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Sep 7, 2021 - 9:43:16 PM
333 posts since 8/17/2010

I recently purchased a 100+ year old 5 string project banjo in terrible shape. It has 17 frets and a 10 inch pot. I noticed that if I double the distance between the nut and 12th fret (12.75 inches), I get a scale of 25.5 inches. BUT, measuring 25.5 inches from the nut would place the bridge at about 1.5 inches from the rim. This doesn't seem proper. Your thoughts?

Sep 8, 2021 - 2:43:34 AM

Bill H

USA

1763 posts since 11/7/2010

Vega banjos have a bridge placement that is typically places the bridge close to the rim. Some pictures would be useful. Have you tried it with that bridge placement?

Sep 8, 2021 - 6:15:07 AM
Players Union Member

jduke

USA

1123 posts since 1/15/2009

The banjo in my avatar had a more or less standard scale neck on a 10" pot. I always assumed they were not original to each other. The bridge placement was about an inch and a half from the tailpiece. It tipped over a lot when I would tune it, but once tuned, it played quite nicely. I played that banjo for a number of years, but as I grew and improved as a banjo player, so did my knowledge of banjos .

I eventually attached that neck to a larger pot and sold it. Made a banjo-uke from the small pot and sold it too.

Sep 8, 2021 - 6:43:40 AM

Danaher

USA

254 posts since 6/25/2012

I find the best way to place the bridge is to make the pitch of a string fretted at the 12th fret match the pitch of the same string's 12th fret harmonic.

I have an SS Stewart American Princess, 10" pot, 20 frets and measures about 12 1/8" from nut to 12th fret. It's 27.5" from nut to tailpiece edge of the rim. I have the bridge about 2 1/2" from the rim.

on yours, it seems like nut to tailpiece edge of the rim would be 25.5+1.5=27", but the difference of 12th fret location would push the bridge closer to the rim on yours than mine, so you are probably in the right area for that. The frets pretty much lock you into bridge placement

With so little space between the tailpiece and the bridge, seems like it would put a sharp angle on the strings at the bridge, which might make the strings more prone to breaking or popping out of the bridge slots.


but that's me, not claiming to be any authority on such things

Sep 8, 2021 - 7:03:44 AM

9093 posts since 8/28/2013

Some pictures of the banjo could be helpful in determining if the neck is original to the pot. It might also help in dating this banjo. Ancient banjo makers sometimes had different ideas about bridge placement than modern builders. There's a possibility that the maker here thought he'd get a better tone with the bridge closer to the edge of the head.

Sep 8, 2021 - 7:38:42 AM

1223 posts since 1/9/2012

I like the idea that "There's a possibility that the maker here thought he'd get a better tone with the bridge closer to the edge of the head." That design choice (if it's a conscious choice at all) produces a punchier, shriller sound. It seems to be most common in the late 1800's. Soon thereafter, builders found other ways to move the sound in that direction. While there have always been enthusiasts of the "old ways," most of the market went for wire strings and tone rings.

Sep 8, 2021 - 8:04:40 AM

9093 posts since 8/28/2013

"With so little space between the tailpiece and the bridge, seems like it would put a sharp angle on the strings at the bridge, which might make the strings more prone to breaking or popping out of the bridge slots."--Danaher

Although the first part of this statement is true, that would actually produce the reverse of what you believe.

A sharper angle over the bridge applies more downward force on the bridge, so their would be less tendency for the strings to "pop out of the bridge slots." There is also very little to support the idea that a sharper angle could cause string breakage. There is a much sharper angle where the strings enter the tuning pins and unless there are sharp edges or other issues, strings don't usually break there.

Sep 8, 2021 - 8:13:27 AM

RB3

USA

1136 posts since 4/12/2004

It could be that the neck was originally designed for and mounted on a different rim with a significantly larger diameter.

Sep 8, 2021 - 9:21:05 AM

333 posts since 8/17/2010

The banjo appears original. I haven't been able to actually install the bridge since the head is completely gone. It will be a while before I can actually place the bridge and play it. I'm only at the planning stage for reviving this old girl. Thanks for all your input. You guys always come through!

Sep 8, 2021 - 10:02:51 AM

hbick2

USA

466 posts since 6/26/2004

I have two original banjos with 10" pots and the scale on both is 24".

In regards to the statement about Vega banjos placing their bridges close to the rim, that is not correct. I have dozens of Fairbanks and Vega banjos and the bridge on all of them is a ways from the tailpiece. I have a 10" Fairbanks banjo in front of me right now and the bridge is a full 3" in from the tailpiece.

Two things come to mind in your case:

1. A mismatched neck and pot. It is quite possible that someone stuck a neck from one banjo on a pot from another.

2. The original banjo was fretless. Sometimes people take a fretless banjo and add frets to it. They don't always get it right.

It was common in years past for people to take a new 26" scale neck and stick it on an old 12" pot. The effect here is the opposite of what you describe. The bridge ends up in the middle of the head. Now people are wanting them that way. Go figure!

As others have said, pictures will help folks determine what you have.

Sep 8, 2021 - 11:31:59 AM

Danaher

USA

254 posts since 6/25/2012

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie



A sharper angle over the bridge applies more downward force on the bridge, so their would be less tendency for the strings to "pop out of the bridge slots." 


You're probably right.  I was thinking horizontally. not vertically  Seems like a sharp angle on the first and fifth strings to me, a lot of sideways force on the slot.  But likely trivial as you say

Sep 8, 2021 - 2:47:11 PM

9093 posts since 8/28/2013

I can see how you came to your conclusion, and I suppose it could be troublesome with shallow bridge notches and very narrow spacing of the tailpiece string attachment points. I haven't seen that problem, though.

There is one other possible issue. The sharp break angle and consquent extra force of the strings on the back of the bridge (the angl and force on the front is unchanged) could conceivably cause that bridge to tip forward and fall. However, with the small bridges, usually 1/2 inch, used on most ancient banjos, I doubt that would be a problem, either.

Sep 9, 2021 - 2:46:21 AM

Bill H

USA

1763 posts since 11/7/2010

quote:
Originally posted by hbick2

I have two original banjos with 10" pots and the scale on both is 24".

In regards to the statement about Vega banjos placing their bridges close to the rim, that is not correct. I have dozens of Fairbanks and Vega banjos and the bridge on all of them is a ways from the tailpiece. I have a 10" Fairbanks banjo in front of me right now and the bridge is a full 3" in from the tailpiece.

I should have said closer to the rim. All of the Vega banjos I own or have ever owned have a 27 inch scale which places the bridge closer to the rim than any banjo I own with a 26 1/4 inch scale. It is not 1 1/2" but the point is that different makers had different ideas about bridge placement and who knows what the poster is referencing without pictures?

Sep 9, 2021 - 8:30:32 AM
likes this

2581 posts since 6/19/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Danaher
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie



A sharper angle over the bridge applies more downward force on the bridge, so their would be less tendency for the strings to "pop out of the bridge slots." 


You're probably right.  I was thinking horizontally. not vertically  Seems like a sharp angle on the first and fifth strings to me, a lot of sideways force on the slot.  But likely trivial as you say


That's why I hate those narrow tailpieces that seem to predominate on older, cheaper banjos such as the Resotone.

Sep 9, 2021 - 9:02:50 AM

1644 posts since 2/9/2007

I'm still curious to see some pictures of the banjo.

Sep 10, 2021 - 10:12:47 AM

9093 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

I'm still curious to see some pictures of the banjo.


So am I.  

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