Hi, I’m sorry, you guys probably see a lot of these, but I’m having a hard time IDing my banjo and would appreciate any help! I’m planning on having it serviced to get it as close to original as possible, but I can’t find what model it is anywhere online.
I think it’s a Lyon and Healy from about the 1880s to 1890s, but it doesn’t have any surviving stamps on the inside. Head is 11”, 24 3/4” scale, to the best of my knowledge the Durkee tailpiece is original. The fret markers are mother of pearl (?), but I don’t know if these were a later addition. All the tuners have been changed over its lifetime.
Any help would be greatly appreciated, thank you for your time!
I've restored two like this one; they are nice sounding banjos. One thing I can see is that the tailpiece is missing the bar that goes through the loops at the end of it. The strings are then knotted (or have beads or balls on the end) and are held in the five slots at the lower part of the tailpiece, then loop either over or under the bar (I never found out which was the original way the strings were fed, but had one tailpiece with the bar intact and another that had lost it's bar). This one looks like it is in pretty good shape. I found that even with a 1/4" bridge the action is high, and used shims on the neck to help this.
I'd definitely say Lyon & Healy. It is a lower-end model, probably made for the mail order houses, so you may not find any kind of model designation. One giveaway is the 10th fret marker. Most banjos during this time period were marked at the 9th fret. Lyon & Healy marked theirs at the 10th fret.
Take a mirror and check along the top of the dowel stick for any markings. Sometimes these were removed and turned over.
Definitely replace the bar on the tailpiece. I'd be afraid the pull of the strings on the tailpiece fingers might break them off. It's an easy replacement. If you can get a long shaft dental bur, they are the perfect size. Put a disk in a Dremel and cut it off at the right length. You can chuck it up in a drill, turn it on and put the little indentations at the end using a file.
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