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Prewar rims -- evaluating each one for potential?

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Jul 7, 2020 - 9:25:47 AM
7 posts since 10/4/2006

Seems like many forum members agree that not every prewar rim will produce a winning banjo, so it's a bit of a lottery.

Has anyone tested a bunch of prewar rims and compared the results with the (admittedly subjective) sound of the assembled banjo?

Or at least tested the rims of great sounding banjos that have had to be disassembled?

By testing, I mean both weight, and acoustic testing: vibrating modes, time decay of frequencies, damping, etc. (This is done for guitars and violins all the time).

Jul 7, 2020 - 9:42:35 AM

beegee

USA

21753 posts since 7/6/2005

Banjos are not violins or guitars.

Jul 7, 2020 - 10:10:41 AM
like this

7700 posts since 1/7/2005

Sadly, I can never get a decent tap tone on my unmounted banjo heads. I can't believe how many I've had to throw out.

DD

Jul 7, 2020 - 10:25:30 AM

13102 posts since 10/30/2008

I did a bit of this with my banjos (pre-war, post 1987 Gibsons and a Vega Scruggs).

I particularly was interested in the height/depth of the tone chambers from underside of the head to the bottom of the rim (I would like to know, but couldn't figure out how to measure, the distance from bottom of the rim to inner surface of resonator. Oddly there wasn't more than 1/8" or 1/4" difference in all those banjos, the Vega varied the most of course, but not all that much.

I did this with no more disassembly than removing the back.

Then check for knock tones with flanges aboard (year, hard to due for the plate of a two piece flange...)

I'd be interested in handling stripped down rims to "knock" them for a tone. I bet there is a difference between ball bearings, arch tops, "fat boy" rims and "regular" one piece flange rims for both arch tops and flat heads (and tone hoop banjos too, come to think of it). Also weight of bare rims, and weight of all the metal that would be involved in reassembly. I have this vague theory that ratio of metal to wood has an effect on tone, etc.

But I know there would still be unexplainable differences in nearly identical rims. So we get into species, weight and knock tone of necks, including weight of tuners. No end to it!

Jul 7, 2020 - 10:53:31 AM

Alex Z

USA

3873 posts since 12/7/2006

"But I know there would still be unexplainable differences in nearly identical rims. So we get into species, weight and knock tone of necks, including weight of tuners. No end to it!"

No end.  That's the reason that the BHO continues to exist.  smiley

One end of the spectrum:  I can't hear a difference.  I don't believe there is a difference.  Therefore there is no difference.

Other end of the spectrum:  Mr. Earl's bridge in 1949 had 8 grains per inch and therefore the grains per inch is a controlling factor in tone.

Seriously, we can't be overly precise about thing that are not exactly precise and linear.  Sometimes, experience over time can reveal patterns, such as the difference in tone among maple, walnut, and mahogany necks.  Doesn't mean that each maple neck will compare to each mahogany in the same way.

A good source might be those who make rims or who have restored pre-war banjos.  Might check with Eric Sullivan, who has made many, many rims of many different materials.  See  what he thinks about the relationship between the characteristics of a rim and the final tone of the banjo.

Jul 7, 2020 - 11:26:05 AM

2671 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

Ken LeVan has done many comparisons for bridges. He often compares his Granada rim construction to current designs. But, that is one pre-war being compared to many modern rims.

The logistics of such an endeavor would be too much. Plus, BanjoThon would be an ideal place. This event is the largest assembly of genuine pre-war and partial pre-wars around.

I doubt any owner would even consider such a task. Their banjo might be ruined. Disassembly is considered a mojo killer to some.

If Earl listened today, what would he pick? He bought used because it sounded good to him. I like that criteria the best. Pre-war was never a thought. He still did not like it.

Jul 7, 2020 - 11:51:57 AM
likes this

beegee

USA

21753 posts since 7/6/2005

And if you had access to that information, what would you do with it?

Jul 7, 2020 - 12:50:41 PM

7382 posts since 8/28/2013
Online Now

Bob Gaddis is on the right track.

To me, a banjo is the sum of its parts, and the rim is only one of those parts. It probably doesn't contribute any more, and probably contributes even less, to the sound than necks, tone rings, heads, bridges, etc. Then there's also the contibutions of the set-up person and the actual banjo player.

Jul 7, 2020 - 4:10:01 PM

Alex Z

USA

3873 posts since 12/7/2006

Goodnight flanges.

Goodnight strings.

Goodnight rims.

Goodnight rings.

Goodnight noises everywhere.

Goodnight, BHO.  

Nothing more will ever be knowable.  smiley

Jul 7, 2020 - 4:14 PM

Alex Z

USA

3873 posts since 12/7/2006

Nevertheless, "everybody" knows that the rim is the heart of the banjo and that it is the pre-war rim that gives a banjo that pre-war sound.  Heck, check out the Marketplace.  smiley

Jul 7, 2020 - 5:32:53 PM

4507 posts since 11/20/2004

I have three conversions that I built the necks for and have the same tone ring in all three. They are setup pretty much identically, other than different weight bridges. One is a TB11 rim and the other two are Kel Kroydens from the same era. The 11 rim had the most delamination and is the lightest weight by a couple of ounces. Each has their own characteristics but to my ear, the 11 has the most of what I consider to be the prewar sound I look for. I enjoy them all, but it just has something I have not found in the others. I have no idea why?????

Jul 7, 2020 - 6:02:01 PM

7382 posts since 8/28/2013
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by lightgauge

I have three conversions that I built the necks for and have the same tone ring in all three. They are setup pretty much identically, other than different weight bridges. One is a TB11 rim and the other two are Kel Kroydens from the same era. The 11 rim had the most delamination and is the lightest weight by a couple of ounces. Each has their own characteristics but to my ear, the 11 has the most of what I consider to be the prewar sound I look for. I enjoy them all, but it just has something I have not found in the others. I have no idea why?????


Maybe that means that delamination is the key to "prewar tone." 

Someone needs to start soaking some of these old rims in vinegar to see if they can improve their old Granadas.

Jul 8, 2020 - 1:44:02 PM

2538 posts since 4/16/2003

Some rims will just sound better than others, all other parts being the same.
Sometimes (often) the age of the rim is a factor.
There's just no way to know until you've got the thing back together, and tinker with it a bit...

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