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1920s Ludwig Kenmore resonator removal

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Feb 28, 2020 - 6:05:39 PM
10 posts since 11/1/2015

Hello! I am helping a friend with his grandfather's Ludwig plectrum. He wants to set it up to give to his dad to learn to play, so that's a noble cause. It's in pretty good shape, but it does need a bit of a neck reset so the action can be lowered. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get this resonator off. I removed four wood screws that attach it to the flange, but it is obviously securely attached in the center. No bolt though. Just a plain nickle-plated button that doesn't want to move. Thank you for any guidance.

Paul

Feb 29, 2020 - 1:13:37 AM

464 posts since 1/30/2019

Hi,
I have a Ludwig Kingston tenor.
Which may be similar. I couldn't shift the resonator after taking the four wood screws out either.
The neck / dowel attachment fastens the neck to the resonator on mine. So if yours is top tension like a Kingston it it probably the same. So it's actually the head flange and tone ring that come off, leaving the neck attached to the resonator.
Photo attached. Hope you can see what I mean.
So the strings and tailpiece have to come off, then the flange and head will slide up and back towards where the tailpiece was.
It's an odd set up, but works fine. If you have the bronze flange and tone ring it'll sound sweet. Nice banjo!


Feb 29, 2020 - 2:28:01 AM

53874 posts since 12/14/2005

It would help to see several pictures of the banjo.
The more we know, the better the advice will be.

Feb 29, 2020 - 2:42:04 PM

6853 posts since 8/28/2013

The Kenmore and the Kingston were basically the same banjo. However, thelugwig banjos differed depending on the year of manufacture. Early ones were the usual bracket shoe, hook, and nut configuration, but later models were top-tension. There were most likely other differences, too. That's why photographs are a must.

Also, although Andrew's photo is labeled "Ludwig neck adjuster," it is only a deveice to keep the neck tight to the banjo rim, and does not, in fact, adjust the neck angle.

Feb 29, 2020 - 2:52:48 PM

464 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie


Also, although Andrew's photo is labeled "Ludwig neck adjuster," it is only a deveice to keep the neck tight to the banjo rim, and does not, in fact, adjust the neck angle.


Yes, you're right it is just a neck brace device. And it's a really effective, clever design. It thought it would adjust when I named that photo! 

The OP mentioned neck angle too, so I nearly mentioned that as well. My Kingston neck was a little bit in need of action lowering, despite the neck being dead straight. I changed the mylar head on it for a hide, and the extra thickness of the hide compared to the aluminium band of a remo just nudged the neck back a bit. Job done. But it didn't need much.

Good luck with it, and do show us some more pictures please!

Andy

Feb 29, 2020 - 3:21:29 PM

10 posts since 11/1/2015

Here are some photos.  Interesting detail--someone clamped an old razor between the strings between the bridge and tailpiece.  Maybe as a mute?


Edited by - palousian on 02/29/2020 15:24:50

Feb 29, 2020 - 3:39:55 PM

53874 posts since 12/14/2005

Definitely top tension.

It would be a rather tedious job, but undoing each of those bolts, and lifting the tension hoop and the head off, will allow you to see EXACTLY how the resonator is held on.

Feb 29, 2020 - 4:51:39 PM

7565 posts since 1/7/2005

What is that blue disc on the back of the resonator? Can it be pulled off? It looks like it doesn't belong there. It may be a simple plug to cover the resonator bolt.

With the Ludwigs I've owned, the resonator is held on either by a bolt that is inserted through the back of the resonator--where that blue disk is located. The bolt head is flush with the back and can usually be unscrewed with a standard bracket key. The bolt screws into a bracket that is attached to the center of the dowel stick. Loosen that bolt and the resonator will come off.

There is also another Ludwig attachment design, with four radially-hinged rods inside the resonator. The rods poke into holes in the perimeter of the resonator. They can be expanded or retracted by turning the bolt, located in the same spot as the first method. Turn the bolt counter clockwise a half turn or so to release the resonator. Since the connection is attached inside the resonator and fastens it to the dowel stick, removing the flange screws won't release the resonator, as you have discovered.

DD

Edited by - Dan Drabek on 02/29/2020 16:59:02

Feb 29, 2020 - 4:54:40 PM

10 posts since 11/1/2015

It isn't a blue disk.  It's a nickle-plated button, and it is very solid on there.  I did as much as I dared to try to get movement, and... nope...

And there must be another way to get in there other than removing the head. It's a nice old skin head in good condition, and some of the metal on the tension hoops seems not entirely in the best condition. I've got to leave that unmolested. I'm sure that they wouldn't have you remove the head to adjust the action.  It may be as Andrew posted, that I will have to remove the tailpiece and slide the pot out (which strikes me as completely weird, but...), but I will await any other insights before I try it.

Edited by - palousian on 02/29/2020 16:58:45

Feb 29, 2020 - 5:06:22 PM

7565 posts since 1/7/2005

The tension hoops on some of the top tension Ludwig banjos were made of nickel plated pot metal. ( Interestingly, their simpler models were nickel plated brass. The pot metal hoops are notoriously fragile and are doomed to self-destruct over time. It's a known issue with the fancier Ludwigs.

I've never seen the resonator release bolt covered with a button. It may be possible to pry it off, but it's your banjo and your decision.

DD

Edited by - Dan Drabek on 02/29/2020 17:08:52

Feb 29, 2020 - 5:56:47 PM

6853 posts since 8/28/2013

I think Andrew is correct about the resonator removal procedure.

I also believe, judging from the photos, that this Ludwig has the pot metal parts and they are about ready to self-destruct. I see signs of distortion and what looks like a small crack near the neck, and any further handling could spell disaster. I wouldn't even attempt to tighten the head.

If it seems difficult to remove the resonator, don't force anything. You might simply try a slightly lower bridge if the strings aren't way above the frets.

Feb 29, 2020 - 7:05:30 PM

10 posts since 11/1/2015

Your appraisal of the condition of the metal is accurate. It's getting splayed and cracked in several spots, and my thought was that I wouldn't attempt to tighten the head. It looks oddly solid in the way old banjos can be solid-but-fragile, and I think if I can get at the neck/dowel stick, I can give it an adjustment at the neck for better action (the strings are really too high), put it back together and get it back to my friend to give his dad.

Feb 29, 2020 - 11:56:24 PM

464 posts since 1/30/2019

Here is the resonator from mine. Looks the same. Think it will come off as I describe. Strings off, lift the flange and tone ring/head up and back from the tailpiece area. Remember it's the flange unit that comes off and the resonator that stays attached.
If you really want to proceed, given the warnings above.
Mine is not the fragile variety.
Good luck....


 

Mar 1, 2020 - 4:59:04 PM

6853 posts since 8/28/2013

I believe that the less expensive Ludwigs, such as the Kingston and the Kenmore, did not have any means of sdjusting the neck. (the ones that adjust have screw adjusters in the side of the neck heel).

Because of this, I really doubt it's worthwhile to even attempt neck removal. Although it might be possible to place a shim between the heel and the pot, that will probably make it more difficult to get everything back together.

These old Ludwigs with the pot metal parts are very fragile, and the less you do to one, the better. I would try to get the strings closer to the fretboard by means of a shorter bridge, and if that doesn't work, just give the banjo back to your friend and tell him you couldn't risk doing any more work given the deteriorating condition of the metal parts. That would at least be better than giving him back a banjo with a three piece tension hoop, a cracked flange, or other broken parts.

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