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Jun 24, 2022 - 1:20:54 PM
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39 posts since 6/20/2022

Fetching the Vega Regent from the banjo room, I happened upon this, which I've had for 10 or 12 years, an eBay find which I got because it had a real Oettinger tailpiece (now living happily on one of my Vega mini-plectrums) so I figured that the banjo part was free with the purchase of a very expensive tailpiece .

It has a 12-inch pot, a genuine MOTS fretboard that is nicely devorated in the fashion of scrimshaw. Relatively thin rim is completely metal lined, the metal rolling over to the outside though not far enough to support the hook frogs on the outside. It came strung with steel, which I replaced with Nylgut because I didn't want to damage that pristine fretboard. It is entirely unmarked. Head is plastic, alas. It has 28 hooks and a notched tension hoop.

The co-rod setup is not something I've seen elsewhere. The built-in wrench is a novelty to me.

My best guess is that it's European, possibly German, but this is only because I've seen instruments from there that resemble this one.

Anybody know what it is?


Edited by - dep on 06/25/2022 12:38:29

Jun 24, 2022 - 1:26:05 PM

394 posts since 2/11/2009

Looks like a 1930s neck on a pot a few decades older - but I have no idea who made either one!

Jun 24, 2022 - 3:20:56 PM

mbanza

USA

2496 posts since 9/16/2007

That plate on the inside of the pot adjacent the heel suggests to me the possibility that the pot and neck aren't original to each other. I suspect there is a squarish rimstick hole beneath.

Jun 24, 2022 - 4:11:25 PM

39 posts since 6/20/2022

quote:
Originally posted by mbanza

That plate on the inside of the pot adjacent the heel suggests to me the possibility that the pot and neck aren't original to each other. I suspect there is a squarish rimstick hole beneath.


I haven't had it apart, but it's puzzling why it's shaped as it is if it was just a patch. I also wonder about the tiny loop at the top of that plate. I suppose it could be a piece of something else that just happened to fit or could be easily made to fit, but still. Whether there's a dowel stick opening underneath will remain, for the moment at least, a mystery. But even if your suspicion is accurate, the neck and pot should be individually identifiable, no?

Jun 24, 2022 - 7:50:15 PM

9812 posts since 8/28/2013

Leedy used an old metal clad style pot with a more modern style neckwith lots of MOTS, but this is probably not a Leedy. I don't think it's German, either. Definitely strange, particularly that crazy co-rod set-up.

Does it sound decent?

Jun 24, 2022 - 8:02:33 PM

39 posts since 6/20/2022

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Leedy used an old metal clad style pot with a more modern style neckwith lots of MOTS, but this is probably not a Leedy. I don't think it's German, either. Definitely strange, particularly that crazy co-rod set-up.

Does it sound decent?


Yeah, it does. But as I mentioned, the MOTS has no wear and I'd like to keep it that way, so I haven't played it much. They don't make 'em like that anymore. It's a wonder they made 'em like that in the first place. A strange banjo, pretty in some respects and kind of steampunk in others. I'm glad I have it, but would be happier if I knew what exactly it is that I have. The 12-inch pot puzzles me a little, but they were apparently common enough that somebody -- doesn't say who -- made plastic heads for them.

Jun 25, 2022 - 12:58:52 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

10157 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by dep
The 12-inch pot puzzles me a little, but they were apparently common enough that somebody -- doesn't say who -- made plastic heads for them.

The head was probably made by Remo. Remo still makes 12" plastic heads. 12" pots today are pretty popular with 5-string openback players.

Jun 25, 2022 - 7:33:32 AM

9812 posts since 8/28/2013

Unfortunately, MOTS can go bad even without playing wear. It can shrink and warp and on rare occasions. catch fire. That deterioration can be worse if the banjo is kept locked away. If it is true MOP, mother-of-pearl, you will not have this problem, and that material is probably harder than the frets themselves. Nylon strings most likely, could be played for ages without damaging anything, provided you don't have sandpaper glued to your fingers..

Jun 25, 2022 - 10:19:37 AM

39 posts since 6/20/2022

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Unfortunately, MOTS can go bad even without playing wear. It can shrink and warp and on rare occasions. catch fire. That deterioration can be worse if the banjo is kept locked away. If it is true MOP, mother-of-pearl, you will not have this problem, and that material is probably harder than the frets themselves. Nylon strings most likely, could be played for ages without damaging anything, provided you don't have sandpaper glued to your fingers..


The fretboard on this one appears perfect. And yeah, I've seen nitrocellulose go up in particularly nasty flame -- not something you want to have happen. It's not mother of pearl, it's nitrocellulose blended with ground fish scales -- that's what MOTS is. Even so, I do not think that mother of pearl is anywhere close in hardness and durability to fret material, though I'm not eager to enter into an internet dispute about it<g>.

Jun 25, 2022 - 10:51:36 AM

12271 posts since 10/27/2006

What is the nominal scale (inside of the nut to 12th fret x 2)? I have my suspicions regarding the neck — don’t expect the scale to confirm but it may eliminate some makers.

Without a side view, I can’t tell if the pot is fully clad or not.

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Jun 25, 2022 - 11:08:06 AM

39 posts since 6/20/2022

quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

What is the nominal scale (inside of the nut to 12th fret x 2)? I have my suspicions regarding the neck — don’t expect the scale to confirm but it may eliminate some makers.

Without a side view, I can’t tell if the pot is fully clad or not.


Scale is 27 1/4. Pot is not fully clad. And unlike some I've seen, the inside cladding is a raound band inside the pot, a quarter-inch or so of wood, then an outer ring, at the botton, that kind of resembles the ring over Vega-style tonerings, which doesn't go far on the inside but rises about an inch on the outside. Its't in any way (except through the rim itself, of course) commected to the hook frogs, which are mounted directly to the wood. You can see that in the detail pictures.


 

Jun 25, 2022 - 11:59:30 AM

9812 posts since 8/28/2013

Since the fretboard is MOT and not MOP, wear could be more of a problem. MOP is very hard; it's used in some instances as nut material. Frets may be harder, but may not be. Having it wear down is not something I;d worry about. MOT is also rather hard. one of its materials is celluloid, which was once used in billiard balls. I've never seen an 8 ball with flats worn into it.

Maybe I'm trying too hard here, because I hate seeing musical instruments going unplayed.

Jun 25, 2022 - 12:28:16 PM
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39 posts since 6/20/2022

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Since the fretboard is MOT and not MOP, wear could be more of a problem. MOP is very hard; it's used in some instances as nut material. Frets may be harder, but may not be. Having it wear down is not something I;d worry about. MOT is also rather hard. one of its materials is celluloid, which was once used in billiard balls. I've never seen an 8 ball with flats worn into it.

Maybe I'm trying too hard here, because I hate seeing musical instruments going unplayed.


Celluloid is a term, like steel, that covers a multitude of materials. (Gun cotton, for instance, is a nitrocellulose, or celluloid.) Some of 'em are pretty energetic, as gun powder or, as movie makers learned to their dismay, the clear backing of early movie film. Over time its composition can change as it "off gases" and such, so what was once just fine can change its nature both as to flame resistance and, important here, its sturdiness. Some of those old cue balls (which probably wouldn't have been happy having steel wires sawing against 'em for years, anyway) would now burst into dry powder if you banged another ball into them. And of course the recipies for MOTS were made up as they went along. I didn't mention the ground fish scales for no reason -- it was a prime component in giving the stuff its sparled and depth. (Also mica and various other shiny things.)

It's still seen as an issue. For example, I was restoring an old Tubaphone Professional about 15 years ago. It had spent a few decades in a wet basement. All the hardware had to go off to FQMS for replating, but the rim was still surprisingly decent. The tortoise shell selluloid binding on the inside of the rim, top and bottom as was Vega's way, was chalky and brittle and had come loose in places, and simply had to be replaced. No problem, I thought. But then I tried to get some. It wasn't that it couldn't be found, it was that it couldn't be shipped. Like lithium ion batteries today, the postal service and other shippers prohibited it in shipments they handled. (Just the tortoise shell; don't know why.) Someone finally smuggled me a sheet of the stuff, a foot square and way too thick, from which I was able to cut the binding uneventfully. Thinning it was no fun at all.

I appreciate your desire that instruments be played, but have two caveats. The first is that there are those, too, who hate to see money uninvested and on that basis alone they'd be at odds with those who keep uncirculated coins. The second and more salient is that you've never heard me play<g>. If you had, you'd say, "As a banjo player, you're one hell of a collector!"

Jun 25, 2022 - 4:21:56 PM

9812 posts since 8/28/2013

I probably know as much about celluloid as you do. That said, tortoise shell is not available because it comes from an endangered animal. Celluloid can't be shipped for the very reasons you state (I suppose USPS has a staffer familiar with it) : it's highly flammable and can be explosive.

I never suggested steel strings, which could cause much wear (and not just to the fretboard) but I doubt nylon would be a problem. There are banjos 150 years old strung with nylon that appear to be undamaged. Joel Hooks and John Cohen (as well as others I can't recall right away) play these banjos on a regular basis.

I suspect your playing is not as bad as you claim.

Do what you want, but my feelings about idle instruments still holds. You can't make music with a coin, so I don't care if collectors keep them in sleeves.

Jun 25, 2022 - 4:31:42 PM

39 posts since 6/20/2022

No one in the banjo industry has made tortoise shell from hawksbill shells (a sea turtle, not a tortoise) for many decades. Fortunately. Nor to the best of my knowledge, have people been making true celluloid binding for consumer instruments for a very long time. It's actually kind of funny that binding made from the same material, just different dye, can be shipped just fine, but if it looks like tortoise shell it can't.

 

And yeah, as mentioned, I have the instant banjo strung with Nylgut. And among the reasons I don't play it much is that I have other banjos I prefer to play. So I'm preserving this one, and maybe in 100 years someone else will play it. I'd like to let them know what it is. Hence this thread!

Edited by - dep on 06/25/2022 16:34:17

Jun 25, 2022 - 7:40:25 PM

12271 posts since 10/27/2006

Everything in my database comes up negative regarding that neck. My gut keeps saying Gibson—a la a Trujo Special but the 27 1/4" scale belies that notion. It looks well made and whoever mated it to that older pot did a good job.

If I was still playing, it would have Nylguts on it and it would be getting played — whatever the hell it is. The 4th string would have a D'Addario EXP Classical D string — coated with 4 strands of wire in its nylon core.

Edited by - mikehalloran on 06/25/2022 19:43:52

Jun 26, 2022 - 8:43:11 AM

39 posts since 6/20/2022

Curious as to what about the scale eliminates the possibility of it being Gibson. Didn't Gibson have a 27 1/8" scale for a long time? That's only 1/8" difference from the measured length, which is well within banjo tolerances, no? (btw, I measured both nut-12th fret and overall to center of bridge, which of course only confirmed that I have the bridge in the right place . . . in both cases, it comes out to 27 1/8.)

Edited by - dep on 06/26/2022 08:45:32

Jun 26, 2022 - 11:33:48 AM

39 posts since 6/20/2022

Oops. 27 1/4, not 27 1/8 as stated in the last line above.

Jun 26, 2022 - 2:53:37 PM

12271 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by dep

Curious as to what about the scale eliminates the possibility of it being Gibson. Didn't Gibson have a 27 1/8" scale for a long time? That's only 1/8" difference from the measured length, which is well within banjo tolerances, no? (btw, I measured both nut-12th fret and overall to center of bridge, which of course only confirmed that I have the bridge in the right place . . . in both cases, it comes out to 27 1/8.)


I don't know of a Gibson with a 27"+ scale but I'm not as knowledgeable on the big G as I am on many others. My Trapdoor PB-3 was 26 1/4" like its RB-3 sibling. If such banjos did exist, that's where I'd place my money. I'll ask Greg Rich what he knows.

 

Vega was all over the place, even post-1915 when dimensions standardized after Waverly started making the metal. I have a '20s Senator with a 26 3/4" scale on a 10 15/16" pot — which isn't supposed to exist. 1920s Plectrum banjos were where Vega hid so many floor-sweeps so I'm not that surprised. Now I'm drifting OT so I'll save Vega floor-sweep plectrums for another thread. You should get a kick out of that.

Edited by - mikehalloran on 06/26/2022 14:55:43

Jun 27, 2022 - 12:15:07 PM

9812 posts since 8/28/2013

My trapdoor PB 3 is also 26 1/4, and a later ball bearing Gibson had that same scale. I don't think Gibson made anything 27 ivhes or more.

I still think it's possible that the neck is original to the pot. Although the pot does seem older, there have been banjos, such as the aforementioned Leedy, that had some "throwback" construction features.

If that's a Gibson neck, it was perhaps from a banjo made by Gibson for another company. I doubt that, however, as I have yet to see any Gibson made stuff with alternate scales.

I would look at that odd co-rod set-up as a better indicator, but don't know where to find information about such.

This is an unusual banjo. I like it for looks, but that scale length would be too much for my ancient and arthritic extremities.

Jun 27, 2022 - 12:44:39 PM

39 posts since 6/20/2022

From here: banjohangout.org/archive/134213

"From what I always understood, the pre-war (thru around 1930) 2 piece flange Gibson banjos were supposed to be 27 1/8 scale, which many banjo companies used back then. Gibson supposedly switched to 26 1/4 inch scale when they went to a 1 piece flange in the early 1930s.
"I have 'heard' (and read) that the longer 27 1/8 scale was used by Gibson. The pattern used to make the 5-string 27 1/8 scale neck on my 1928 TB4 was supposedly taken directly from an original pre-war Gibson neck. BUT, from posts here, I have yet to actually hear of an original pre war 5-string Gibson (including 2 piece rims) that has a 27 1/8 inch scale neck."

Jun 27, 2022 - 9:43:47 PM

9812 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by dep

No one in the banjo industry has made tortoise shell from hawksbill shells (a sea turtle, not a tortoise) for many decades. Fortunately. Nor to the best of my knowledge, have people been making true celluloid binding for consumer instruments for a very long time. It's actually kind of funny that binding made from the same material, just different dye, can be shipped just fine, but if it looks like tortoise shell it can't.

 

And yeah, as mentioned, I have the instant banjo strung with Nylgut. And among the reasons I don't play it much is that I have other banjos I prefer to play. So I'm preserving this one, and maybe in 100 years someone else will play it. I'd like to let them know what it is. Hence this thread!


"Tortoise shell," has not been made from sea turtles because most of them are also endangered.  

The earlier thread information about a Gibson 27 1/8 inch scales sounds to me like someone mis-reading a tape or straightedge or magazine article. The 26 1/4 scale Gibsons I have owned were made well before the one piece flange came along. The trapdoor had no flange, just a tube, but the ballbearing model had a two piece flange set-up.

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