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Kasuga Deluxe 5 string banjo

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Feb 26, 2020 - 9:18:30 AM
6 posts since 2/26/2020

I have been playing a Kasuga Deluxe 5 string banjo for 24+ years and wondered a little about the year of manufacture and model - it has the following etched/drawn on the back of the head CV5 7GP

Any ideas what that refers to?

Chhers

Tony

Feb 26, 2020 - 9:21:29 AM

6 posts since 2/26/2020

think i've just worked it out - doh is a UK postcode for Coventry

Feb 26, 2020 - 9:54:32 AM

10532 posts since 6/2/2008

Probably put there by the original or other previous owner for identification. These things had no serial numbers.

Decoration and appointments will help to place it in time from early 1970s to mid decade, '75 or so. Bowtie inlay, dark binding, friction tuners in the peghead would be earliest 70s. Dark binding, boxy imitation 50s Gibson tuners, 72-73.  White binding, 74-75. Throughout their production history, they tended to have medium color mahogany necks and rosewood veneered resonators. Decoration on the back started as a 4-piece diamond doily pattern. Don't know what elses to call it. Looked like an inlay, but was a thin decal or onlay buried in the finish.  Some of the Kasuga-made brands added a pearl filigree border around the backside.  Flanges had holes composed of multiple ovals. Somewhat similar to later Deering. It's possible some later flanges were Gibson copies.

Besides producing these pre-Masterclones with the Kasuga name, Kasuga made identical banjos with names including Aria, Alvarez, Dorado, Ventura and some others I can't recall at the moment.

I don't think they made the bowtie version after 75. That's about the time the Japanese banjos became outright Gibson copies in more design and decorative detail.

Post some pictures of your banjo and we can better guess what you have.

Feb 26, 2020 - 10:23 AM
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53939 posts since 12/14/2005

Might we see several pictures?
The more you show. the more we can tell.

Front, back, side, inside, peg head, back of peg head....

I owned a Kasuga made "DORADO", sold it to my buddy Mike Greylak ( also a HangOut member).

Have been hinting, nagging, and whining to get it back, for more than a quarter of a century.

When I got it, I took it apart for a thorough cleaning, and, not really KNOWING what I was doing, I accidentally put it back together so that it is one of the BEST sounding banjos I ever had.

Feb 27, 2020 - 8:59:13 AM

6 posts since 2/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory

Probably put there by the original or other previous owner for identification. These things had no serial numbers.

Decoration and appointments will help to place it in time from early 1970s to mid decade, '75 or so. Bowtie inlay, dark binding, friction tuners in the peghead would be earliest 70s. Dark binding, boxy imitation 50s Gibson tuners, 72-73.  White binding, 74-75. Throughout their production history, they tended to have medium color mahogany necks and rosewood veneered resonators. Decoration on the back started as a 4-piece diamond doily pattern. Don't know what elses to call it. Looked like an inlay, but was a thin decal or onlay buried in the finish.  Some of the Kasuga-made brands added a pearl filigree border around the backside.  Flanges had holes composed of multiple ovals. Somewhat similar to later Deering. It's possible some later flanges were Gibson copies.

Besides producing these pre-Masterclones with the Kasuga name, Kasuga made identical banjos with names including Aria, Alvarez, Dorado, Ventura and some others I can't recall at the moment.

I don't think they made the bowtie version after 75. That's about the time the Japanese banjos became outright Gibson copies in more design and decorative detail.

Post some pictures of your banjo and we can better guess what you have.





 

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:08:14 AM

6 posts since 2/26/2020

it has a a pearl filigree border around the backside and deluxe on the peg head - sound has improved over years


quote:Originally posted by Old HickoryProbably put there by the original or other previous owner for identification. These things had no serial numbers.

Decoration and appointments will help to place it in time from early 1970s to mid decade, '75 or so. Bowtie inlay, dark binding, friction tuners in the peghead would be earliest 70s. Dark binding, boxy imitation 50s Gibson tuners, 72-73. White binding, 74-75. Throughout their production history, they tended to have medium color mahogany necks and rosewood veneered resonators. Decoration on the back started as a 4-piece diamond doily pattern. Don't know what elses to call it. Looked like an inlay, but was a thin decal or onlay buried in the finish. Some of the Kasuga-made brands added a pearl filigree border around the backside. Flanges had holes composed of multiple ovals. Somewhat similar to later Deering. It's possible some later flanges were Gibson copies.

Besides producing these pre-Masterclones with the Kasuga name, Kasuga made identical banjos with names including Aria, Alvarez, Dorado, Ventura and some others I can't recall at the moment.

I don't think they made the bowtie version after 75. That's about the time the Japanese banjos became outright Gibson copies in more design and decorative detail.

Post some pictures of your banjo and we can better guess what you have.

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:08:41 AM

6 posts since 2/26/2020

Thank you

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:11:21 AM

6 posts since 2/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by teepee1961

it has a a pearl filigree border around the backside and deluxe on the peg head - sound has improved over years


quote:Originally posted by Old HickoryProbably put there by the original or other previous owner for identification. These things had no serial numbers.

Decoration and appointments will help to place it in time from early 1970s to mid decade, '75 or so. Bowtie inlay, dark binding, friction tuners in the peghead would be earliest 70s. Dark binding, boxy imitation 50s Gibson tuners, 72-73. White binding, 74-75. Throughout their production history, they tended to have medium color mahogany necks and rosewood veneered resonators. Decoration on the back started as a 4-piece diamond doily pattern. Don't know what elses to call it. Looked like an inlay, but was a thin decal or onlay buried in the finish. Some of the Kasuga-made brands added a pearl filigree border around the backside. Flanges had holes composed of multiple ovals. Somewhat similar to later Deering. It's possible some later flanges were Gibson copies.

Besides producing these pre-Masterclones with the Kasuga name, Kasuga made identical banjos with names including Aria, Alvarez, Dorado, Ventura and some others I can't recall at the moment.

I don't think they made the bowtie version after 75. That's about the time the Japanese banjos became outright Gibson copies in more design and decorative detail.

Post some pictures of your banjo and we can better guess what you have.





Feb 27, 2020 - 9:48:04 AM
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10532 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by teepee1961
it has a a pearl filigree border around the backside and deluxe on the peg head - sound has improved over years

Thanks for sharing photos. 1970s Japan. No doubt about it. Boxy imitation Gibson/Kluson tuners say 1972 or later. White binding says 74/75 to me. I could be wrong.

I sold a "Ventura" version of that neck here on the Hangout last year.

I don't know this for a fact, but it seems the "Deluxe" designation on truss rod covers went with banjos that had the painted peghead backside with fleur-de-lis inlay/decal and the filigree/floral/whatever pattern circling the backside of the resonator.  Maybe more extensive engraving on the armrest.  Some had cheap "gold" plating. Absent those decorations, the truss rod cover either said "Custom" or nothing, though it usually had the seahorse engraving like yours.

Where the tailpiece on yours has a butterfly, the one on my parted-out Ventura was a bumblebee. My 1972 Aria had a deer's head on the tailpiece and just a little engraving on the armrest.

As to yours sounding better over the years, that's good to hear. Even lower end instruments can improve with age. Thing with these Kasuga banjos is the tone rings were probably pot metal, slop-fit onto lightweight plywood rims. The tops of the rims were beveled and protruded up into the underside of the tone ring. The lower inside edge of the tone ring did not sit on the rim. On some models -- possibly the "Deluxe" version it now occurs to me -- there was a brass rod between the tone ring and rim.  Neither of the Kasugas I've owned had this, but I've seen photos online and other owners have confirmed it. So maybe yours has a tone hoop helping the sound.

Anyway, with a tight head and one of today's boutique bridges, these things can sound very good. They lack a bit in volume, but their tone is pleasant.  They are all the banjo many players will ever need.

Enjoy!

Feb 27, 2020 - 11:58:59 AM

1990 posts since 1/16/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
quote:
Originally posted by teepee1961
it has a a pearl filigree border around the backside and deluxe on the peg head - sound has improved over years

Thanks for sharing photos. 1970s Japan. No doubt about it. Boxy imitation Gibson/Kluson tuners say 1972 or later. White binding says 74/75 to me. I could be wrong.

I sold a "Ventura" version of that neck here on the Hangout last year.

I don't know this for a fact, but it seems the "Deluxe" designation on truss rod covers went with banjos that had the painted peghead backside with fleur-de-lis inlay/decal and the filigree/floral/whatever pattern circling the backside of the resonator.  Maybe more extensive engraving on the armrest.  Some had cheap "gold" plating. Absent those decorations, the truss rod cover either said "Custom" or nothing, though it usually had the seahorse engraving like yours.

Where the tailpiece on yours has a butterfly, the one on my parted-out Ventura was a bumblebee. My 1972 Aria had a deer's head on the tailpiece and just a little engraving on the armrest.

As to yours sounding better over the years, that's good to hear. Even lower end instruments can improve with age. Thing with these Kasuga banjos is the tone rings were probably pot metal, slop-fit onto lightweight plywood rims. The tops of the rims were beveled and protruded up into the underside of the tone ring. The lower inside edge of the tone ring did not sit on the rim. On some models -- possibly the "Deluxe" version it now occurs to me -- there was a brass rod between the tone ring and rim.  Neither of the Kasugas I've owned had this, but I've seen photos online and other owners have confirmed it. So maybe yours has a tone hoop helping the sound.

Anyway, with a tight head and one of today's boutique bridges, these things can sound very good. They lack a bit in volume, but their tone is pleasant.  They are all the banjo many players will ever need.

Enjoy!


I've also got an early/mid 70's Alvarez...of course made by Kasuga. I thought it was lacking after playing it 15 years or so, and finally decided to upgrade it. I swapped the rim for a FQM 3 piece and archtop brass ring....BAM! It's a powerhouse now. 

The original ring was 100% potmetal, zinc...a metal that doesnt carry tone worth a hoot. And the rim was just how you described, plywood with a bevel at the top. No tone hoop under the tone ring....but there were 4 ball bearings that the tone ring was sitting on. Not sure how that effects sound? 

Dow

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