I decided to post some technical data on Vega banjos from 60s. While I cannot do pix today due to inclement weather, I will as soon as feasible. This is sorta my attempt to provide some tech info, as I have several, to help others document theirs. I have called these bluegrass banjo collection, as they are resonator and flange 5 string banjos.
I was busy casing and uncasing to get details, and I missed some I’m sure. But this should generally help, particularly if tomorrow is nicer and I can post associated pix. On some I measured neck width about 1/8” toward 5th string from nut. Tried to capture rim widths on all, might miss some.
1. VEGA (cursive pearl) peghead VIP, 130274. Label states: Vega of Boston “A part of the C.F. Martin & Company Organization, Needham, Mass. the tubaphone ring is 3 separate holes, not connected, but groups about 2” apart on Inside tubaphone ring face.
Bottom of rim thickness: .471. These banjos have bracket shoes through rim and Vega flanges. Unusual peghead shape. VIP had different color and resonator with binding down resonator ext sidewalls. Engraved pearl inlay, vip pattern.
2. VEGA (block pearl letters) peghead and pearl 5 point star, Scruggs SRII, 129364. label states: The Vega Company, Needham Heights, MASS. 02194. Patented U.S.A. The tubaphone ring in this one is what I believe is called “audiosonic”. It has stacked double slits grouped equally apart on inside tubaphone ring face. bottom of rim thickness .5850, counted 11 ply rim, neck width near nut: 1.210. Standard Vega peghead shape. Standard Vega sunburst. Footballs and diamonds inlay fingerboard. One of my favs, from member Leslie, and clean. Bell flange assy Vega, zero bracket shoes.
3. VEGA (block pearl letters) peghead and pearl 5 point star, Pro II, 127936. Labels states: The Vega Company, Boston 15, Mass, Patented U.S.A. Bottom of rim width: .5810. The tubaphone tone ring assy in this banjo is as described with banjo in paragraph 2. Neck width near nut is 1.780. Standard Vega peghead shape. Standard Vega sunburst. Footballs and diamonds inlay fingerboard. Willie Nelson threw this banjo away, called it wore out. My main player, and named Trigger. Only instrument I’ve ever named. It sounds phenomenal. Bell flange assy, no bracket shoes.
4. VEGA (block pearl letters) peghead and pearl 5 point star, Scruggs ST-5,
No. A-125961. Burgundy resonator ext sidewall. Block fingerboard inlay. Cam tuner banjo. Label: The Vega Company, Boston 15, MASS. patented U.S.A. Bottom of rim width .5000. Same tone ring assy as para 2. Neck width at nut: 1.208. Possible refinished and then the refinish was used as spittoon and/or ear wax repository. Really grungy and whipped. Just whipped. Bell flange assy, no bracket shoes.
5. VEGA (block pearl letters) peghead and pearl 5 point star, WONDER 5st. No M130128. label: Vega of Boston, A Part Of The C.F. Martin & Co. Organization, Needham, MASS. bottom of rim thickness: .5810. Rim appears 10 ply. Neck width near nut, 1.253. This Wonder is interesting to me due to the pearl inlay Vega block and pearl star. Dot fingerboard inlay. As a wonder though, it has bracket shoes and flanges.
6. Vega in script paint, Wonder 5st. A126459. Label: The Vega Co. Boston 15, MASS. patented U.S.A., bottom of rim thickness: .5589. Think I count 8 ply rim. Neck width near nut 1.2062. Dot fingerboard inlay. One of my favs from our member Joel. Brackets shoes and flanges.
7. Vega in script paint, Ranger tenor. No A-100458 B. label: The Vega Co. Boston 16, Mass, Patented U.S.A. Note this is most uncommon Ranger with wood bead, no tone ring assy. Bottom of rim thickness .4281. Model is written in cursive on label not print like all my other Vegas. This is a higher end tenor to be a Ranger, as it is NOT a bracket shoe rim but rather bell flange assy, just like Pro, Scruggs, Osborne. It’s an anomaly of the bell flange on all those others listed also, because this one had 2 bracket shoes. One on each side of the heel, to sort of reinforce the bell flange assy right there, despite no tone ring and short scale tenor neck. I only included this info, because I found it interesting. It’s a shame Vega didn’t put these 2 reinforcement bracket shoes on all other bell flange assy, because they do tend to want to bow right in there near the neck.
It also had a decorative chrome strip around the outside of the rim.
All labels were yellow, all labels were written on with ink. Note how the label writing and so forth changes. Only one label I recall being written in ball point cursive, all others were in similar ball point pen ink print. All the designations for 5 string (5-ST) had a little curly ball point ink line under the ST and that was in smaller case. All measurements with a cheap import fright caliper. all measurements standard not metric.
All of them have exact same sunburst except the VIP (think they had their own finish color), and the cam tuner Scruggs that is likely refin in shellac or ear wax.
Sorry for any typos even with reading glasses, it’s tough to list that much detail with autocorrect and so forth. And my Restricted intellect.
If you could post pictures of the different examples, that would be great.
Brett, I'm anxious to see pictures, too. I have a 1959 Vega Pro, with resonator and dowel stick, and I think it sounds great for bluegrass. I love Vegas of that era. I also have a Folk Ranger, which is a surprisingly good clawhammer banjo.
Photos please? : ))
I play Vega open backs, long neck and regular scale 5 strings, from the 60's...I love their sound. My main banjo is a '61 28 hook FP-5 Folk Professional.
Edited by - 35planar on 10/30/2020 15:31:55
Anything Vega bluegrass related is always cool to me. I think I’ve seen some of your group before, but it’s been quite sometime...and we’re due up for a re-acquaintance!
I fully intend to share pix, just want to do them outside and all in one shot. Wind was super high here today and it was damp and cold. I have to put them on stands outside to get decent pix, I didn’t want to try today, and some will have to sit on ground for pix.
Maybe I can load pix, but m not super good at this. The oldest Scruggs, in pix, has burgundy resonator sidewalls. I have truss rod cover off as I’m still setting it up.
I didn’t poke the 7th banjo out there, the tenor because it’s apart. Pardon the VIP not running, when I got it out yesterday I noticed the original owner had installed geared 5th crooked and it bothered me greatly, so it’s on the bench for today.
My main player, Trigger, still has the friction 5th, as do all others I bought with Grover 5th still there. Those that have been previously reamed for geared 5th get to keep their geared 5th, as I’m not going to repair a hole to reinstall a friction 5th.
Point is, you can easily live with fiction 5th if you get used to it. They hold well, it’s just a tad scary or nervy getting it there.
Well, apparently I no longer can navigate to load pix, I keep trying to no avail. Maybe my pix file is too full? I tried and will keep trying as long as patience holds up. I’ve always had problems attaching things on here and thought I had it.
Well, I can create new album names but cannot upload new pix to new album. I cannot upload pix to my old album, so I can’t attach. I give. This is broken or something today, I’ll try later. Just frustrating at this point.
Hours wasted trying to attach poor pix, sorry it didn’t turn out well.
Turned out great, thanks for posting. That "Freddie Vance" case is terrific!
You’ve got quite a collection!
My banjo of choice right now is a parts Vega. It’s a ‘64 Folk Wonder neck on a ‘24 White lady pot. I had luthier Leo Posch do the transplant,he reshaped the clunky neck so it’s very comfortable and the old rim with the white lady ring sounds so sweet. A former owner had converted it to a coordinator rod long ago.
Ya I think the photos are great! Good looking heard. Will you be re-installing cam d-tuners on trigger?
And...I’m interested to know how thick triggers rim is, and what the coordinator rods look like? It looks just like my ‘63...
Thanks for sharing!
Hi Dow. The clean Scruggs model, from our banjo brother Leslie, is the one you heard on cell phone once. The spittoon Scruggs with purple sidewalls on resonator will get its cam tuners back, and truss rod cover. It’s going back into ER today, for more fret end filing. I’ve just finished fretting it and am just now starting to kinda set it up.
My main player, is the Pro II, with the wood pecker sticker on the head and the greenish neck backside from hand grime and sweat. The old man who had it played it it’s whole life as a plectrum. It’s almost fretless. But the sound is so very sweet. And it’s nice having a great banjo that is worthless, and beat. It’s like a reliable old beat truck. No worries about scratches, you can leave unlocked, etc. it’s nice to be able to lay or prop it somewhere with no concerns about a minor scratch.
Here is an interesting phenomenon. Old instruments that are just worn out were worn out for a reason.
They sounded and played really good. The ones you find in mint, May be that way because the owner wasn’t quite thrilled with their tone, so they played something else. Of course, there always the owner who just never learned to pick.
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