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SS Stewart Thoroughbred Minimalist fret inlays

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Mar 25, 2020 - 7:06:27 PM
35 posts since 1/26/2020

Hi all. I have an SS Stewart Thoroughbred, which I had mentioned yesterday on a "banjo setup" post. Anyway, I got to looking at it and realized it has VERY minimal fretboard inlay. Just 3 small dots. I was able to find one other example with the same fretboard inlay in Google, to show as an example. Also attached is a quick picture of mine. There wasn't much info on here discussing that particular design. I had read one statement discussing the "professional" inlay dots on the fretboard, but there was no picture. It's very minimal. Even my base level universal favorite has the typical 7 diamond inlays.
This definitely seems to be an original fretboard, as it has the multiple layers of different wood under it, it's aged ebony, and it has the thin low German silver fret wire typical of 1880s-1890s Stewarts. It also has the locator dots on the side of the neck.
I've done exhaustive research on these old banjos, because I've fallen in love with them, but I know there's always going to be so much more to learn.
Any input would be much appreciated.

Blaine




Mar 25, 2020 - 7:16:35 PM

35 posts since 1/26/2020

I even tried to see if Bills banjos had any comparisons, but there were not any with the 3 small dots

Mar 25, 2020 - 10:13:58 PM

57 posts since 5/20/2018

Hi Blaine,

This page of the SS Stewart Catalog depicts a three dot SS Stewart Thoroughbred with the accompanying description.

Best,
Sam


Mar 25, 2020 - 10:28:19 PM

35 posts since 1/26/2020

Thank you Sam for finding that. The catalogue makes me feel much better about the originality.
Shawn, as far as the ebony nut, I agree, but based on the catalogue and the tell tale small smooth German silver fret wire, I'm now more confident that this is original as far as the fretboard goes. Mostly because of how everything on this banjo looks to have aged the same. That and the fact that I've found other examples online. I'll get better pictures up tomorrow to confirm.

Blaine

Mar 25, 2020 - 10:31:29 PM

35 posts since 1/26/2020

Also it's an 11 1/2" pot. The SN 7966, So it's from somewhat earlier 1891ish. It's definitely not a Special Thoroughbred. It has 19 frets. The one similar example I have pictured looks to be an even bigger pot.

Edited by - tbchappe on 03/25/2020 22:33:31

Mar 26, 2020 - 5:00:16 AM

5052 posts since 9/21/2007

The ad posted by Sam shows a smooth arm or "fretless" neck including the "professional frets". Professional frets are side dots at every fret position on a smooth fingerboard. A configuration encouraged by SSS because strings were often found false and would intonation poorly with raised frets.

You will need to post more photos. Well lit and in focus. Full front, back, sides, peghead front and back, side of rim, heel, side of heel and anything else you think is of interest.

From the poor screen shot of google images that you posted I can say that the bridge is not located in a position that would have normally come from SSS.

I will also say that I have not seen a SSS with three dots for inlay. Besides his lowest level offerings, I cannot say that I have seen any SSS with dots on the fingerboard-- he used tiny squares. Nothing is set in stone with SSS.

Mar 26, 2020 - 6:21:07 AM

csacwp

USA

2582 posts since 1/15/2014

The nut looks modern in the photos you posted. The way the frets are crowned looks wrong. You'll need to post better photos though for me to be sure.

Mar 26, 2020 - 8:53:08 AM

1577 posts since 1/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

The ad posted by Sam shows a smooth arm or "fretless" neck including the "professional frets". Professional frets are side dots at every fret position on a smooth fingerboard. A configuration encouraged by SSS because strings were often found false and would intonation poorly with raised frets.

You will need to post more photos. Well lit and in focus. Full front, back, sides, peghead front and back, side of rim, heel, side of heel and anything else you think is of interest.

From the poor screen shot of google images that you posted I can say that the bridge is not located in a position that would have normally come from SSS.

I will also say that I have not seen a SSS with three dots for inlay. Besides his lowest level offerings, I cannot say that I have seen any SSS with dots on the fingerboard-- he used tiny squares. Nothing is set in stone with SSS.


If I understand his post correctly, the two photos are not of the same banjo... or, at least, the OP did not take the first photo.

I've never seen one with three dots, either. More photos are needed. The nut in the second photo looks wider than an original probably would have been.

Andy

Mar 26, 2020 - 10:52:10 AM

35 posts since 1/26/2020

Here are three more photos of my Thoroughbred. I noticed that the 3 dots are in roughly the same positions as depicted in the catalogue, but not the same position as the example picture from Google. The third picture I showed was also from the Google banjo. The nut on my Thoroughbred is quite thin.

Blaine




 

Mar 26, 2020 - 1:00:49 PM

35 posts since 1/26/2020

Ignore the sentence about a third picture. I guess I never posted it last night.

Mar 26, 2020 - 5:04:41 PM

35 posts since 1/26/2020

I think I just found the definitive evidence. This is the original fretboard, but it was originally a fretless. There are what looks to be 3 plugged inlay holes and the original inlays look to have been moved into positions in the middle of the frets that were added. The old plugged holes line up perfectly with the neck dots, just like in the catalogue.

I'm happy it's still the original fretboard. Modified, but original. With the wear and tear, this was never going to be done big time collector's item.

Blaine




 

Edited by - tbchappe on 03/26/2020 17:06:31

Mar 26, 2020 - 5:22:22 PM
likes this

5052 posts since 9/21/2007

You are correct. Originally smooth with professional frets. Fretted later.

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