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Apr 11, 2021 - 9:48:14 AM

DKof

USA

6 posts since 5/16/2020

Hey folks-

Pretty fun Craigslist score - a GB3 from the late 20's!

40 hole archtop ring, 2 piece flange, serial # 9224-8 - early Mastertone. 

My conundrum - what now? I play guitar as well as 5 string but prefer the latter. Would a conversion on this be sacriligious? Are 6 to 5 string conversions similar to converting tenors or is the process more invasive?

When I hold this banjo I burn to bring it back to life. Even picking it up, the weight, balance, feel, are just magnificent.

The neck itself is missing binding in some places and the tuners and tailpiece are lost to time - but it feels wonderfully straight and solid and the fretboard is in good shape -

So end of rambling but wanted to get some opinions re course of action from the hive.

What would you do?








Edited by - DKof on 04/11/2021 10:30:56

Apr 11, 2021 - 10:09:19 AM
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beegee

USA

22433 posts since 7/6/2005

No harm in making a 5-string neck and playing it. You can always switch back to GB

Apr 11, 2021 - 10:53:34 AM
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1420 posts since 5/19/2018

I’m with Bee Gee on this. These 6 string Mastertone Guitar banjos are as rare as hens teeth. Been keeping my eye out for one for a while. No avail...

You can restore it to original. Restore the neck and also get a new five string neck for it, but what ever you DO NOT cut the rim for a new tone ring. Better to sell it and put your money towards what you want. That instrument has solid value as a Guitar Banjo. Cut the rim to add a flat head tone ring to “improve” it will kill the vintage value.

Do not lose that six string neck!

Post pictures please of the finished restoration.

Apr 11, 2021 - 11:12:01 AM
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1366 posts since 1/28/2013

Just cut some grooves in the nut spaced how you like it, and string up with 5 strings.

Apr 11, 2021 - 11:17:05 AM
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11874 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by DKof

Are 6 to 5 string conversions similar to converting tenors or is the process more invasive? . . . What would you do?


Conversion of 6 to 5 is almost the exact same as conversion of 4 to 5. In both cases, you make a new neck.  That part's the same.

The only difference I can think of is that when you convert a 4-string Mastertone, you typically have 4 banjo tuners available to use on the new 5-string neck. Starting with a guitar-banjo, you have guitar tuners. Maybe even the 3-on-a-side kind. No use on a banjo.

Edited to add: I see from the photo that you have at least two banjo style tuners. I'd probably just go ahead and buy 4 new ones to go with the new 5th. If you actually have 4, and they're planetary, then use them if they work.

What would I do? I'd have a 5-string neck made or buy one that's ready to go. I might go for an inlay that's appropriate to the model and year. Or I might not care.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 04/11/2021 11:21:29

Apr 11, 2021 - 11:24:30 AM
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145 posts since 9/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

I’m with Bee Gee on this. These 6 string Mastertone Guitar banjos are as rare as hens teeth. Been keeping my eye out for one for a while. No avail...

You can restore it to original. Restore the neck and also get a new five string neck for it, but what ever you DO NOT cut the rim for a new tone ring. Better to sell it and put your money towards what you want. That instrument has solid value as a Guitar Banjo. Cut the rim to add a flat head tone ring to “improve” it will kill the vintage value.

Do not lose that six string neck!

Post pictures please of the finished restoration.


I can't stand seeing people cuttting rims.  At that point, just buy a new banjo. There are quite literally tons of Gibson copies floating around. 

Apr 11, 2021 - 12:01:43 PM
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ChunoTheDog

Canada

915 posts since 8/9/2019

Would you need a different tension hoop since the bottom of 6string neck is much wider than that of a 5 string?

Cool that they made these with the grooved tension hoop still by the late 20s.

Apr 11, 2021 - 12:15:07 PM
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ChunoTheDog

Canada

915 posts since 8/9/2019

quote:
Originally posted by szbassoon

I can't stand seeing people cuttting rims.  At that point, just buy a new banjo. There are quite literally tons of Gibson copies floating around. 


Same here, mind you....for every prewar archtop rim that gets cut to fit a flathead ring and one piece flange, one would assume that our original unmolested pre war archtops become rarer?

Apr 11, 2021 - 12:23:32 PM
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11874 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by ChunoTheDog

Would you need a different tension hoop since the bottom of 6string neck is much wider than that of a 5 string?


Need?

Not as far as I can tell from the photo.  It looks to me that the lip that the hooks grab onto is continuous across the heel, so there's no loss in function. What's cut away to make the notch wider is the inner raised circumference of the hoop. So here it's just a matter of looks.

Apr 11, 2021 - 12:32:25 PM
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1404 posts since 7/12/2004

Do nothing that can't be undone. Beyond that, enjoy the heck out of it.

The neck notch in the resonator will probably be a bit wider than it needs to be for a 5-string neck. Maybe get the custom neck built with a wide heel so it fits?

Apr 11, 2021 - 12:44:01 PM
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95 posts since 1/11/2020

Restore this as a 6 string. Then have built/buy a 5 string neck for it as an experiment/options.
If you dont mind me asking how much are they asking? Cause this could be a great deal. Lucky find

Apr 11, 2021 - 1:09:32 PM
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11545 posts since 10/27/2006

Cool! I'm in the get a new neck and don't cut the rim crowd.

I do have a question What's the nominal scale? (inside the nut to 12th fret x 2)

Apr 11, 2021 - 1:14:45 PM
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DKof

USA

6 posts since 5/16/2020

Looks like Gibson standard 24.75"

Apr 11, 2021 - 1:24:13 PM

DKof

USA

6 posts since 5/16/2020

Btw thanks everyone this is very helpful. I agree with everything said here.

Re necks it looks like Frank Neat makes the gold standard conversion necks - I haven't reached out but looking around they look very expensive. If I were to get a 5 string neck I would want something that played well but I'm not interested in paying for expensive inlays Gibson bling etc. I would save that for the original neck on a resale. Anyone have suggestions for who might be able to put something like that together?

Apr 11, 2021 - 1:35:17 PM
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13700 posts since 6/29/2005

I would make a new 5-string neck with new tuners and keep the 6 string neck intact.  I know some people who would love a vintage archtop mastertone 6-string

I would NOT cut the rim and make it into a flathead. Let me say that again—I would NOT cut the rim and make it into a flathead.

Good luck!

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 04/11/2021 13:36:16

Apr 11, 2021 - 1:46:06 PM

DKof

USA

6 posts since 5/16/2020

Yeah no dangee of that =} I play clawhammer so I'm not trying to sound like Earl lol - and yes, I am not interested in doing anything that would prevent this beauty from returning to its original incarnation.

Edited by - DKof on 04/11/2021 13:46:49

Apr 11, 2021 - 1:49:53 PM
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3842 posts since 5/29/2011

Frank Neat does indeed make about the best replacement necks you can find. However, consider that there a lot of other capable individuals who can make great conversion necks maybe for less than what Frank charges. Check out the classifed ads on here and you will see several necks made by BHO members who are great luthiers in their own right. That may give you an idea of who to contact.

Apr 11, 2021 - 2:09:08 PM
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7968 posts since 1/7/2005

You could string it like a 5 string banjo. Leave the sixth string spot empty and install a fifth string spike on the fifth fret to give you the proper pitch. Easy to undo, and gives you the opportunity to play it and see how you like the tone, before investing in a new neck.

You wouldn't be able to fret the fifth string with your thumb, but many excellent pickers prefer to fret the fifth with their fingers rather than thumb.

DD

Apr 11, 2021 - 5:28:32 PM
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8722 posts since 8/28/2013

If money makes it an either/or situation between refurb and new neck, I'd go for refurb. If you do have the money for both refurb and new neck, then do both.

Apr 11, 2021 - 7:40:34 PM
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14084 posts since 10/30/2008

The missing 4 tuners can be easily replaced with new or used ones that look "close" to the same. If you can't buy 4 exact matches, just buy 6 new ones that look roughly the same.

You can easily get the binding repaired on the 6 string neck. No big whoop.

Were I you I would have a 5 string neck made that looks like the 6 string neck. No fancy inlays in fingerboard, just simple dots. Even a "simple" neck will cost $1000 for a quite nice one. There are many makers who can do a fine job. You're right Frank Neat is the gold standard but his prices and backlog wait time reflect that.

Did you get the 6 string tailpiece and bridge hopefully?  Those could be a bit tough to find.  Did you get the armrest?   Those are easy to source.  New repros are pretty much the same as the old ones.

Looks like you're missing at least a couple of washers for the coordinator rods inside the pot.  Easy to get.

Your tension hoop will work fine, as-is.

Did you get the original hard case with it? If so, that will work for 5 string too, and will be very valuable by itself.

The font in your MASTERTONE block is a very cool variant, more "flowery" than most.

Banjophiles website (http://www.banjophiles.com/SerNumData/9XXX.htm) shows this lot of banjos dates from 1928.   9224-4 was also a GB 3.

Enjoy the journey.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 04/11/2021 19:46:40

Apr 11, 2021 - 7:46:18 PM
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5650 posts since 12/20/2005

I have one. I tune it like a 6-string banjo in open G. I have an old calfskin head on it. I like everything about it.
One time, I did string it in standard guitar tuning, and took it to a really nice vintage guitar store not far from where I live.
Naturally, there are a lot of guitar players constantly present, in a nice guitar store, no matter the time of day.
I let a number of guitarists play it.
I thought it was great, and they were loving it.
IMO, not many 11 inch rim banjo-guitars sound good. Not so with this old Gibson
You have a rare and unique instrument. I'm in the refurbish but leave it original camp.
This world is full of outstanding 5-strings. There are just a few of what you have.

Apr 12, 2021 - 7:56:26 AM
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Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9914 posts since 1/22/2003

This is Sam McGee (left, next to Uncle Dave Macon) with his archtop GB-3 Mastertone. I would keep it that way and have one just like Sam did.

Edited by - Emiel on 04/12/2021 07:56:55

Apr 12, 2021 - 8:02:50 AM
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5650 posts since 12/20/2005

Lot of history in that photo.

Apr 12, 2021 - 8:05:58 AM

5650 posts since 12/20/2005

That is an unusual inlay in the peghead of that GB3.
I can not clearly make it out though.
Anyone know what that is ?

Apr 12, 2021 - 8:14:43 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9914 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Leslie R

That is an unusual inlay in the peghead of that GB3.
I can not clearly make it out though.
Anyone know what that is ?


You mean the inlay on Sam McGee's GB-3? I think it is "The Gibson"…

Apr 12, 2021 - 8:14:47 AM

ChunoTheDog

Canada

915 posts since 8/9/2019

Its just the usual THE GIBSON, but at an angle

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