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Jul 6, 2020 - 1:38:31 AM
20 posts since 12/19/2019

Hello, I just got an early 60s Vega and I'd like some setup advice please.

About me real quick - less than a year with banjo, quite a few years with bass, electric and a bit of double. I can setup all aspects of my Fender (and other) electrics, short of actual fret leveling.

About the Vega - plays nice (claw hammer) for my beginners taste, but I think the setup could be improved.

Currently, neck relief is nearly zero (truss rod). I think it could use just a touch more, the first couple frets buzz if played aggressively.

Neck angle is kind of whack, front tilt (Allen screws) is such that there's a 1/8" gap at the heal.

Bridge is just under 1/2" high on the first string side, there's  a shim under the 5th string foot making that side sit at a height of just under 5/8". Short angled bridge.

5th string height at the 17th fret is just over 1/8". Which seems fine.

What I'd like to do - add a touch of relief (loosen the truss rod), loosen the neck, back off the Allen screws to increase the neck angle/tilt back, tighten it back up and use a standard 5/8" bridge to compensate for the new neck angle.

If it were a bolt on bass with an adjustable bridge set low, I'd put a thin shim in the neck pocket, and raise the bridge saddles to compensate. Then, if needed, back off the truss rod to give frets 1-5 a bit more room under the strings.

Same thing? What Might I be missing? I haven't messed too much with banjos, please all input appreciated!

I took pictures, I'll figure out how to post them here...


Edited by - Darrell G on 07/06/2020 03:23:51

Jul 6, 2020 - 1:47:09 AM

20 posts since 12/19/2019

Jul 6, 2020 - 1:48:01 AM

20 posts since 12/19/2019

Jul 6, 2020 - 1:48:58 AM

20 posts since 12/19/2019

Jul 6, 2020 - 1:49:49 AM

20 posts since 12/19/2019

Jul 6, 2020 - 4:41:17 AM

13070 posts since 6/29/2005

Great pictures!

A couple of things I notice:

(1) the neck angle is WAY forward—as you say 1/8" gap at the bottom, and the heel is leaning or pivoting on the flesh hoop of the head. Backing off the set screws until the heel is contacting the rim is going to make the bridge have to be considerably higher than 5/8"—probably north of 3/4".  I think you will need to do some shimming—you don't want the heel pressing against the flesh hoop of the head, which will interfere with tensioning the head.

(2) the neck looks very straight, which is good IMO, and buzzing on the first couple of frets makes me think the nut grooves are too low—I would put a capo on the second fret and see if it still buzzes, and I wouldn't mess with relief until the nut is right, the heel angle is fixed, a properly sized bridge is installed where all the feet contact the head without shims.  I personally don't think any relief is necessary unless you want a higher action on the frets between 5 and 12 and want it to be really low up by the pot, which usually is not the case with clawhammer.

a higher bridge, even 3/4" will be much better than 1/2" for that banjo, especially since you are playing clawhammer.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 07/06/2020 04:44:12

Jul 6, 2020 - 6:32:14 AM

13122 posts since 10/30/2008

I agree that changing the truss rod setting for neck "relief" will not solve buzzing at 1st two frets. Relief tends to show itself up in the middle portion of the neck, say from the 7th fret and up.

I also agree that backing off the Allen screws to bring the heel back close to the rim seems in order, BUT, that's going to LOWER your action. Best fix for that is a higher bridge - 5/8", 11/16", etc.

If the nut has slots filed too deep that will make buzz at first couple of frets for sure. If raising the action doesn't fix it, you can "fill" those slots with a mix of crazy glue and baking powder, then file down just enough to secure the string at a reasonable height from the 1st fret. (Same for the 5th string pip, if its slot is cut too deep.)

I can't figure out why your 5th string action is so low that you have to put a shim under the bridge foot. Is the 5th string pip missing perhaps? Presuming the hole is there, putting a new pip in is easy.

I have a banjo just like yours that I bought used. No issues with it.

Good luck. I believe someone before you must have "fussed" with this banjo, as they are normally well set up when made.

Jul 6, 2020 - 7:04:16 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A


711 posts since 10/15/2019

Originally posted by Darrell G

I have a 60's Folk Wonder with that same gap between heel and rim.  I've also seen an old BHO thread mentioning it, so I presume a lot of them went out of the factory that way.  Closing that gap would require the use of a super high bridge. 

Mine plays fine and sounds decent, so I'm not messing with it, even though I'd be happier, and it would probably sound better, if that issue were addressed.

Jul 6, 2020 - 7:27:47 AM

13122 posts since 10/30/2008

I just got my Folk Ranger out to compare. A-11763, probably around 1961-62.

Action at 12th fret 1/8" with a 5/8" bridge.

Height of 5th string above 5th fret 1/16" (tall plastic pip).

Height of strings above 1st fret 1/32".

Clearance between bottom of strings and fingerboard at the nut 0.5 mm by feeler gauge (indicates how low the nut slots are filed).

Gap between bottom of heel and rim, 1/8" similar to your photo.

Neck/fingerboard are dead straight, no relief. Truss rod has never been touched based on virgin appearance of screws on truss rod cover.

I guess I tend to agree with Eric A. That neck heel gap looks bad, but it's common.

Check your nut/pip slot height, try a taller bridge and see how far you get.

These are quality lightweight banjos.

Jul 6, 2020 - 7:31:17 AM

1319 posts since 11/15/2010

For what it's worth, my Folk Ranger has the same gap. It plays nicely and the action is fine. 

Jul 6, 2020 - 11:21:48 AM



21766 posts since 7/6/2005

What I'd like to do - add a touch of relief (loosen the truss rod), loosen the neck, back off the Allen screws to increase the neck angle/tilt back, tighten it back up and use a standard 5/8" bridge to compensate for the new neck angle.


I'd get rid of the allen screws and make the neck fit properly 5/8" bridge height minimum. Where are the co-rods?

Get the neck relief and angle right; check the nut slots, fret level, head tension

Jul 6, 2020 - 12:04:03 PM

13122 posts since 10/30/2008

Rangers usually had no co-ords. If not usually, at least frequently. Mine has none.

Jul 6, 2020 - 3:02:47 PM

20 posts since 12/19/2019

Thank you all! It seems as though I’m on the right path.

As advised, I think I’ll leave the truss alone until I’m sure everything else is adjusted properly.

The pip is in place, I’m not sure why the previous owner shimmed the bridge foot?

Increasing (or is tilt back considered reducing?) the neck angle and raising the bridge height was my main objective and why I posted. I’d like to have a setup where I can play around with more common bridges rather than the odd setup it’s currently sporting. Squaring everything up so to speak.

Nut work is a bit above my skill set right now and I can live with a lighter touch, it’s just something I noticed if not fretted perfectly.

Just wanted to make sure what I was planning was the way things worked!

Thank you everyone, time to make some adjustments!

Edited by - Darrell G on 07/06/2020 15:04:56

Jul 6, 2020 - 3:17:05 PM

20 posts since 12/19/2019

FWIW, no coordinator rods, serial #10978 which I think makes it one of the the "5 digit" mistake '62 or '63s according to mugwumps. 

Great original condition, the only modification seems to be the 5th string tuner, but the original came in the case.

i really like it!


Jul 6, 2020 - 3:36:07 PM
Players Union Member

Eric A


711 posts since 10/15/2019

First thing to do is to get that shimmed bridge off of there. Try a normal 1/2", and then a normal 5/8". Only then will you have a true picture of where things stand on everything else.

Jul 6, 2020 - 7:46:43 PM

20 posts since 12/19/2019

Hi Eric - I think we’re on the same page, first thing I did was try a 5/8”. Made the action too high. I don’t have a 1/2” on hand so can’t say I tried that. I do want to end up with a 5/8” so I can play around with different bridges.

I’m okay with some gap at the heel, I don’t plan on tipping the neck completely back to eliminate it, just enough so that a 5/8” bridge gets me where the action is comfortable.

I asked just to make sure that’s how it all works before I take things apart. Sometimes there’s “tricks and tips” that only “been there, done that" guys know. The label warned me - do NOT mess with the Allen screws.  laugh

Edited by - Darrell G on 07/06/2020 19:50:36

Jul 6, 2020 - 10:35:48 PM
likes this

10795 posts since 10/27/2006

>first thing I did was try a 5/8”. Made the action too high.<


Loosen the strings.

Will the large nuts tighten down? If so, do that. Tune to pitch. See if that 5/8" bridge is still too high.

If the large nuts are tight, loosen the lower one. Now, very carefully, take an Allen wrench and turn each screw exactly 1/2 turn out. Tighten the nut (snug but not too tight). Try that 5/8" bridge again and see what happens.

If it changed but still too high, repeat. If a little low, back off the big nut and then the turn the Allen screws in a little. Pay close attention to exactly how much you adjust so that both screws are the same. The right angle tang on the wrench is your best friend for this.

Edited by - mikehalloran on 07/06/2020 22:38:55

Jul 7, 2020 - 2:51:55 PM

20 posts since 12/19/2019

A step by step...

Thank you Mike!

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