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Jul 26, 2021 - 7:08:37 PM



211 posts since 3/11/2018

First I must admit to having more than one banjo and most of mine are originals for whatever that means. That said I'm starting to have a greater appreciation for the parts and the part builders. My latest purchase has a Robin Smith neck and a Dannick tone ring. The neck feels awesome and the Dannick tone is just sweet!

So now I'm just saying aren't they all really just the sum of the parts? So buy the one with the parts you like best. 

Jul 26, 2021 - 7:38:10 PM
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2664 posts since 12/31/2005

Two variables in terms of construction:

(1) Curation of parts
(2) skill in assembly in setup.

A valued "brand" often assures you of consistency with both. But if you or someone else can curate the parts + you have a skillful person assembling and setting up the instrument, then you can achieve the same (or better) result. In terms of modern banjos, they are mostly parts sourced from other suppliers or for which good alternatives exist. But you will see banjos comprised of the most highly sought after parts that will leave you flat. That usually results from an amateur assembler or someone tinkering with what was a good product.

Buying a Huber, Stelling, Davis, Hatfield, Yates, Deering, etc. ensures that both variables are there. But there are other folks out there that can assemble and setup or revive great banjos (e.g., Cushman, Dotson, Britton).

But the biggest variable in how it all sounds (within certain limits) is the player.

Edited by - Brian Murphy on 07/26/2021 19:39:15

Jul 26, 2021 - 9:41:40 PM
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4736 posts since 5/9/2007

Many small shop, open back banjers cannot be accurately described as “parts banjos”.

Mother Nature provided the trees, goats, bugs, supernovae and colliding neutron stars. But with the exception of wood alcohol, shellac chips, tuners, tailpiece, flesh hoop, bolts and nuts, everything else in these instruments came from the hands of their “builder”.

They have a soul and the breath of life breathed into them.

Jul 26, 2021 - 10:21:05 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)


25143 posts since 6/25/2005

As Eddie notes, bluegrass banjos patterned after the Gibson. Mastertone are hardly representative of banjos in general, both historically and at the present time. True, many bluegrss banjos are as much assembled as built from scratch. Few makers of bluegrass banjos cast their own tone rings. Many, if not most, purchase rims and hardware. Openback makers do more of their own work, but may purchase tone rings, rims, hardware. Most makers of resonator and openback banjos do craft their own necks. Banjos may tend to be parts banjos, but someone who’s not a builder would have a very hard time just buying parts and assembling one.

Jul 27, 2021 - 5:40:32 AM
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Virgin Islands (U.S.)

363 posts since 5/11/2021

Could it be argued that the later Gibsons are just rebadged Sullivan parts banjos?

Jul 27, 2021 - 7:09:37 AM
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12153 posts since 6/2/2008

Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun

Could it be argued that the later Gibsons are just rebadged Sullivan parts banjos?

I could be wrong, but it's my understanding that finish and assembly -- of many Sullivan-provided parts -- happened at Gibson.

Jul 27, 2021 - 8:56:16 AM



1818 posts since 11/3/2016

I can agree w/ Eddie & Brian ; In the case of Kel Kroyden & The American Banjo Company w/ the late Robyn Smith having built most wood components , the Dannick ring purchased , a complete banjo from there I would call original .

Jul 27, 2021 - 9:11:53 AM

R Buck


2978 posts since 9/5/2006

Gibson made a banjo that became quite popular. They no longer make banjos but Gibson like banjos are still popular. One must roll with the tide and realize that the game has changed. A well made banjo is a well made banjo regardless of the name slapped on it. I had a parts banjo with a pre-war sound that another member, who commented on this thread, had and then it may have moved on. It sounded great but needed some help in the neck department. I played it for well over decade and got many compliments on its sound. And so it goes.

Jul 27, 2021 - 9:52:39 AM



211 posts since 3/11/2018

I love my banjos. Even love the different sound and feel I get from them. My top three are a Stelling Master Flower(2018), a Gibson RB250 (1984), and my most recent Kel Kroyden from American Made banjo company.

The craftsmanship is awesome on them all. I would rate the Stelling the best in craftsmanship. The sound is great but different on all three. I would rate the American Made Banjo/Kel Kroyden as the best playability and possibly the best sound. Both qualities are in the eyes and ears of the player.

Another factor is all three are from different material types. Mahogany for the Gibson, walnut for the Stelling and maple for the American Made.

I believe if I had to chose 1 factor over another I would put the playability/comfort of the neck and string action on the top of the list.

I find it interesting with these 3 quality instruments you can still really hear and feel the significant differences.

Jul 27, 2021 - 10:34:54 AM
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12153 posts since 6/2/2008

Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun

Could it be argued that the later Gibsons are just rebadged Sullivan parts banjos?

More on this.

One could actually combine a Sullivan CNC neck; a Cooperman or Stew-Mac rim; Kulesh or Sullivan tone ring; Prucha flange and other hardware (including a Gibson-stamped Presto tailpiece), and assemble their own banjo from the same parts that Gibson bought -- instead of made -- in the final 10 or 20 years of production. I have no idea where their resonators came from. 

Gibson went from making its own wood parts and having its proprietary tone rings and flanges cast to order to essentially assembling banjos from the same parts available to everybody.

I guess that was your point. I wonder if everything that went into a 90s to 2000s Sullivan was the same as what went into a Gibson.

Jul 27, 2021 - 11:04:43 AM

1938 posts since 2/4/2013
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I've got two Recording King parts banjos. The RK-R30 has all the original stuff except it currently has a Price/Straightline tailpiece. The RK-OT25 is all original but I did put on a different bridge.

Jul 27, 2021 - 2:59:25 PM

61 posts since 5/8/2021

This is something I've always wondered about. I've always assumed that toward the end, Gibson was just trucking in parts and assembling banjos out of them. But what about smaller builders? What percentage of the banjo is actually made in house and what is trucked in?

I play a Richelieu 5 string, and since it's an oddball instrument and pretty different from Mastertone style banjos, I wonder what parts were actually made in Oregon, Wisconsin and what just brought in.

Things I think about instead of practicing...

Edited by - struggle_bus on 07/27/2021 15:00:31

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