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Jun 17, 2021 - 4:42:32 AM
233 posts since 11/4/2009

Hi i just got this fretless S.S.Stewart in for repair. Its in fantastic condition. Im assuming everything is original on it (?). It has a 29" scale and a big ole 13" pot. Absolutely no wear on the fingerboard, all MOP is present... really nice. Serial number is 8620










 

Jun 17, 2021 - 5:26:16 AM

6295 posts since 9/21/2007
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Nice! The model is Orchestra. What is the neck length (nut to rim)?

Jun 17, 2021 - 6:17:59 AM

233 posts since 11/4/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Nice! The model is Orchestra. What is the neck length (nut to rim)?


20"

Jun 17, 2021 - 6:40:27 AM
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6295 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by flatfootjohnny
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Nice! The model is Orchestra. What is the neck length (nut to rim)?


20"


Ah!  Very cool, I suspected as much.  Stewart recommended these for stroke style playing (aka "clawhammer").  Often with a slightly lower bridge than the standard 1/2".

Despite the narrative spun by academics, SSS promoted stroke style playing throughout his short career. 

Jun 17, 2021 - 6:55:20 AM

10966 posts since 4/23/2004

Was the 20" neck a catalog item, Joel?

This seems fairly late for the big 13...but as we know, Stewart would build whatever you wanted.

Very cool banjo...and one I've wanted for a long time. I had a similar Luscomb...but traded it off before I knew anything about stroke style.

Jun 17, 2021 - 7:00:26 AM
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1164 posts since 1/9/2012

But I do think I remember he was a fan of frets. Regarding fretless, I believe he strongly recommended sticking with one particular instrument so that your muscle memory of positions becomes stronger with time and your fingering becomes more precise. (In the photos, that gorgeous one seems to have position markers at each fret position.)

That's great advice which I, personally, ignore. Then again, my playing sounds like hell anyway.

Jun 17, 2021 - 8:55:17 AM

6295 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by trapdoor2

Was the 20" neck a catalog item, Joel?

This seems fairly late for the big 13...but as we know, Stewart would build whatever you wanted.

Very cool banjo...and one I've wanted for a long time. I had a similar Luscomb...but traded it off before I knew anything about stroke style.


Yes!  This one is early 90s,  91 +/-.

My orchestra is # 2021, 13" with a 18" neck which brings the scale to a paltry 27 3/8".  The neck shape on mine is consistent with the serial number era but has the trademark stamp and the stupid clover heel "carving".  Eli thinks it was sent back in the 90s for repair.  The fingerboard is a solid 1/4" thick and there are no side dots.  Mine is fretted with 18 frets.

It is a little tubby and I don't play it all that often.  It is my first "period" banjo I bought and I got it for reenacting the late 1880s, and it served me well in that role.


 

Jun 17, 2021 - 9:08:02 AM
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6295 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by davidppp

But I do think I remember he was a fan of frets. Regarding fretless, I believe he strongly recommended sticking with one particular instrument so that your muscle memory of positions becomes stronger with time and your fingering becomes more precise. (In the photos, that gorgeous one seems to have position markers at each fret position.)

That's great advice which I, personally, ignore. Then again, my playing sounds like hell anyway.


The fret thing and SSS is complicated.  On paper (and in practice) in his magazine and catalogs he was anti raised frets until the late 1880s.  He was adamant that it was metallic sounding and unmusical to use frets and that there was always fret slap.  He shouted about how real instruments like the violin does not have frets and all sorts of other false equivalencies.

 BUT, I happen to have access to some documents in a private collection where he wrote that he was actually pro frets and early on insisted that all professionals should use them.

Why the anti fret rhetoric?  This is where deductive reasoning comes in. 

SSS was constantly hearing complaints from amateurs buying banjos for the first time, restringing them, then discovering that the intonation was all out of wack.  Well it must be that the banjo was fretted wrong, obviously, so they complain to SSS.  Truth be know, it was actually the strings that were false and causing the problems. 

So, if you are running a business that includes managing a small factory, writing and editing a magazine, teaching banjo, managing a small music shop, composing, editing, and publishing music, and handling the marketing for all of that, the last thing you want to do is spend time explaining to customers how there is nothing wrong with their banjo.

The best way to get ahead of that is to just say-- frets are for losers, if you want raised frets you are on your own.  This argument was supported by the old hand of professionals who, out of stubbornness of the "back in my day everything was better", clung to the smooth arm banjo.

Jun 17, 2021 - 9:18:52 AM

1164 posts since 1/9/2012

Interesting. Thanks.

Jun 17, 2021 - 9:22:49 AM

310 posts since 4/14/2014

This interests me greatly, Joel. I wonder too, if this doesn't also explain some of the stated attitudes towards steel strings. Did his mind change, or did Stewart see the rise of steel strings on the horizon?

Also, I imagine that a lot of the complaints also had to do with people improperly positioning the bridge with string changes.

Jun 17, 2021 - 9:27:17 AM

656 posts since 8/14/2018

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by davidppp

But I do think I remember he was a fan of frets. Regarding fretless, I believe he strongly recommended sticking with one particular instrument so that your muscle memory of positions becomes stronger with time and your fingering becomes more precise. (In the photos, that gorgeous one seems to have position markers at each fret position.)

That's great advice which I, personally, ignore. Then again, my playing sounds like hell anyway.


SSS was constantly hearing complaints from amateurs buying banjos for the first time, restringing them, then discovering that the intonation was all out of wack.  Well it must be that the banjo was fretted wrong, obviously, so they complain to SSS.  Truth be know, it was actually the strings that were false and causing the problems. .

Is it possible that people were screwing up the bridge placement when restringing as well? My own Orchestra is a flush-fret, and I can easily make the intonation match the inlaid fret markers, but I could see someone not knowing how to get it right.

Jun 17, 2021 - 9:41:31 AM
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10966 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by trapdoor2

Was the 20" neck a catalog item, Joel?

This seems fairly late for the big 13...but as we know, Stewart would build whatever you wanted.

Very cool banjo...and one I've wanted for a long time. I had a similar Luscomb...but traded it off before I knew anything about stroke style.


Yes!  This one is early 90s,  91 +/-.

My orchestra is # 2021, 13" with a 18" neck which brings the scale to a paltry 27 3/8".  The neck shape on mine is consistent with the serial number era but has the trademark stamp and the stupid clover heel "carving".  Eli thinks it was sent back in the 90s for repair.  The fingerboard is a solid 1/4" thick and there are no side dots.  Mine is fretted with 18 frets.

It is a little tubby and I don't play it all that often.  It is my first "period" banjo I bought and I got it for reenacting the late 1880s, and it served me well in that role.


My Orchestra #2 (SN XXXX?) has the 1889 plate, is 12" X 19 and the "professional fret" dots along the neck (which are useless, one for each fret position). Mine was fretted at some point.

I have just never seen a 20" neck, nor have I ever heard of one before this. My CB has a 29" scale and is tough to play chordally because of it (I only do two tunes on it: "Skeleton Dance" and "Fun On The Wabash").

Fun to see something different.

Jun 17, 2021 - 10:10:30 AM

6295 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by MacCruiskeen
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by davidppp

But I do think I remember he was a fan of frets. Regarding fretless, I believe he strongly recommended sticking with one particular instrument so that your muscle memory of positions becomes stronger with time and your fingering becomes more precise. (In the photos, that gorgeous one seems to have position markers at each fret position.)

That's great advice which I, personally, ignore. Then again, my playing sounds like hell anyway.


SSS was constantly hearing complaints from amateurs buying banjos for the first time, restringing them, then discovering that the intonation was all out of wack.  Well it must be that the banjo was fretted wrong, obviously, so they complain to SSS.  Truth be know, it was actually the strings that were false and causing the problems. .

Is it possible that people were screwing up the bridge placement when restringing as well? My own Orchestra is a flush-fret, and I can easily make the intonation match the inlaid fret markers, but I could see someone not knowing how to get it right.


False strings were a problem.  This was something that came up time and time again.  I think people could figure out bridge placement. 

A "false string" is one that is uneven in thickness or density over the entire length.  The only way to solve it is to toss the string.  They would try and sand them even which sort of worked.  Sometimes taking them off and putting them back on the other direction would help. 

In the early 1890s strings got better (but not perfect) as well as people being more aware of the problem and how to deal with it. 

With smooth frets the player could adjust (within reason) for frets.

Jun 17, 2021 - 12:09:53 PM

233 posts since 11/4/2009

Thanks guys. I can always guarantee lots of interesting info.

Jun 20, 2021 - 6:47:39 PM

320 posts since 6/23/2013

Surprised to see that earlier Stewart tailpiece on such a late Stewart banjo. Stewart had switched to the type shown here several years before the banjo serial number 8620 was built. The change was made somewhere around serial number 2000 (I believe).


Jun 20, 2021 - 7:25:44 PM

6295 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by joe28675

Surprised to see that earlier Stewart tailpiece on such a late Stewart banjo. Stewart had switched to the type shown here several years before the banjo serial number 8620 was built. The change was made somewhere around serial number 2000 (I believe).


Hi Joe, note the OP is in the UK.  This pattern tailpiece was found on many banjos in the UK.  The one I have of the same pattern was on a British banjo.

Jun 21, 2021 - 7:54 PM

320 posts since 6/23/2013

You are correct Joel, after looking closer, it's not a Stewart tailpiece, the decorative carving on it is different than a Stewart and rather crude.

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