had all the bearings at the right height (I have all the washers, springs and bearings). This information plus the use of a drum dial for the first time on this banjo and results were amazing. It's louder, cleaner, brighter, generally a great sounding banjo. Once again, thank you BHO and all the information shared here. Oh, I didn't sell and am playing her a lot.

Feb 25, 2020 - 10:32:54 AM

12667 posts since 10/30/2008

Just for the record, Ball Bearing Mastertones were made in 1925 and 1926. You can look up your FON stamped in the rim on Banjophiles and find out which year it is. FONs for 1929 begin with approx. 9251-XX.   Ball bearings end at approx. 8542-XX in 1926/27.

I play a 1926 Granada and love it!

Edited by - The Old Timer on 02/25/2020 10:38:11

Feb 25, 2020 - 12:25:12 PM
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774 posts since 5/19/2018

Ball Bearing Mastertone banjos are the banjos that Gibson made when quality and cost of production was not a factor.

Pretty much anything made after them were built to reduce costs of production.

Granted, Gibson came up with some great ideas and beautiful and incredible sounding instruments, but in regards to detail and quality of parts, the ballbearing instruments are pretty much at the top of the pack.

Enjoy your “new” old banjo. Funny what a few decades in a closet can do for an instruments sound...

Feb 25, 2020 - 1:26:03 PM



316 posts since 3/25/2009

Thanks, Old Timer, for the date clarification. It's been years (decades) since I looked up the number and it apparently got younger the older my memory became.

Feb 25, 2020 - 1:49:09 PM



316 posts since 3/25/2009

8527-92. Right you are, OT

Feb 25, 2020 - 6:42:58 PM
Players Union Member



5142 posts since 10/12/2009

You may have had the year wrong, but the important thing is you got it set-up and sounding good!

Love my bb, 1925 Style 3, 8069-73, with a Bill Sullivan 5 string neck on it. Great banjo!

Edited by - RioStat on 02/25/2020 18:43:53

Feb 26, 2020 - 5:27:34 AM



489 posts since 8/18/2010

Congratulations on your re-discovery! I just acquired a 1925 BB tenor that I’m keeping as a tenor. I’m waiting for a set of ball bearings to arrived for it. I hope I will be able to find a set up that really makes me as happy with it as you are with yours. It’s neat to be able to be 62 years old and still feel like a kid at Christmas time.

Feb 26, 2020 - 5:33:51 AM

1338 posts since 10/5/2006

Interesting note - in my records, 8527 was the last production batch of Ball Bearing pots, 8528 being the first FON for cast raised head tonerings.

Feb 26, 2020 - 7:01:21 PM

369 posts since 12/14/2008

You can also do some interesting things with ball bearings like take the bearings and washers out and set the ring right on the rim. You can also flip the ring upside down and it’s more of a flathead.

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