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Apr 12, 2021 - 6:48:19 AM

muckleado

Scotland

10 posts since 4/12/2021

Hi everyone, from Edinburgh, Scotland,

I have just joined the Hangout & this is my first post so here goes:-

I would really appreciate some help in identifying this old openback which I have owned for some 35 years. It has not been my “using” banjo for a long time, but every so often I take it out and wonder about its origin. I bought it for £100 sterling in 1986 from a folk musical instrument shop in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
It has a fairly short neck (17.75”) and the overall length is 33.75”. Tone ring diameter is 11.25”. (This has made me wonder if it is a Ladies Banjo.) Although I bought it in Scotland, I am pretty sure that it had its origins in the US (possibly Philadelphia or Boston?). The wooden ring on the back is beautiful and looks like rosewood by the grain.
As you can see, it has an old FyberSkyn 2 head, and some of the tensioners have been replaced over the years. Clearly the tuning pegs are not original. The only thing I have done to it (other than replacing strings) is the addition of a sliding fifth string capo. Most intriguing of all is the ivorine tailpiece which bears the logo of Kynoch Ltd, an early 20th century manufacturer in the UK of cartridges for the munitions industry and also for sporting shooting! Also intriguing is the obvious filled in screw holes on the dowel stick, suggesting the presence of a manufacturer’s plate when first made. (Would that it had been Fairbanks or A A Stewart!) Try as I might, I can see no sign of a serial number or any other marking. The headstock has nothing visible since it has clearly been painted/varnished over at some point in its history.
Some expert guidance would be gratefully received.


Apr 12, 2021 - 6:59:12 AM

1590 posts since 4/25/2007

Hi Dave. Be good to see some close up detailed photos particularly of the tailpiece but it looks like an older English made neck on a later pot. The filled in holes on the dowel could be evidence of having a resonator fitted at some point in it's life..

Apr 12, 2021 - 7:19:44 AM

muckleado

Scotland

10 posts since 4/12/2021

Hi Steve, Many thanks for quick response ( with some interesting ideas). I’ll attempt to get some further pics uploaded later today.

Dave

Apr 12, 2021 - 7:38:30 AM

1590 posts since 4/25/2007

hangoutstorage.com/banjohangou...12020.jpg

Take a look at this peghead shape Dave.

Apr 12, 2021 - 8:10:18 AM

muckleado

Scotland

10 posts since 4/12/2021

Hi Steve,

That certainly seems almost identical, down to the shape of the metal. (A further 3 close up pics attached as requested.)

Many thanks, Dave

Apr 12, 2021 - 8:12:49 AM
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muckleado

Scotland

10 posts since 4/12/2021

Hopefully the attachments are now here!


Apr 12, 2021 - 8:41:30 AM

1333 posts since 5/19/2018

Interesting instrument.

Particularly nice is that tailpiece. If you want to keep that tailpiece in any kind of condition, please remove those steel strings ASAP. That instrument is of an age where it was designed for gut strings. Steel will destroy that almost unique tailpiece.

If you wish to keep using steel strings, please purchase a tailpiece that is designed for steel strings and can take the tension and stress.

Very nice looking instrument to say the least.

Apr 12, 2021 - 8:47:06 AM

8449 posts since 8/28/2013

I second Alvin Conder. Steel strings will destroy that tailpiece. I'm surprised it hasn't been destroyed already.

Apr 12, 2021 - 8:49:36 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9868 posts since 1/22/2003

There are also tailpieces designed for gut strings that handle steel strings perfectly, like the No-Knot or the Kershner. The tailpiece you have, however, is not one of those…

Apr 12, 2021 - 8:57:11 AM

muckleado

Scotland

10 posts since 4/12/2021

Hi Alvin & Edward,

Many thanks for that advice. To avoid any damage, I’ll remove the strings tonight, then research availability of gut banjo strings.

Best wishes to both, Dave

Apr 12, 2021 - 9:21:29 AM

45 posts since 2/18/2021

Hi Dave, I have a totally uninformed, unscientific hunch that your tailpiece could be a keyring/keychain that was cleverly repurposed. Especially since Kynoch, as you say, was an ammunition manufacturer with no plausible connection to banjo parts. I have a keychain that's vaguely similar, although made of metal, sold by nitize https://www.niteize.com/images/KLK_Feature_00_l.jpg

I could be totally wrong, but I'd wager a few bucks that this might be right.. in any case, it's an intriguing mystery!

Edited by - Clutch Cargo on 04/12/2021 09:24:13

Apr 12, 2021 - 9:59:02 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9868 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by muckleado

Hi Alvin & Edward,

Many thanks for that advice. To avoid any damage, I’ll remove the strings tonight, then research availability of gut banjo strings.

Best wishes to both, Dave


Gut strings are expensive and only last for a short time. I would say, use Labella no. 7 nylon banjo strings, will sound almost the same…

Apr 12, 2021 - 10:47:56 AM
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muckleado

Scotland

10 posts since 4/12/2021

Hello Emiel,

Many thanks for that advice. I will source a set of them soonest.

Kind regards, Dave

Apr 12, 2021 - 10:52:16 AM
like this

245 posts since 5/25/2015

Rich's comment got me thinking so I googled the brand and "ivorine" and found a few old letter openers/page turners that look a lot like your tailpiece. Here's a photo of one. They seem to be a type of celluloid.


Edited by - gentrixuk on 04/12/2021 10:54:53

Apr 12, 2021 - 11:41:13 AM

8449 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Emiel
quote:
Originally posted by muckleado

Hi Alvin & Edward,

Many thanks for that advice. To avoid any damage, I’ll remove the strings tonight, then research availability of gut banjo strings.

Best wishes to both, Dave


Gut strings are expensive and only last for a short time. I would say, use Labella no. 7 nylon banjo strings, will sound almost the same…


Somehow the "1"  got lost. I think you mean LaBella 17's

Apr 12, 2021 - 11:53:06 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9868 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by Emiel
quote:
Originally posted by muckleado

Hi Alvin & Edward,

Many thanks for that advice. To avoid any damage, I’ll remove the strings tonight, then research availability of gut banjo strings.

Best wishes to both, Dave


Gut strings are expensive and only last for a short time. I would say, use Labella no. 7 nylon banjo strings, will sound almost the same…


Somehow the "1"  got lost. I think you mean LaBella 17's


Yes, 17's! Excuse me…

Apr 12, 2021 - 11:54:45 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9868 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by muckleado

Hello Emiel,

Many thanks for that advice. I will source a set of them soonest.

Kind regards, Dave


Labella 17's, not 7… Excuse me.

Apr 12, 2021 - 3:23:58 PM

hbick2

USA

339 posts since 6/26/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior

hangoutstorage.com/banjohangou...12020.jpg

Take a look at this peghead shape Dave.


There appears to be a name stamped on this one. Any idea who it is?

Edited by - hbick2 on 04/12/2021 15:24:31

Apr 13, 2021 - 12:03:14 AM

1590 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by hbick2
quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior

hangoutstorage.com/banjohangou...12020.jpg

Take a look at this peghead shape Dave.


There appears to be a name stamped on this one. Any idea who it is?


That one is stamped "Richard Spencer" Harry.

Apr 13, 2021 - 7:52:09 PM
likes this

45 posts since 2/18/2021

quote:
Originally posted by gentrixuk

Rich's comment got me thinking so I googled the brand and "ivorine" and found a few old letter openers/page turners that look a lot like your tailpiece. Here's a photo of one. They seem to be a type of celluloid.


Mark, that's amazing that you found this... exact same logo and everything. So my keychain guess was off base, but it certainly looks like someone used your letter opener's cousin as stock for the improvised tailpiece.  

Apr 14, 2021 - 12:22:12 AM

245 posts since 5/25/2015

quote:
Originally posted by Clutch Cargo
quote:
Originally posted by gentrixuk

Rich's comment got me thinking so I googled the brand and "ivorine" and found a few old letter openers/page turners that look a lot like your tailpiece. Here's a photo of one. They seem to be a type of celluloid.


Mark, that's amazing that you found this... exact same logo and everything. So my keychain guess was off base, but it certainly looks like someone used your letter opener's cousin as stock for the improvised tailpiece.  


Thanks Rich. Yes, looks like some clever re-purposing, and a fine-looking job. The letter openers date from the 30s, so it could have been on the banjo for quite a while. I'm guessing it would work pretty well. 

Apr 14, 2021 - 5:27:19 AM

muckleado

Scotland

10 posts since 4/12/2021

Hi everyone,

Lots of interesting posts about my banjo’s ivorine tailpiece. I agree that it has no doubt been there since at least the 1930s ( and I’m actually pretty sure that it was made as such, rather than being repurposed from a letter opener/cartridge case opener). Actually Kynoch Ltd was taken over by ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) in the middle of 20th century. Incidentally I am awaiting arrival of a set of nylon strings which should prevent any overstressing on the tailpiece.

By the way, does anyone have any theories re my original question seeking identification of my old banjo?

Many thanks, Dave

Apr 14, 2021 - 8:01:44 AM

1590 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by muckleado

Hi everyone,

Lots of interesting posts about my banjo’s ivorine tailpiece. I agree that it has no doubt been there since at least the 1930s ( and I’m actually pretty sure that it was made as such, rather than being repurposed from a letter opener/cartridge case opener). Actually Kynoch Ltd was taken over by ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) in the middle of 20th century. Incidentally I am awaiting arrival of a set of nylon strings which should prevent any overstressing on the tailpiece.

By the way, does anyone have any theories re my original question seeking identification of my old banjo?

Many thanks, Dave


Dave. Post a photo of the side view of the pot showing the rim brackets and hooks and nuts.

Apr 14, 2021 - 10:07:54 AM

muckleado

Scotland

10 posts since 4/12/2021

Hi Steve,
Three further close up pics of the hooks etc as requested.
Dave


Apr 14, 2021 - 12:52:54 PM

1590 posts since 4/25/2007

Thanks for posting the photos Dave. I think the neck was probably made by Richard circa 1890 and originally from a fretless banjo. The side position MOP markers (Professional frets) point very strongly to that. I'm not certain all the pot hardware or any of it is from the original banjo. The pot is probably much later. The pot may be also repurposed from something else like the tailpiece. The neck brace on the dowel is poorly fitted and should have two ebony wedges. It is probably from the original banjo. The four tuners on the peghead look to date to the 1930's and the 5th string tuner much later. I think it was probably put together by a reasonably talented amateur from a selection of parts.

Apr 14, 2021 - 7:23:24 PM

45 posts since 2/18/2021

quote:
Originally posted by muckleado

and I’m actually pretty sure that it was made as such, rather than being repurposed from a letter opener/cartridge case opener).


Hi Dave,

Well, we'll have to agree to disagree on that point... I can't think of any plausible reason for an ammunition company to produce a banjo tailpiece with their logo on it! If you're right though, it would be a fascinating story of how such a thing came to be. 

 Whatever the origin, it looks great and the whole banjo is very unique. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

Rich

PS. Glad some knowledgeable folks on the forum could actually provide insight into what you were after instead of just speculating and arguing like me! :^)

Edited by - Clutch Cargo on 04/14/2021 19:26:26

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