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Mar 21, 2022 - 6:55:55 PM
18 posts since 12/7/2021

Hi Folks,

I've recently been asked to sell an old Ludwig Kenmore plectrum banjo I've had lying around and am in the process of getting it cleaned and set up and dealing with a couple minor issues before passing it along. The banjo itself is in very good shape, a well made, high quality instrument, but lacking the excessive decoration that would make it very valuable. Still, it should be an excellent player. It is just missing the ebony heel cap (something I've seen on other Kenmores) and needs a bit of attention to some fairly extensive finish checking (something else I've seen in other Ludwig banjos).

It has a newer Remo Weather King banjo head (currently tuned to Ab) and a custom made Snuffy Smith bridge. The tone is great but I'm working on set up and to my sense of touch, it feels a bit high. Can anyone share or point me in the right direction to the proper set up specs for a plectrum/Irish tenor banjo? In particular, I'd love to know the best distance between the bottom of the lowest string and the top of the first fret. For acoustic guitar that's usually .024" for the low E and .016" for the high E. This banjo measure .029" and .024" respectively so I wonder if that's off a bit. String height at the 12th fret is about 3 .5/64ths or roughly .1" Also is Ab (the "tuning" of the head) the best tension for the head?

Thanks very much!




 

Mar 21, 2022 - 7:13:10 PM
like this

beegee

USA

22961 posts since 7/6/2005

You would be better off to ask a potential buyer for his preferences, for that is who will make the final judgement . Just as we all have preferences for 5-strings, so it is for plectrums and tenors.

Mar 22, 2022 - 5:25:36 AM

9624 posts since 8/28/2013

I agree with Mr. Gaddis. I will point out that most all banjos from this period used a 1/2 inch bridge, and if you've substituted a 5/8 inch bridge, strings will be too high. I shoot for just under 1/8 inch between the bottom of the strings and the top of fret 12.

Head tension is a matter of where the banjo sounds and plays best, and that is usually a matter of player preference. If this is the pot-metal top tension model, it is not advisable to mess with head tension, anyway. The tension hoops can crumble. I would simply clean this one up a bit and let the buyer do the rest. If plectrum players are like me, I'd guess we're even pickier than bluegrassers and will alter whatever you do, anyway.

Whatever happens, don't expect to gain much financially. There's not much demand for plectrum banjos these days, and possible even less for a plain-jane Ludwig,

Mar 22, 2022 - 2:43:15 PM

12197 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

I agree with Mr. Gaddis. I will point out that most all banjos from this period used a 1/2 inch bridge, and if you've substituted a 5/8 inch bridge, strings will be too high. I shoot for just under 1/8 inch between the bottom of the strings and the top of fret 12.

Head tension is a matter of where the banjo sounds and plays best, and that is usually a matter of player preference. If this is the pot-metal top tension model, it is not advisable to mess with head tension, anyway. The tension hoops can crumble. I would simply clean this one up a bit and let the buyer do the rest. If plectrum players are like me, I'd guess we're even pickier than bluegrassers and will alter whatever you do, anyway.

Whatever happens, don't expect to gain much financially. There's not much demand for plectrum banjos these days, and possible even less for a plain-jane Ludwig,


Amen.

I played plectrum banjos in local pit orchestras for decades. In addition, I sold and set them up for other local players (so they would stop borrowing mine). Everybody is different but orchestra work usually has heavier strings than Irish or banjo band.

During my playing days, I one set up for orchestra (27" Tubaphone NO 3 or Bacon B or 26 1/4"Kalamazoo tuned Chicago), Irish (26" Imperial Electric tuned 5ths) and standard Plectrum (the Bacon B, Kalamazoo or Vega Senator tuned CGBD).

Most vintage instruments with dowel sticks begin with half inch bridges and go from there. If preparing for sale, set to a reasonable action and let the buyer tweak it from there.

I just got in a '20s  26 3/4" Senator with a 10 15/16" pot. Not setting it up till I find the right buyer. 

Mar 22, 2022 - 7:19:53 PM

18 posts since 12/7/2021

Thanks everyone. Yes, I do plan to shoot for a reasonable set up and let the buyer tweak it. I just wanted to get a handle on what a might look like. Judging from your comments, I think it's right there now. The string height at the 12th fret is just under an 1/8th" as mentioned above. If I was keeping it to play myself, I'd tweak the string height at the nut a bit but the potential buyer is planning on coming over and trying it out so I'll let him decide.

And no, I don't expect to make a bundle! But I'll make a little and I will be pleased to see a solid, well made instrument get into the hands of a player.

Edited by - Ginridge on 03/22/2022 19:20:49

Mar 22, 2022 - 8:06:23 PM

12197 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Ginridge


And no, I don't expect to make a bundle! But I'll make a little and I will be pleased to see a solid, well made instrument get into the hands of a player.


Good for you. Plectrums are a drug on the market — more out there than players looking for 'em.

I played cello in high school; off and on ever since. After finding the strings too floppy on a tenor for octave mandolin tuning, I switched to a 26" plectrum with cello fingering and never looked back.

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