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Jun 24, 2021 - 6:19:34 AM
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5649 posts since 12/20/2005

I've had this Buckbee for a long time. Got it at an antique store. The owner said it had came from a church in Missouri, but had no more information than that.
I don't know much about Buckbee banjo's. I think this is a cool old banjo. But it's going to need a few parts.
It has no tuners or tailpiece. It's missing a couple of shoe brackets and 6 hooks.
There is a small recess in the top of the rim, like it was cut for some kind of basic tonering. Not sure about it. I do have some mystery hoops in a parts bin. If something is supposed to be there, I might have it. I could use some help with this.
Neck is almost straight as an arrow. Fingerboard and frets look pretty good.
It's a little grimy, and still has some cobwebs.
I'm kinda undecided, if I should try restoration and selling or just selling/trading as is.
I'm thinking if I had the parts, this banjo could be cleaned, assembled, strung up, and be ready to play.
I'm posting some pictures and I would really appreciate any thoughts or advice.

Jun 24, 2021 - 6:28:22 AM
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5649 posts since 12/20/2005

Here are some photos, more coming.

 

Edited by - Leslie R on 06/24/2021 06:30:03

Jun 24, 2021 - 6:33:03 AM
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5649 posts since 12/20/2005

Some more photos

 

Jun 24, 2021 - 6:36:11 AM
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5649 posts since 12/20/2005

Some more

 

Jun 24, 2021 - 6:39:33 AM
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5649 posts since 12/20/2005

And these. I can add more if needed.
Thank You very much.


Jun 24, 2021 - 6:55:27 AM

10966 posts since 4/23/2004
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Looks like a pretty easy rebuild to me. I agree, it probably had a hoop sitting on the ledge on the rim. If you can't find one that fits, I suspect you could measure and somebody here would make one for you.

Hooks and tuners and other parts are pretty easy to get from various vendors here. Bob Smakula comes to mind. https://www.smakula.com/

Bridges and tailpieces, if you want period correct: https://www.banjothimble.com/shop/

Of course, you'll want to see if the neck angle is correct. With these things it is really easy. Assemble the neck to the rim and flip it all face down on a flat surface (countertop, table, etc.). The neck should be in the same plane as the rim, the whole thing should lay flat. If the neck is leaning back a bit, no problem...but if it is leaning forward, you're going to need to fix that. A neck reset can be expensive. It isn't rocket science but it really needs to be done by someone who knows these old banjos and can do it correctly.

This is not a $10k banjo. If you choose to change it (clawhammerize it), that's OK. It certainly will be more saleable if you do so...but more work too. I waffle a lot with the cheap end of the vintage market. Should I 'restore' it or should I modernize it to make it useful in today's market? If I am going to keep it, I'll tend to restore it. If I choose to pass it on, I have to be more aware of the market.

Edited by - trapdoor2 on 06/24/2021 07:00:04

Jun 24, 2021 - 7:10:34 AM

5649 posts since 12/20/2005

Thank You Marc. I just layed it down on flat surface, fingerboard down.
The fingerboard is definitely in the same plane as the top of the pot.

Jun 24, 2021 - 7:27:39 AM

5649 posts since 12/20/2005

One item I forgot to mention.
The rim measures 10&13/16.

I'm pretty sure I can make some tapered pegs. Seems like I always see these made of exotic hardwood. I have some rosewood, ipe, cocobolo and cucuru. I gotta wonder if walnut, oak, mesquite or maple would work. I also have some antlers and cape buffalo horn, but that is rough stuff to work with.

Edited by - Leslie R on 06/24/2021 07:35:55

Jun 24, 2021 - 7:50:56 AM

10966 posts since 4/23/2004
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I would think that any decent hardwood would work. Oak may be too open grained for a good peg. I'd use whatever I had that would give a fine, smooth finish for the tapered shank.

These things were typically set up for a 1/2" bridge. That works well with nylon strings and no neck angle.

I forgot to mention, if it didn't have the ledge on the rim, I would say it probably just was left natural. I had one with a ledge but no ring years ago. I carefully sanded a slight radius to the top of the wood and then coated it in wax (paste wax, probably car wax...but I don't remember). I tossed a head on it and it worked perfectly.

10-13/16" sounds so odd these days but a lot of these old banjos were built around commonly available material lengths. 36" has always been a very common length for metals. The "tone ring" would need to be ~34" long to start...that gives a couple inches of room on either end to cut off after it has been rolled. Same goes for the tension ring, which would be slightly longer. It just depends on availability. Longer lengths were available but may have been more wasteful, etc. 

Edited by - trapdoor2 on 06/24/2021 08:07:49

Jun 24, 2021 - 8:01:30 AM
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6288 posts since 9/21/2007
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I disagree and think there was nothing on the top edge. The cladding would have continued around a wire. These were budget banjos and if the top was not wired and clad, then chances are there was nothing there.

RE: Pegs. Either white celluloid (which you can't get today) or boxwood stained black (you can get these). I seriously doubt that JHB would have put any good wood into this level banjo. Find the cheapest violin pegs you can, that is what was used.

If you don't want to fit them, look for a set of Grover Champion pegs which should drop into the holes. Violin pegs would be best.

I have not made any tailpieces in a long time as they are time consuming and it is all I can do to keep up with bridges and thimbles. Mark Ralston or Smakula could provide a tailpiece. I suppose I should start making them again as people do like them. It might give me an excuse to get a better scroll saw.

Jun 24, 2021 - 8:29:21 AM
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10966 posts since 4/23/2004
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quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

I disagree and think there was nothing on the top edge. The cladding would have continued around a wire. These were budget banjos and if the top was not wired and clad, then chances are there was nothing there.


In my experience, if the top edge was meant to be left exposed (no ring), it would be chamfered or radiused, with no rebate.  The only ones I've seen that were just left 'bare and square' are the really cheap tubs that aren't really even clad, just have some foil tacked around the rim to make them shiny.

I have several variations of the "half clad" rim where the top edge is exposed and a wire hoop added. I think of this concept as an early evolutionary step in the R&L "Orpheum" line after R&L took over the Buckbee factory...eventually culminating in the "Paramount" line. At least I think I could make an argument for that... laugh

Jun 24, 2021 - 9:06:14 AM
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6288 posts since 9/21/2007
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I'll defer to you Marc, but I am seeing a rabbet cut into the outer edge to allow for sloppy assembly to keep the hook ends from cutting into the head when over tightened or using poorly fitted hooks. In my mind this would be a faster/cheaper option to the divots we see in earlier examples. Saves a minute or two in production to route a channel over cutting divots under each hook end.

Jun 24, 2021 - 9:15:51 AM
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8713 posts since 8/28/2013

I agree with Joel on this one. It's just a "sort-of" clad rim. I also suggest that the rim be measuerd very carefully in several places. These cheap old banjo rims always have a tendency to get out-of-round, and this one may not actually be 10-13/16 everywhere.

You have mentioned selling it or restoring it and then selling it. In my opinion, I think it would be wisest to simply sell it and let someone else do whatever he wishes. Parts cost money, and I doubt you'd get it back in a future sale. Remember, to fix this, you need to buy a head, a tailpiece, five tuners, a bridge and strings, shoes, hooks, and, nuts. If you are doing this for fun and experience, fine. But don't expect to make money on it. In fact, you'll probably lose money.

Jun 24, 2021 - 10:57:43 AM
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10966 posts since 4/23/2004
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quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

I'll defer to you Marc, but I am seeing a rabbet cut into the outer edge to allow for sloppy assembly to keep the hook ends from cutting into the head when over tightened or using poorly fitted hooks. In my mind this would be a faster/cheaper option to the divots we see in earlier examples. Saves a minute or two in production to route a channel over cutting divots under each hook end.


Let's look deeper at the old tension hook divots in the rim.

In this banjo, there is a small rebate/rabbet cut into the outer edge of the rim. First, I would measure it (height and width). If we have a large width to depth ratio (width greater than height) then I would expect a ring. If we have a larger depth than width, I would agree: "clearance". From the pix, the rabbet appears shallow and wide, thus "ring".

However, I would further argue that tension hook gouges are a feature/bug of the early/cheap, thin steel-strap tension hoops...and very likely a "user created" feature. Putting relief divots makes no sense to me, the hooks would cut the skin first. Tension hoops evolved fairly quickly into turned brass rings thick enough that the hooks would not extend beyond the inside diameter of the hoop. Modern hooks are ground to achieve this clearance...but we see this even early on in the 'steel strap' era of tension hoops. Badly/user-made hooks are a different issue. The factory is unlikely to have done that.

I do think that the "archtop" style banjo evolved partly to help with some of these clearance issues. Lange developed the 'skirt' on his banjos to help provide a smooth surface so that the head would not stick and cause problems. He also went with a hoop "tone ring" that was smaller in diameter and provided with location pins to keep it centered...giving it an 'archtop' appearance. I do not think this was to eliminate tension hook gouging though. I think this was a response to acoustic theory of the time, thinking smaller heads produced better/stronger tone, etc.

Buckbee experimented with reduced diameter rings...yet another banjo patent. We got a lecture on this at one of the Banjo Collector's gatherings. I actually have one of those banjos (in a box somewhere, waiting for me to restore it). It has a partially clad hoop with a wooden top (like a guitar top, except thicker) with a central hole and a wire hoop around the central hole to provide a "raised" head. Somehow I recall this banjo may have been involved with the very earliest banjo recordings. It has no rabbet, the wooden edge of the "top" or "platform" is quite square (I would have sanded it to a small radius...at least).

Of course, none of this means I'm right. The rabbet could indeed be a clearance step. I just don't see that as a positive feature. And again, these things were made my hand in a time when a minor modification like this could be implemented by Joe Banjo-turner during his shift but not by Bob on the next shift.

Jun 24, 2021 - 12:27:12 PM
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1615 posts since 12/26/2007

Hey Marc - about those "divots" (I call them dimples)....... I've been intrigued by them for some time. I think they were probably first implemented in response to having the j-hooks gouge the head, used for a while, then abandoned. They are common enough that I think they were an intentional design feature for a while. One of the photos is of a dimpled, Hoseus-patented pot (1/4" rod tone ring is suspended on cantilevers) that sure looks like it was built by Buckbee (patent date stamped on dowel agrees with the date of the Hoseus patent).

I like your description of the tension hoops that you often see with "dimpled" pots as "steel strap".

I associate dimpled pots with
* early manufacturing date,
* most often seen on probable Buckbee-built banjos,
* "steel strap" tension hoop, fastened by a rivet,
* very thin, cheesy metal pot cladding, often with ends nailed beneath the heel, often does not roll over or under pot,
* sometimes primitive, scarf-jointed pot wood.

I've also seen a couple of banjos that had twice as many shoes as dimples..... I think this is a clue that someone added catalog shoes to a dimpled pot.

We had a discussion about divots (dimples) in 2014.... banjohangout.org/archive/283133

Cheers..............








 

Jun 24, 2021 - 12:42:36 PM

217 posts since 4/17/2015

If the plane of the fingerboard is level with the top of the rim, as stated, that would argue against any lost element having been present which would have raised the level of the head above that of the fingerboard. Such a set up would have compromised the playability as well as the tone of the instrument. And would be unusual. As for a consideration during restoration/rehabilitation, there are enough hooks, nuts, and shoes for functionality, that replacement of any of these missing pieces could certainly be at least deferred. Potential out of roundness of the rim (not noted in the post, but suggested in comments) is more of a consideration in choosing a synthetic head to fit- Using a natural calfskin (or similar) more easily accommodates any variety in that area. I have seen plenty of similar rims, and would not have been suspicious of any loss, unless there were both clear markings and the plane of the head and neck did not match.

Jun 24, 2021 - 12:43:04 PM

5649 posts since 12/20/2005

I appreciate the points made.

I took a closer look at the top of rim. I was mistaken, there is no type of recess, or rabbet cut into the top of the rim. It's simply the way the metal stops close to the top.
Also, the tension is not steel, I tested it with a magnet.
Here's a better picture of the top of the rim.
Question: if I did list it for sale, what might be a fair price ?


 

Jun 24, 2021 - 12:52:20 PM

217 posts since 4/17/2015

As for pegs, I would not bother with bespoke items, but would just use "store" violin pegs. I also would not worry much about matching the economy of the original Buckbee factory (in terms of materials) but would be more concerned with the "button" shape. Most contemporary pegs have a bell shape which I find jarring on period instruments. The vintage pegs had more of an oval head. I think these may be what are now called "Swiss" style, but I have usually obtained pegs from secondary sources. It is good to get everything "correct", but the form seems to stand out more than materials for myself.

Jun 24, 2021 - 4:18:57 PM

5649 posts since 12/20/2005

I'm thinking of going with thin goatskin, violin tuning pegs and a Golden Gate no slip tailpiece.
Then maybe string it up with Aquila strings.
I've never set anything up like this.
I would welcome any advice on this.

Thank You

Jun 24, 2021 - 6:18:32 PM

6288 posts since 9/21/2007
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FWIW, there is no evidence that goat was ever used other than the rare exception. I presume there was a good reason and in my experience goat tends to be rubbery and feel like a balloon that will never get tight.

Calf skin that has been treated to be white were the standard. While not near the quality of Rogers, I have had very good results with the heads being sold on ebay. Not sure who is selling them but I have fitted many of them and they look and sound good.

Jun 25, 2021 - 2:27:22 AM

1761 posts since 1/13/2012
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There was no tone ring. The head sits directly on the wood. I've taken apart many rims that were made this way (not only by Buckbee). I suspect they were cheaper to make, and once the head installed most buyers wouldn't notice.

Jun 26, 2021 - 5:46:20 AM

10966 posts since 4/23/2004
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quote:
Originally posted by Mark Ralston

Hey Marc - about those "divots" (I call them dimples)....... I've been intrigued by them for some time. I think they were probably first implemented in response to having the j-hooks gouge the head, used for a while, then abandoned. They are common enough that I think they were an intentional design feature for a while. One of the photos is of a dimpled, Hoseus-patented pot (1/4" rod tone ring is suspended on cantilevers) that sure looks like it was built by Buckbee (patent date stamped on dowel agrees with the date of the Hoseus patent).

I like your description of the tension hoops that you often see with "dimpled" pots as "steel strap".

I associate dimpled pots with
* early manufacturing date,
* most often seen on probable Buckbee-built banjos,
* "steel strap" tension hoop, fastened by a rivet,
* very thin, cheesy metal pot cladding, often with ends nailed beneath the heel, often does not roll over or under pot,
* sometimes primitive, scarf-jointed pot wood.

I've also seen a couple of banjos that had twice as many shoes as dimples..... I think this is a clue that someone added catalog shoes to a dimpled pot.

We had a discussion about divots (dimples) in 2014.... banjohangout.org/archive/283133

Cheers..............


Yah, I suspect the 'dimples' are not factory, just some poor schmuck trying to fix his banjo; an amateur/shed 'fix' for when you find the hooks have cut the head...but of course it is really attacking the problem from the wrong direction. Real proof of this being a factory feature would be advertising. "Our dimples will save your head!" sort of stuff or perhaps a patent application.

Anyone with a file or a pocketknife could 'fix' their banjo in this manner...but it would be cool to find some sort of factory documentation for it.

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