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Oct 3, 2022 - 7:44:39 PM
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36 posts since 4/10/2019

When I spied this across the antique store earlier, I thought "hey! A mountain banjo!". I was expecting a roughly constructed or kit type instrument. Upon inspection, I found it was very well made and had some age to it.

It appears to be walnut.
Overall length 35.5
Head diameter 5.5
Pot diameter 9
Pot thickness 2
Diameter at nut 1.5
Scale 25.75

Pegs are hand carved. Walnut plugs on pot are hand carved (not perfectly round). I enjoy woodworking and have made a handful of banjos myself and really appreciate the craftsmanship of this instrument.

I realize there have been a lot of these made. The following things made me wonder if it was possibly a Proffitt or Glenn Banjo

The neck/pot joinery is identical to some I've seen pictures of. The headstock is similar shape as one for sale on Retrofret. Also similar to one I viewed on national museum of American history website. Bridge design is similar to pictures I've seen. The way the tail piece is inlaid into the pot instead of attached to the outer circumference. I have not seen any pictures of banjos with the decorative little pegs around the perimeter of the pot, but I do like that feature about this instrument. Having collected a lot of old junk, I believe the patina and wear could conceivably put it in the mid 20th century.

The guy I talked to at the antique store was the one that bought it had an auction in Farmington Illinois. He did not have any history on it, but said there was a lot of instruments for sale at this auction.

I know it's probably a long shot, but for $45 I'm a very happy camper whatever the case!

Thanks for looking.










 

Edited by - jander88 on 10/03/2022 19:48:23

Oct 3, 2022 - 9:01:55 PM

1682 posts since 4/29/2013

For $45 that was a steal and a half. Feel like I've seen another with the wooden "brackets" along the circumference of the middle ring, but don't remember who the maker was attributed to. The angled cut of the top ring tab is a Leonard Glenn hallmark, along with the inset tailpiece, granted those elements have been copied by others, I'm sure. Pulling Foxfire 3 out, the peghead shape and overall appearance looks similar to the one on pg. 158-9.  
 

Edited by - Noah Cline on 10/03/2022 21:04:28

Oct 4, 2022 - 5:11:16 AM

2018 posts since 5/19/2018

Not going to make a call on the builder, without a signature or provenance these instruments are almost impossible to pinpoint a builder, but I will say, certainly an older instrument. 60’s or 70’s give or take. Certainly very well made.

45.00$- Certainly a very good deal and then some.

Beautiful instrument.

Oct 4, 2022 - 5:22:29 AM

lapsteel

Canada

834 posts since 8/13/2015
Online Now

The maker bent the edge of the galvanized stovepipe so it wouldn’t tear the rawhide.

Oct 4, 2022 - 7:29:05 AM

3195 posts since 9/5/2006
Online Now

Nice find for ten times the money. I have an old Glenn I got in a trade almost forty years ago.

Oct 4, 2022 - 7:55:11 AM

36 posts since 4/10/2019

Noah.  My parents have all the Foxfire books and when I was a kid I would pour through them.

I'd like to share a few photos and observations I have made on the instrument. I will also share some photos of the banjo from the national museum of American history for comparison.  

I originally thought a factory made piece of stove pipe was used internally. Upon closer inspection, it looks like galvanized sheet metal that the builder actually bent the lip on (Nice observation lap steel) and custom cut and fit to the desired dimension. You can see pencil marks where they marked their cuts and overlap. This metal work could be a feature to compare to a known maker.  

Something else of interest. The fifth string peg. I would say definitely made by the original craftsman and not a replacement. The weird thing is the location of the string hole. It is on the end of the peg that would be deep inside the banjo neck. The string was on it before I removed the peg and the windings were actually inside the neck. It looks like this is the way it was made and not a product of the hole wearing out and having to force the peg further in.  Is this an old-timer trick or something? Anyone seen it before? This could be another feature to tie it to a specific maker.  

And a few pictures from the instrument at the national museum of American history That was bought from Proffitt but believed to be made by Glenn.  To me, the pegs appear very similar. The heel shape, almost flat across the front, seems to be identical. The inset middle ring and the tail piece that is in late into the top ring and flush to the middle ring. Although the peg head shape is different, the transition from neck to peg head area looks very similar. The neck profile from the front/back and side are very similar.  Lastly, the dimensions are nearly identical. I said 9" for the pot, it's actually about 8 and 7/8.   

Obviously, I would love for it to be made by Glenn or Proffitt, so I'm probably being biased!  But my eye sees some striking similarities.  






 

Oct 4, 2022 - 8:06 AM

36 posts since 4/10/2019

And the bridge from the one on a retro fret. Same as the one from the museum (better seen and different pictures on the website) for comparison with the picture in my original post


 

Oct 4, 2022 - 8:59:47 AM

2170 posts since 4/18/2007

quote:
Originally posted by jander88

And the bridge from the one on a retro fret. Same as the one from the museum (better seen and different pictures on the website) for comparison with the picture in my original post


I have a couple dozen Leonard and Clifford Glenn instruments and I think this is likely one of theirs. The dowels on the side of the rim are unusual and I have never seen one of their constructed in this manner. I have seen a Charlie Glenn banjo with that feature.

Also, the peghead is a shape I have not seen Leonard or Clifford use before. The pegs are also not of the typical Leonard or Clifford Glenn pattern.

The bridge certainly looks like a Leonard/Clifford as the the beveled neck cut.

Congrats!

Edited by - Slingerland on 10/04/2022 09:01:25

Oct 4, 2022 - 9:10:10 AM

Oldtimian

Czech Republic

52 posts since 5/26/2019

Fifth string peg might be regular peg originally intended for other strings, but used for fifth string instead... Some of my mountain banjos have fifth string friction peg with two holes - one at the end like yours, but second one made later so it is outside neck like common pegs.

While possible, I can´t imagine any banjo builder that loves his banjos to be O.K. with fifth string coiling inside neck. I guess it would lead to some problems with friction after some time...

Anyways, congrats for finding this beauty!

Oct 4, 2022 - 11:03:37 AM

36 posts since 4/10/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Slingerland
quote:
Originally posted by jander88

And the bridge from the one on a retro fret. Same as the one from the museum (better seen and different pictures on the website) for comparison with the picture in my original post


I have a couple dozen Leonard and Clifford Glenn instruments and I think this is likely one of theirs. The dowels on the side of the rim are unusual and I have never seen one of their constructed in this manner. I have seen a Charlie Glenn banjo with that feature.

Also, the peghead is a shape I have not seen Leonard or Clifford use before. The pegs are also not of the typical Leonard or Clifford Glenn pattern.

The bridge certainly looks like a Leonard/Clifford as the the beveled neck cut.

Congrats!


I was hoping you would chime in, having seen your experience and time invested in studying these instruments in other threads.  Interesting that some features seem to check out and others not so much.  A few questions that come to mind...  Was there anybody else building banjos in that area that would have been influenced or taught by the Glenns? Maybe even worked in their shop from time to time?  Did they get commissioned to build banjos to specific designs?  Like if a customer requested a certain feature that resulted in a one-off instrument.  Is Charlie Glenn relation?

I would be curious if you could inspect the construction of the "tension hoop" on some of your instruments and see if the methodology is the same?

Also, one more observation on subtleties. Where the neck enters the middle ring, It has been tapered down on both sides to fit in the gap in the middle ring which is narrower than the neck at the heel. Looks like the work was done with the chisel prior to assembly. And then after assembly, the tab on the top and bottom ring were blended into that taper in the neck, also with a chisel I would imagine. It's hard to capture, but you can see it in the pic.   This could be a fitment method specific to a maker.  If you notice this feature on any of your instruments, would you please let me know?  

Thanks!


 

Oct 4, 2022 - 11:08 AM

36 posts since 4/10/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Oldtimian

Fifth string peg might be regular peg originally intended for other strings, but used for fifth string instead... Some of my mountain banjos have fifth string friction peg with two holes - one at the end like yours, but second one made later so it is outside neck like common pegs.

While possible, I can´t imagine any banjo builder that loves his banjos to be O.K. with fifth string coiling inside neck. I guess it would lead to some problems with friction after some time...

Anyways, congrats for finding this beauty!


Thanks for the reply, that makes total sense about it being just a normal peg.  Weird that it would be used like that.  Unless the banjo was made, the wrong peg thrown in and shipped unstrung to the customer. The customer, maybe not knowing any better could have rolled with it as is.   I had the same thought about having a wound up string rotating in that hole would be very undesirable.   

Oct 4, 2022 - 7:14:26 PM

2170 posts since 4/18/2007

I’ve spoken with Clifford about other makers working with them and I got the impression that didn’t happen.

Charlie Glenn is not a family member of Leonard/Clifford, but he knew them both.

Their instruments always had slight little variations, so this instrument doesn’t surprise me.

This one is not a Proffitt of which I have two and several Proffitt marked made by the Glenns as well.

Great banjo and certainly a steal.

Oct 4, 2022 - 8:32:36 PM

36 posts since 4/10/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Slingerland

I’ve spoken with Clifford about other makers working with them and I got the impression that didn’t happen.

Charlie Glenn is not a family member of Leonard/Clifford, but he knew them both.

Their instruments always had slight little variations, so this instrument doesn’t surprise me.

This one is not a Proffitt of which I have two and several Proffitt marked made by the Glenns as well.

Great banjo and certainly a steal.


Thanks for the information.  Sorry to bombard you with questions.  When I find something that interests me I tend to dive deep in search of info.  

I guess the only thing to do now is string it up and see how she sounds. I've got some light gauge ball-end strings coming my way.  This banjo seems to be very solid and well taken care of. Any precautions you recommend taking while stringing and bringing up to tension?  I've always used nylon on anything with wooden tuning pegs, but from what I understand these instruments were typically played with steel.   Just don't want to cause damage. 

Oct 5, 2022 - 4:43:54 AM

Oldtimian

Czech Republic

52 posts since 5/26/2019

My advice would be to try pegs first without strings. Push them in and try to rotate them by hand. if they give enough resistance, you can put strings on them. If they are still too easy to turn, you can try to push them more in (gently) or appliyng something to increase friction, for example chalk or resin. Of course you can do it even after putting on strings, but I found it easier to try it first...

You can use light strings and tune it to G like modern banjos are, but I like sound more if I use thicker strings and tune my banjos to E or F. But that depends on your taste.

My last advice would be: "Have fun!" Also if you would share a sample how your banjo sounds, that would be super nice of you!

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