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Oct 18, 2021 - 6:11:44 PM
128 posts since 2/16/2008

Everyone is always harping about the pre war Gibsons. It pretty easy to see how they were made. Why isn't Gibson reproducing these things??

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 10/18/2021 22:38:03

Oct 18, 2021 - 6:21:29 PM
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104 posts since 5/8/2021

Well, Gibson may not be, but if you check the Marketplace, you'll see plenty of Pre War Gibsons that are nothing more than parts banjos.

I don't harp about them. Like many things in Banjoland, I think it's all nonsense.

Oct 18, 2021 - 6:22:37 PM
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1546 posts since 4/13/2009

Not enough money to be made by making/selling banjos.

Oct 18, 2021 - 6:35:58 PM
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Players Union Member

Blackjaxe47

Canada

1621 posts since 6/20/2014

If you want to make a small fortune making banjo's the answer is simple......start with a huge fortune.

Oct 18, 2021 - 7:16:59 PM

3951 posts since 3/28/2008

Huber, Hopkins....

Oct 18, 2021 - 7:27:25 PM
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12427 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by 2749guitars

Everyone is always harping about the pre war Gibsons. It pretty easy to see how they were made. Why isn't Gibson reproducing these things??


Why? Because Gibson has been out of the banjo business since the end of 2009. Banjos are a high-cost, low profit niche market that Gibson's current ownership and management are apparently as uninterested in as their predecessors who exited the market.

Oct 18, 2021 - 9:51:12 PM
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1611 posts since 1/28/2013

It's going to take a Progressive Bluegrass/Rock/Country Rock, Americana, whatever Band, which features a banjo as it's lead instrument, taking 16-25 year olds by storm Nationwide, resulting in a huge demand for banjos, to force Gibson to start making banjos again.

Oct 19, 2021 - 3:32:06 AM
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4680 posts since 11/20/2004

"It pretty easy to see how they were made."
If it were only that simple !

Oct 19, 2021 - 4:43:56 AM
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2897 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

When Gibson was making them banjos, labor and materials were cheap. Trolleys were still in use. The formula for trolley wheels was not ISO 9001 available like today. Foundries were plentiful. Manufacturing was local with local materials.

Now, this formula of interdependencies does not and cannot exist here in the USA. Other places with those types of services are in other countries.

Maybe, if all pre-war tone rings came from the same formula, then they could be easily replicated. They didn’t and couldn’t be built that way. As others have said, Gibson was never consistent with build materials within models.

So now, the few original hardware banjos are more one offs than replications. Sister and brother claims within a batch has little meaning when their components can be variable. Our banjo players we first heard used one offs to entice us.

My 2006 RB-12 sounds sweeter each day. My wife enjoys it. That is all that matters.

Oct 19, 2021 - 7:17:53 AM
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14324 posts since 10/30/2008

I give credit to Gibson from 1987 to 2009, as doing a MIGHTY good job in recreating certain pre-war Mastertone designs. The wood and metal came from different sources certainly, but they did real well on following the design of the most favored pre-war bluegrass Mastertones.

Those banjos were well received in the market. The Earl Scruggs model was VERY popular.

And yet, Gibson walked away from the banjo business PRIOR TO the Cumberland River flood. Other lines of business were more attractive to them. Even though I bet Gibson sold HUNDREDS OF TIMES more banjos from 1987 to 2009 than they did from 1930 to 1944. After WWII Gibson kept just two token models of banjo, the non-Mastertone 100/150. What inspired them to bring back the Mastertone into a TINY market in 1954 is a puzzle to me.

I believe there continue to be small builders doing AT LEAST as good a job as Gibson did from 1987-2009. And there are also banjo builders blazing new trails in design and sound. As long as the used Gibson market holds up, I don't think we NEED Gibson to restart a banjo line.

Oct 19, 2021 - 10:38:13 AM
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rcc56

USA

3846 posts since 2/20/2016

One way to get a banjo that will be close to the modern era Gibson reissues is to order one from Eric Sullivan.
Sullivan Banjos was the supplier of many of the wooden parts that Gibson used on their later banjos. Just specify the tone ring of your choice. Pssst . . . Eric's work will be cleaner than Gibson's was, and his finishes will be thinner and more attractive.

I remember a rumor that went through the forum last year, supposedly based on inside information, that Gibson was going to get back in the banjo business. No way, unless pigs start sprouting wings.

But I suppose we need a good rumor every couple of years or so.

Edited by - rcc56 on 10/19/2021 10:40:21

Oct 19, 2021 - 12:33:40 PM
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beegee

USA

22516 posts since 7/6/2005
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No maker yet has figured out how to build 75-80 years of age, tone and patina(and odor and mystique) into a pre-war copy banjo

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:32:13 PM

75136 posts since 5/9/2007

I couldn't be happier with any banjo other than my '29 tb-2/Cox double conversion.
I'm actually more proud of Jim's work than Gibson's.
Jim's grandson Adam inlaid this walnut FE neck and it has Jim's Kentucky 5 tonering.

Power and tone is "Thick".

Edited by - steve davis on 10/19/2021 13:33:37

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:58:09 PM
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1884 posts since 2/10/2003

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

No maker yet has figured out how to build 75-80 years of age, tone and patina(and odor and mystique) into a pre-war copy banjo


Pre-War Gibson’s weren’t alway 75-80 years old.  They were around 20-25 years old when they first started getting recognized for their sound and probabaly had the same sound since they were first built. There is more to it then age. The materials and building process/technique is not something that can be recreated, even if you think you know how it was done. 

Oct 20, 2021 - 6:53:48 AM

694 posts since 8/14/2018

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer


And yet, Gibson walked away from the banjo business PRIOR TO the Cumberland River flood.


ANd now to go back to it they'd have to rebuild everything they had before from scratch. And, then, they'd have to compete with offerings from Stelling, Bishline, Nechville, Prucha, Yates, etc. They'd have to prove themselves against that. The main advantage they would have is access to the Gibson distribution system.

They could, I suppose, also leverage their Epiphone facility to bring out lower-cost instruments to compete with Gold Tone and Recording King, but they don't seem interested in that either.

Oct 20, 2021 - 8:36:45 AM
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247 posts since 11/16/2011

quote:
Originally posted by Aradobanjo

 

The formula for trolley wheels was not ISO 9001 available like today. Foundries were plentiful. Manufacturing was local with local materials.

Maybe, if all pre-war tone rings came from the same formula, then they could be easily replicated. They didn’t and couldn’t be built that way.


ISO was first published in 1987.  However there are and were ASTM standards, American Standards for Testing Materials at the time Star Brass Works made rings for Gibson.

Specifically, ASTM B30 - Standard Specification for Copper Alloys in Ingot and Other Remelt Forms.  The composition alloy used in prewar archtop and pyramid rings, that I have had analyzed by Anderson Labs , appeared in the standards of the 30's and was last published in 1939.  Accurate analysis of bronze composition, not homogeneous, requires a large sample, a destructive test.  

Chemical composition is only part of it.  The foundry process, in my opinion, is a bigger part which affects the grain structure of the casting.   I can dump all the ingredients for an apple pie in a pan, put it in an oven at whatever temperature for however long, and can almost guarantee it will not win at the state fair.

Oct 20, 2021 - 12:04:34 PM

2897 posts since 12/4/2009

quote:
Originally posted by 550Spyder
quote:
Originally posted by Aradobanjo

 

The formula for trolley wheels was not ISO 9001 available like today. Foundries were plentiful. Manufacturing was local with local materials.

Maybe, if all pre-war tone rings came from the same formula, then they could be easily replicated. They didn’t and couldn’t be built that way.


ISO was first published in 1987.  However there are and were ASTM standards, American Standards for Testing Materials at the time Star Brass Works made rings for Gibson.

Specifically, ASTM B30 - Standard Specification for Copper Alloys in Ingot and Other Remelt Forms.  The composition alloy used in prewar archtop and pyramid rings, that I have had analyzed by Anderson Labs , appeared in the standards of the 30's and was last published in 1939.  Accurate analysis of bronze composition, not homogeneous, requires a large sample, a destructive test.  

Chemical composition is only part of it.  The foundry process, in my opinion, is a bigger part which affects the grain structure of the casting.   I can dump all the ingredients for an apple pie in a pan, put it in an oven at whatever temperature for however long, and can almost guarantee it will not win at the state fair.


Hello Paul,

Thank you for your efforts to understand the mystic claimed by pre-war owners and aficionados. Yet small samples and specific to what is owned are not statistical models to claim universal truths about a company who still stymies us today with what is Gibson and what is not.  As the Porter analysis shows, the variance of acceptance was pretty wide. WWII requirements tightened acceptance up. 

Oct 20, 2021 - 2:16:01 PM
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247 posts since 11/16/2011

quote:
Originally posted by Aradobanjo
As the Porter analysis shows, the variance of acceptance was pretty wide. WWII requirements tightened acceptance up. 

How was the analysis done and what is its accuracy?  Taking a small sample in a lead area of a bronze casting may not represent the overall alloy.  A metallurgist would suggest a "wet analysis" as being the most accurate way to analyze a bronze casting, which for tone rings means cutting a significant piece out of the ring.  Look at the grain structure in a polished cross section of the ring and you can see how small samples may give skewed results.

Here is the standard information for C83600 or Leaded Red Brass, 85-5-5, which is reference to the nominal amounts but has an acceptable range plus/minus.   Allowable trace elements are also listed as they may significantly alter a characteristic of the alloy.   C836 is a common postwar tone ring alloy but was also available prewar.

The standards are more about the characteristics of the alloy and typically come about because of manufacturing needs or military requirements, which drives smelters to produce specific ingots.  Bill Porter quotes QQ military specifications and some of the alloys documented in the ASTM standard B30.

Range of acceptance may have changed because of WWII however it was also likely because of requirements and availability and cost of metals.  For example, depending on requirements, zinc may be substituted for tin. 

Oct 20, 2021 - 8:24:10 PM

2897 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello Paul,

Interesting discussion. Mapping the present to the past is not the same as the past. I imagine the process of today is not sourced from US sellers. Just-in-time crosses international borders.

If all owners permitted any metallurgy study, I wonder which side of variance or spot-on makes the cut for some favorite sounding banjo. As it stands, the pre-war homogenous is the monicker. No two banjos sound the same.

The Dannick, The Yates, and the Vintage and HR-30 are sourced from one banjo with its ring.

As it stands, my student said he enjoys my banjo over his. To me, his banjo sounds fine. JamKazam does pretty good.

Oct 20, 2021 - 9:53:22 PM

rcc56

USA

3846 posts since 2/20/2016

Suppose somebody went the extra mile, and attempted to make a "bench copy" of an old Gibson banjo. A bench copy is an attempt to use all of the same materials, including glue and finishing materials, and all of the same dimensions of an original. So far as I know, this hasn't been done, since I know of no one who is using hide glue to assemble rims, and few are paying much attention to the solid content of their nitrocellulose lacquer.  And how much attention are we paying to the composition of flanges and tension hoops?

How close would they sound to the original? Would a spectator be able to tell the difference? An average player? A great player? Or even a great player who has spent his whole life playing one or more of the old instruments?

Bench copies of Gibson mandolins signed by Lloyd Loar have been made. I hear that they are very good if the builder has sufficient skill, but I haven't played one, and I don't know whether or not I would be able to tell the difference from one of the originals. They are wooden instruments, and I do believe that age and use do have their effects.

I have played what are called faithful reproductions of Martin and Gibson guitars, and they are somewhat different from the originals. To me, the best of them sound like what I believe a good original would have sounded like when it was new-- before the wood resins and glue had dried out completely, before the solvents had migrated out of the lacquer, and before the wood had been shaken around for 10 or 20 thousand hours.  Is it a big difference? Sometimes more, sometimes less. Can everybody hear the difference? No.

I do know that there are some very fine instruments being made today. We are in a "golden age" of lutherie. There are perhaps a dozen makers who are making resonator banjos that are good enough to satisfy the best professionals.

Will Gibson ever get back into the banjo business? Probably not. If they do, will they be built with the same amount of care as instruments built by our best small-shop makers? Probably not.

I am one of the ones who believes that more of the sound comes from the hands of the player than from the instrument. Save up for a good instrument that fits your hands, and have some fun. You don't have to worry about the name of the maker if you don't want to. If you like 'em new, good ones can be found. If you like 'em old, they can be found also. But if you're absolutely set on an old flathead, you're going to have to save up for a long time. Happy picking, y'all.

Edited by - rcc56 on 10/20/2021 21:57:33

Oct 21, 2021 - 4:49:19 AM

2897 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

Here is my sample of one. I picked up a Dannick off of eBay 55% reduced. I commissioned Ken LeVan to build the rim his way. Ken did a fine job with fit and finish.

I used AMB tension and flange hardware with 5/16 nuts and Fults tailpiece. I mated an eBay Recording King mahogany neck to it. I had a pre-war copy.

When I play it, my wife says “I like the tone of your RB-12.” The Recording King neck is ok. The frets were butchered by the previous owner. To my ears, the Dannick ring has stuff my Kulesh Gibson has less of. But, the Kulesh has stuff the Dannick has less of. The Kulesh as more than the Dannick. So swapping the rings doesn’t make sense.

I am considering building a better neck. Maybe, the neck would bring out more Dannick detail to surpass the Kulesh. Then, I come to my senses. They are both banjos.

This is to me why building an exact replica never produces a pre-war copy. The banjo is a what I like. I am enjoying both.

Oct 21, 2021 - 9:06:16 AM

2868 posts since 2/10/2013

There are more than enough banjo makers available. Especially smaller operations that will make a banjo to the buyers specifications. Imports provide good quality lower priced banjos for buyers. I own a Stellling, but would not mind having a Hatfield archtop as well.

The guitar market is much bigger and lucrative than the banjo market. Go to the average jam and count the number of guitar players and banjo players. Not near as many banjos as guitars.
Even fewer fiddlers.

Oct 22, 2021 - 6:00:11 AM

7056 posts since 9/5/2006

by an old upright piano made in the late 1800s or early 1900s made of maple...strip out the wood and build your banjo using hide glue and a decent ring and then see what you get..... tight grain and hide glue,,,,,, uh oh,,,,, i let it out

Edited by - 1935tb-11 on 10/22/2021 06:00:48

Oct 22, 2021 - 11:55:31 AM

2784 posts since 4/16/2003

"Everyone is always harping about the pre war Gibsons. It pretty easy to see how they were made. Why isn't Gibson reproducing these things??"

Gibson is out of the banjo building business.
I doubt they will re-enter the market in my lifetime, but I'm gettin' old.
Probably won't see this in your lifetime, either.

If you want a banjo constructed to represent a "close, modern example" of what Gibson was putting out in the 1930's, get a Huber Truetone and be done with it. That's probably as close as you're gonna get.

Actually, there are  gen-you-wine Gibson factory built banjos from the period of 1988-2009 that are within a stone's throw of the look, sound and feel of the old ones. You just have to search a little, and find the right one. Or perhaps just "get lucky".

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