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Jul 18, 2021 - 9:57:08 PM
809 posts since 5/22/2006

I have the opportunity to buy my friend’s ‘68 RB100, and I really love the tone of this banjo. The brass hoops was replaced with a 20-hole God knows when and it sounds fantastic. The neck is a problem though, and I don’t know what my best option is.

There was a heel crack at some point that was repaired, there’s a pretty big (to me) gap between the pot and the heel, the action is very high, and when unstrung the neck wobbles from side to side. The neck seems straight, and the intonation is good.

Has anyone experienced this? Could it be an issue of setup, and getting the co-rods just right? (They seem tight.) Or would I be better off just having a new neck made?








 

Jul 19, 2021 - 3:36:12 AM

beegee

USA

22463 posts since 7/6/2005

From what I can see, the action seems a tad high and the frets are really low.
If this was my banjo, I'd get the frets right and then work on the neck angle. There may be enough wood there to have the heel-cut "touched-up". Or, it is possible to add new wood and have it re-cut. Or it may be possible to properly adjust the co-rods to lower the action once the neck is trued-up

In any case, the first thing I would do is pull the frets, true up the fingerboard, adjust the truss-rod, re-fret and then start with the neck angle. The heel should be checked for solidity, then the finish should be repaired.

What height bridge is installed currently? It may be possible to increase the neck angle with a higher bridge, allowing the bottom rod to be tightened, drawing the heel closer to the rim. It' s a balancing act.

If you do this work yourself, it's do-able. If you employ a luthier to do the repair work, it may be more cost-effective to replace the neck. You can have a new RB-100 neck made or replace it with a fancier model. SInce the banjo is already converted to a tone-ring banjo, you will not affect the value much either way. I'd be inclined to keep the RB-100 neck, just because.

Jul 19, 2021 - 4:03:19 AM

2865 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

The bottom coordinator rod secures the heel to the body. A gap and wobbly is usually due to the lower lag bolt releasing. Take a picture of the tailpiece facing the nut. This will allow us to see the play in the lower coordinator rod.

Jul 19, 2021 - 4:58 AM
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13870 posts since 6/29/2005
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I agree with John,  it looks like the bottom lag is pulling out—screwing those into end grain is iffy to begin with, and a cracked heel  would make it worse.

If that turns out to be what's wrong, I would think you'd have to repair the crack, drill out the old lag hole, glue in a dowel, and drill that for a new anchor for the lag.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 07/19/2021 04:58:57

Jul 19, 2021 - 5:55:58 AM
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Alex Z

USA

4486 posts since 12/7/2006

With all this advice about refretting, fixing cracks, etc.  --  a good part of a good decision here is how much you would pay for the banjo, how much a new neck would cost, and how much the banjo would be worth after all the repairs. 

On the BHO, luthiers are generally enthusiastic about repairing banjos ("All you have to do is A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, etc." smiley)   Easy for them since they already have the skills, experience, and tools.  (That's a great 1985 Chevy Cavalier you have a chance to buy, all you have to do is replace the engine, overhaul the transmission, re-weld the frame joints, etc.)

So you would want to assess your capabilities and the time and money you'd have to spend, in light of what the advice is.  If you're paying $300 for this banjo, that's one thing.  If you're paying $900, that's quite another.

At the same time, if you want to tackle the job as a satisfying project, that's OK too.

Jul 19, 2021 - 7:25:17 AM

809 posts since 5/22/2006

Thanks for all the replies!

Price is at $700 but it might have some wiggle room to go down. I’d probably just as soon put a new neck on it, if the crack and all that look iffy enough.

Do you guys think $700 is a good price? And how much would you spend on a neck before it gets to the point where it doesn’t make sense?

Jul 19, 2021 - 7:26:13 AM
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14192 posts since 10/30/2008

If I owned that banjo, the first thing I would do is tighten up the neck to rim contact using the lower coordinator rod, which would also (normally) bring the action down to something reasonable.

HOWEVER, with that big crack in the heel, located awfully close to the lower lag bolt, I'd be afraid of pulling the repaired heel crack apart.

Your other option is to use wooden shims on the top part of the neck heel to push the bottom of the heel in toward the rim. (Above the upper coord rod/lag bolt.) This also lowers the action. You need to take up the "slack" that is generated on the lower coord. rod by pushing the bottom of the neck heel "in". Do it in slow stages so you can avoid pulling on the lag bolt and stressing that repaired crack.

Shimming is an old method, cheap, and unlikely to cause much harm.

As far as buying this banjo, I just wouldn't buy it. RB 100s are like buses, if you miss this one, another will be coming along soon.

Jul 19, 2021 - 8:40:28 AM

13870 posts since 6/29/2005
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quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

If I owned that banjo, the first thing I would do is tighten up the neck to rim contact using the lower coordinator rod, which would also (normally) bring the action down to something reasonable.

HOWEVER, with that big crack in the heel, located awfully close to the lower lag bolt, I'd be afraid of pulling the repaired heel crack apart.

Your other option is to use wooden shims on the top part of the neck heel to push the bottom of the heel in toward the rim. (Above the upper coord rod/lag bolt.) This also lowers the action. You need to take up the "slack" that is generated on the lower coord. rod by pushing the bottom of the neck heel "in". Do it in slow stages so you can avoid pulling on the lag bolt and stressing that repaired crack.

Shimming is an old method, cheap, and unlikely to cause much harm.

As far as buying this banjo, I just wouldn't buy it. RB 100s are like buses, if you miss this one, another will be coming along soon.


Agreed!

As to the buses, another one will only come along if it's not raining.

Jul 19, 2021 - 1:04:40 PM

8918 posts since 8/28/2013

If done properly, doweling the lag screw hole and re-drilling shouldn't overly stress a cracked heel. However, there's no way to really know how well the crack itself has been repaired, which could cause all sorts of other problems. It would also be difficult to clamp the neck heel solidly enough to do the initial drilling.

I'd look for another "bus," even if it is raining. All bets are off, though, if you're talking about a school bus, in which case, you're stuck no matter what the weather is like.

Jul 19, 2021 - 1:36:35 PM

809 posts since 5/22/2006

Thanks for the answers, everyone.

Now I have a second question: how much would you pay for this banjo as is? Like I said, I love the tone of it, the pot is in great shape, and it’s got a good ring in it. I wouldn’t mind getting a neck for it if I don’t end up paying more than it’s really worth.




 

Jul 19, 2021 - 2:11:45 PM

Alex Z

USA

4486 posts since 12/7/2006

"Now I have a second question: how much would you pay for this banjo as is? Like I said, I love the tone of it, the pot is in great shape, and it’s got a good ring in it. I wouldn’t mind getting a neck for it if I don’t end up paying more than it’s really worth."

It has "good bones" as they say.  Gibson metal parts, Gibson rim and resonator.  Gibson neck assuming it can be fixed up.

Ignoring any fretwork for now (which may not be needed anyway),  everything else is glue and wrench work and some elbow grease for a good clean up -- easily within the capability of someone who knows what a banjo should look like and sound like, which obviously the poster does.  Parts would be a new head and new bridge.

Loving the tone is a big advantage.  There's no guessing about "what if I don't like how it sounds".

Since you asked, and since your friend is asking $700 and assuming you want to keep the friendship, I'd go $500.  The $200 drop is for $50 in parts, several hours of labor you're going to put into it, and a small head start on a new neck since you are taking the risk that the current neck can't be repaired satisfactorily.  (New neck could be in the $800 range, with binding and any decoration other than dots adding to that.)

If you had not heard or liked the tone, I'd pass up this one.

Hope this helps.

Edited by - Alex Z on 07/19/2021 14:13:48

Jul 19, 2021 - 2:18:29 PM

809 posts since 5/22/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

"Now I have a second question: how much would you pay for this banjo as is? Like I said, I love the tone of it, the pot is in great shape, and it’s got a good ring in it. I wouldn’t mind getting a neck for it if I don’t end up paying more than it’s really worth."

It has "good bones" as they say.  Gibson metal parts, Gibson rim and resonator.  Gibson neck assuming it can be fixed up.

Ignoring any fretwork for now (which may not be needed anyway),  everything else is glue and wrench work and some elbow grease for a good clean up -- easily within the capability of someone who knows what a banjo should look like and sound like, which obviously the poster does.  Parts would be a new head and new bridge.

Loving the tone is a big advantage.  There's no guessing about "what if I don't like how it sounds".

Since you asked, and since your friend is asking $700 and assuming you want to keep the friendship, I'd go $500.  The $200 drop is for $50 in parts, several hours of labor you're going to put into it, and a small head start on a new neck since you are taking the risk that the current neck can't be repaired satisfactorily.  (New neck could be in the $800 range, with binding and any decoration other than dots adding to that.)

If you had not heard or liked the tone, I'd pass up this one.

Hope this helps.


Thank you! I've been playing a long time but haven't ever bought an old banjo that needed work, so my fix-it-up experience is minimal. I'm on tour right now and my set-up stuff is at home. Hoping I can get this home and to my repair guy. Thanks for all your knowledge!

Jul 19, 2021 - 4:25:32 PM
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26 posts since 11/16/2019

About a year or so ago I bought a 1963 RB 100, arch top, that looks like it had never been played. I paid $1300 and another $150 to have it set up and 3 spikes added. It plays and sounds very good. I really like the look and feel of this banjo. I hope this helps.

Jul 21, 2021 - 6:25:45 AM
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809 posts since 5/22/2006

UPDATE!

I got the the banjo, and as soon as it was actually mine I began turning bolts, and lo and behold, it just needed a good tightening of the co-rods. Action is just where I need it and it sounds even better than it did before.

Thanks to everyone for the advice and tips!

Jul 21, 2021 - 9:37:42 AM

12153 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by dustyelmer

I got the the banjo, and as soon as it was actually mine I began turning bolts, and lo and behold, it just needed a good tightening of the co-rods. Action is just where I need it and it sounds even better than it did before.


Great news!

I was going to chime in that the situation looked excatly like something that developed on one of my banjos about 7 years ago. For no reason known to me, the lower portion of the heel was not in contact with the rim. This explained the banjo's slow loss of volume and punch. All it took was tightening the lower rod to pull the heel back into contact. The lag was not loose in the heel. The neck had simply moved. It's been fine ever since.

I was also going to say that it appears to my untrained eye that the heel crack is not in line with either lag bolt hole, but is safely between them.

The neck can be refinished to hide the repair. Seeing how little you may have paid for this banjo, and seeing it's more of a player than a collectable, I don't think a refinish would hurt the value at all.

Congrats on the acquisition. 

Jul 22, 2021 - 3:13:20 AM

4325 posts since 12/6/2009

couple things. I have a 68 RB100. I bought it brand new. at the time RB100s only came with 1 coordinator rod not two. Rim looks fatter then normal. I may be wrong but would say thats a wrong rim. and maybe why neck blew out. too bad because RB100 necks are really a good necks to have. looks beyond repair really poor craftsmanship....in fact junk....stay away.

Jul 22, 2021 - 4:01:47 AM
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4649 posts since 11/20/2004

Congrats and glad it worked out for you with the neck. A new neck may or may not sound the same. Fortunately, now it is the way you like it !

Jul 22, 2021 - 1:07:07 PM
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11695 posts since 10/27/2006

I would declare victory and leave it alone.

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