I have a 4 string Vega Little Wonder, resonator banjo. Serial # indicates between 1931/1934. It's a 19 fret neck. Dealer said that Irish like 17 fret. He said that the tuners, tail piece, hooks, etc are original. The parts are worth more than the whole. He suggested I sell the parts and have the banjo reassembled with new parts. How would I go about pricing and selling the parts?
It sounds like the dealer was selling you a bill of goods. Irish music can be played on either 17 or 19 fret banjos. The label Irish Tenor has been used as a marketing ploy by a few modern manufacturers.
As far as selling the parts and replacing them with new ones; why would you do that? The original hardware makes the banjo worth more than an old banjo that has been "upgraded" with new parts. And, as a player, the Vega Little Wonder is nothing to turn your nose up at. It lacks the ornamentation of some of the higher end Vegas but it doesn't lack in quality.
digger dave. ...sounds about as good an idea as digging a hole & then filling it in. I doubt that stripping your banjo & buying new parts would yield much of an advantage, considering the time & effort it would also take.
Edited by - tdennis on 10/15/2021 11:55:49
If the neck angle is correct (two to three degree back tilt), dealers would pay $200 to $400 for it. If the neck angle is wrong, that repair costs around $200-$300. In this condition, I typically part out the banjo.
Don't go back to that dealer.
It is true that any value would be in the rim assembly for conversion with a new neck is sold on eBay. Tenor banjos are in little demand right now, but changing the parts for new ones is the most moronic thing I have read on here in a long time.
Are you hard up for cash? Why would you even consider doing that? Perhaps this was a guitar dealer you were at?
BTW, it is a good idea to avoid guitar guys and "luthiers" that work on guitars when it comes to banjos. Often their ego will stand in the way of admitting they don't have a clue about banjos. Or, worse, they think they know all about them based on their guitar work.
Yea, what Joel, tdennis, & Mark says. Don't part it out.
An Eastman 5 string neck will fit with little adjustment if you want to make a 5 string .
1. Tenor banjos are increasing in popularity. A lot of mandolin players are starting to buy them, since tenor banjos and mandolins are tuned in fifths.
2. A Little Wonder is a well made, intermediate grade banjo that is built much better than most new tenors, such as Gold Tone and Goodtime.
3. By the time it would take to strip the old parts, sell them, and purchase and install modern replacement parts, the small amount of profit you might make would not be worth the effort, and you will have de-valued a banjo that is likely to increase in value as tenors rise in popularity and people figure out that old Vega's are good banjos.
4. If you decide to keep the banjo, it won't sound any better with modern hooks and nuts.
5. If you want to go to the trouble of installing a 5 string neck on a Little Wonder, it will be a fine sounding open back for clawhammer and bare finger styles.
6. Joel, I primarily work on guitars and mandolins. While learning and understanding the adjustment and repair of banjo pots requires some study, repairs involving necks and nuts are no different than they are on flat top guitars. As a matter of fact, it is easier to re-fret a banjo neck because you have better access to the upper frets. While it is true that a lot of retail shops have repair people who are not qualified to work on banjos [or for that matter, cannot do anything well except perform minor adjustments on a bolt-together electric guitar], I do not particularly care for your generalization.
Edited by - rcc56 on 10/15/2021 14:22:32
Well Bob, I think Joel has the same opinion about SOME guitar repairman as I . When I make a statement like that I say "Rock-n-Roll guitar repairman". Maybe that's what he means to say. I have seen some botched banjos from music store guitar repairmen.
I sometimes consider myself as a luthier & guitar repairman, only acoustics tho, doing more guitar work than banjo at times, & mandolins & fiddles (not violins).
I'm not going to get involved in a discussion about guitar vs, banjo luthiers, but I'll simply say that the dealer who suggested replacing Vega parts with modern stuff is not qualified to repair either. I'd be willing to wager that his main business is not musical instruments, but the sale of cheap Chinese replacement parts.
A better generalization might be that most of the best repair people are independents.
If you have an instrument that needs major work, it can be worthwhile to go to the trouble of seeking them out.
The traffic in most small and medium shops does not generate enough income to keep a highly skilled repair person on staff.
However, there are quite a few small shops that are sensible enough to farm out their more detailed work to skilled independents.
And some of the major shops, such as Gruhn Guitars, do have a very highly skilled repair staff.
And I'll add this to George's comments-- if a retailer does not know that a Vega Little Wonder is a banjo of quality, his opinions are not worth much. Even a good "rock-and-roll guy" knows that the Vega name is significant.
And of course, there are music stores that are run by folks who don't know what they are doing. Most of them don't last more than a few years.
Edited by - rcc56 on 10/15/2021 15:18:46
As I'm sure you have gathered, you will find little sympathy for parting out an old banjo here. The people on this forum have a high regard for vintage instruments and parting them out is the farthest thing from their minds. You might make a few bucks parting it out, but if you ever go to sell it, you'll get far less than it is worth intact. Keep it in it's original condition and learn to play it, trade it or sell it as is.
Only an American dealer will spread the nonsense that the Irish prefer the 17 fret tenor. Both the 17 and 19 fret versions are widely played on both sides of the pond. By the early 1930s, the 17 fret no longer existed in the Vega lineup. I prefer the tighter feel that the extra scale length gives extremely loose strings required for octave mandolin tuning.
A LW with a tight head has a strong, 'throaty' voice that can hold its own in any stage or banjo band. One might want to loosen the head a little and/or put some padding between it and the dowel for Celtic sessions at the local pub—be nice to the other players and don't overpower them in a jam.
They are the tenor version of the Regent plectrum or 5 string and make a nice conversion candidate to 5 string. The Eastman neck is quite popular.
Since a '30s will have 28 brackets on a 10 15/16" pot, all one needs is the 4 piece flange set to add a Vega resonator (I have one if anybody's looking). Resonators are easy to find, too.
A '30s should have a Presto or 4 string NoKnot but the only reason to change is if it's broken or you don't don't care for the tailpiece on the banjo—otherwise, leave it alone. Same with the tuners.
Lubricate the threads on the hooks.
'Cat Tracks (TOTW)' 5 min
'String gauges' 1 hr