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Gibson 955 Parts Advice: Flange, Tuners & Tailpiece (Oh my!)

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May 29, 2020 - 1:12:26 PM
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76 posts since 8/12/2019

Shopping for thoughts on how best to put the “rest” in this long restoration now that I have some funds for it. I’ve had it listed in its half-finished condition for an age now to no avail so I’d like to throw a couple hundred more at it and see if I can get it rehomed without leaving it on the steps of the fire station wrapped in a blanket.

I’m looking at replacing the flange, tuners, and tailpiece and could use some advice, namely on whether prewar mojo or modern functionality feels appropriate to those with more experience than me. I’m trying to get out the door for less than 250 here.

For tuners I could either pick up a set of Grover 2-tabs that would look original and would allow me to get rid of the pretty iffy headstock overlay, but I hear they’re pretty rough and for 15 more bucks I can get a fresh set of Gotohs and save having to fuss with the headstock more. Also I’ve already drilled out the holes to 10mm, if Grovers won’t work anyway then forget it. What say ye?

The tailpiece, I’m thinking just a modern presto repro will do the trick. Objections?

I’d like to replace the broken flange—it seems a shame to let a functional original flange go to waste, but when I think about how I’d repair it, it seems... dumb. Does the nickel plated RK flange fit these thin rims? I feel like if it’s egged at all I might be outta luck.

Incidentally would the busted flange be worth anything to someone or should I just keep it on the side as “ephemera”?

That’s about it I think. I’m going to toss one of those Gibson paint-style logos from eBay on the headstock whether I keep the overlay or not, and call it good.

I feel like I’m painting Lazurus’ nails over here. He won’t get out of my basement. Help.


May 29, 2020 - 1:19:48 PM

76 posts since 8/12/2019

The FON, in case there were doubts which infamous machine this is. The banjo that will go down... and down... and down... in history.


May 29, 2020 - 3:04 PM
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2863 posts since 2/20/2016

As a fellow who has restored several old instruments for re-sale, I don't think that you will recover the investment of installing pre-war parts on this particular instrument.

If you can find a modern flange that fits, it might possibly help the instrument to sell, but it probably won't have any effect on the amount that you will be able to realize on the sale. If you do change the flange, you might want to include the original in the sale.

Bear in mind that old Recording King instruments do not bring as much as Gibsons, even though this one was built in the same factory. And despite the fact that this one is now in playable condition, it will always show the signs of having had a hard life; and will not be in "clean, original condition" even if you install original parts.

When in doubt, exercise patience waiting for it to sell, and be prepared to drop the price.

If it were mine, I might consider leaving the whole thing alone. If the tuners do not work well, you might want to consider installing very modestly priced modern tuners.

If you're interested, I have a set of new Golden Gate P-140 tuners, never removed from the packaging, that I will sell for $45 + $5 for shipping. I can add the P-142 5th string tuner for another $8.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/29/2020 15:05:16

May 29, 2020 - 4:04:57 PM
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Eric A


653 posts since 10/15/2019

As a casual observer who has seen your classifieds, and putting myself in the shoes of a not-too-knowledgeable viewer (I'm really an open back guy myself), I've always thought that darn broken flange was really off-putting. Perhaps not deservedly so, but a deal breaker for a lot of potential buyers nonetheless. I guess I'd start there if I were to put more money into it.

A tailpiece and tuners are not a ton of money, but then that broken flange would still be staring people in the face.

May 29, 2020 - 4:17:18 PM



2863 posts since 2/20/2016

For the reason that Eric has given, I'd change the flange before I'd change the tuners or tailpiece.
And offer to include the original if the buyer wants it.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/29/2020 16:18:33

May 29, 2020 - 6:42:05 PM

76 posts since 8/12/2019

All sound advice! Thanks all. I agree about the flange, it has the same effect as a pretty girl with a broken tooth (no offense to anyone, I’m no great beauty myself).

I’m looking at a new, modern RK flange by the way:

Would it fit as a drop in? I just read that it might need fitting—sounds daunting...

I agree that I won’t really add value, and it’s tempting to let sleeping dogs lie, but I feel like if it’s just more of a solid set up it’ll fetch a decent offer already. I’d put in about 200 with all the new parts and I’d attempt to raise my asking price back towards the top (2,250 seems fair right?). Then if I have to go back down towards 1,500 I’m still in the green but... sigh...

My luck is like an Irish folk tale where faery gold turns to coal on the way home. Less than 200 original prewar fivers and I find the one that’s worth beans!

May 29, 2020 - 9:08:25 PM



3109 posts since 1/31/2005

RK has two different size flanges you know?

May 29, 2020 - 11:37:22 PM
Players Union Member

Eric A


653 posts since 10/15/2019

Originally posted by crowfielder

My luck is like an Irish folk tale where faery gold turns to coal on the way home. Less than 200 original prewar fivers and I find the one that’s worth beans!

In these COVID times, I hear that beans are actually flying off the shelves!

May 30, 2020 - 12:01:45 AM



2863 posts since 2/20/2016

Gibson used at least 3 different sizes for their one-piece flanges. Measure before you buy.

Gibson made at least 900 pre-war and wartime non-Mastertone 5 strings, not counting the Kalamazoo and Ward instruments.
They made at least 320 Mastertone 5 strings. The "less than 200" applies only to the flatheads.

My reference is "Spann's Guide to Gibson."

Other Gibson-made 5 strings include 474 Kalamazoo KRB's, and 295 in 4 models made for Ward's; using Paul Fox's "The Other Brands of Gibson" as a reference.

That gives a total of just under 2000 Gibson-made 5 string banjos before the war stopped production around 1943.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/30/2020 00:16:38

May 30, 2020 - 1:26:17 AM

76 posts since 8/12/2019

rcc56 *Gasp! Gag!* I thought I picked that number off of Greg Earnest’s site, clearly having misread it to my error! Apologies! I’m in over my head, which already is not known for great feats of strength.

That’s a grave mistake on my part, I mention that number in my latest ad! No intended tomfoolery there. But don’t worry, the banjo is in no danger of selling.

Eric A I’m not falling for that one again! Haven’t seen my cousin Jack in weeks.

HarleyQ That I did not, and for dopes like me, that is why the hangout is such a godsend! Thank you!

May 30, 2020 - 8:13:52 AM

3132 posts since 5/29/2011

Th new Recording King flanges work well but the 1/16" difference in size makes a big difference if you get the wrong one. Measure carefully.
The tuners that were offered by Bob Chuckrow sound like a reasonable deal. Or a new set of Gotohs from Bob Smakula would be good. He has them in a relic finish that would blend well with the appearance of this banjo.
There is nothing wrong with the tailpiece that is visible. It is appropriate to this type of banjo. If you find it hard to string try using ball end strings. GHS and D'Addario both make them. Putting a shiny new tailpiece on this baby would be like lipstick on a pig but the Presto would probably be your best bet if you must change it.


Edited by - Culloden on 05/30/2020 08:16:46

May 30, 2020 - 7:59:16 PM
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76 posts since 8/12/2019

Culloden Ha! Lipstick on a pig slayed me. I might even throw some pearls on this swine.

Thanks for the info on RK measurements! I’ll order carefully if I decide to go that route.

May 31, 2020 - 5:48:52 AM

2071 posts since 10/17/2013

Please don’t refer to your banjo as “swine.”



If you are wanting to replace the flange, there are two different prewar flanges for sale by Don Bryant in the Classifieds:


On the other hand, if you don’t want to cast in quite as many “pearls” (as in money) at your banjo, there is also a Cox gold-plated flange for only $175:

That Cox flange is a great deal.

There is also a good chance that one of those three flanges would fit, but you’d need to check the outside diameter of the flange cut on your rim, before confirming anything with the potential seller.

Edited by - okbluegrassbanjopicker on 05/31/2020 05:49:21

May 31, 2020 - 12:34:47 PM

3132 posts since 5/29/2011

Saga Musical Instruments has a one piece flange listed on their parts page for $79.95. They do not say what the interior diameter(the critical measurement) is. You may be able to contact them and find out.
Recording King no longer lists banjo parts on their web site but it might be worth a try to contact them directly and inquire if they have dealers who carry parts. I know that they produce one piece flanges in both 10 11/16" and 10 13/16". 10 13/16" is the pre war Mastertone spec and 10 11/16" is the diameter for the Bow Tie Mastertones. Your banjo is from an era where it could have used either spec.
Both options would be cheaper than buying what is listed in the BHO classified ads.

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