I was recently given an old S.S. Stewart banjo, serial number 1650, and am just getting started restoring it. It's in somewhat rough shape - missing some frets, the nut, a tuning peg, several hooks, pot-to-neck wedge pieces (unsure of actual name), and the tailpiece. I'm not currently much of a banjo player, but my goal is to get this one into playable condition and start working on improving. I was hoping that someone could provide some information around what the original tailpiece might have looked like, and how it would've attached? It looks like it was possibly tied on?
I also wanted to make this post since I found an archived post by @joe28675 (banjohangout.org/archive/299328) requesting info on S.S. Stewart banjos with a serial number below 3000. I don't have all of the requested details/measurements, but would be happy to get them if you are still interested.
Edited by - noah w on 08/07/2022 13:54:11
Originally posted by rmcdow
Third row down on your left.
The Common Sense pattern tailpiece was not put on the market until about December of 1890 and was officially announced in June of 1891. So, it did not exist when this banjo was built.
I'll need to see the end pin hardware to show examples of the correct tailpiece.
To the OP, please understand that this banjo should have zero back angle to the neck, it should be flat and even in line with the head. With the correct zero neck angle a 1/2" bridge will provide a pretty high action. This is correct for the era.
Early "peanut-headstock" Stewarts were highly variable. If the dowelstick end protrudes thru the pot, the tailpiece would almost certainly be tied to it...and be a flat triangular form in either ivory or hardwood. Probably an "L" bracket inside the pot too.
If the dowelstick is attached with a threaded finial (or, absent the original, a threaded hole where it once existed), it is still likely to be a tie-on. If the finial has a bolt-hole...it uses a bolt (probably later though).
Stewart was purchasing most of his parts/hardware from wholesalers in this period...very hard to pin down what it might have really had.
I would think a triangular, flat, ivory, tie-on TP would be #1 on my suspect list.
Please post more pictures. From the few that you have posted, I don't believe your banjo needs to be restored, Just find the missing parts and put it back together. And don't reset the neck.
I noticed your banjo is missing the little pointed tip on top of the peg head. I don't know if that was a cheaper model or maybe it just got rounded off by a careless worker.
If the stick protrudes through a square hole at the tailpiece end of the pot, it takes a tie-on tail piece. Probably ivory with two small holes drilled at the back end of the tailpiece.
If there is not a square hole at the tailpiece end of the pot, it more than likely had a bolt-on tailpiece, probably ivory with one hole drilled on the back end of the tailpiece.
If there is a square hole in the pot at the tailpiece side and the stick does not protrude through the pot, it might have had the type of end pin pictured.
More few pictures would have saved a lot of typing.......
Edited by - joe28675 on 08/08/2022 14:56:37
Thanks to all for the helpful information and replies!
Joel, I've attached a few more pictures (I didn't realize I could add more than 3) - appreciate your detective work with the limited resources. The banjo isn't with me at the moment, but I don't remember seeing a hole in the end of the dowel stick. The dowel stick does protrude through the pot so it sounds like the tailpiece was simply tied on to that.
Interesting to hear about the peghead shape - I've included a couple of close up shots of the front/back that may or may not add clues to its history.
I would love to put it back together and start playing, but there are ~5 missing frets (these might be hard to see in the picture), and some others are lifting. My plan was to have these repaired/replaced.
Edited by - noah w on 08/09/2022 19:31:35
Pictured is the end pin on S.S.Stewart #1605. There is no hole for attaching a bolt-on tail piece so it was made for a tie-on.
The Stewart banjos that I have seen with the peanut shape peghead shape without the tip do not have a heel cap, for whatever that is worth. I suppose those banjos were just a little bit cheaper price point.
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