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Heavily Modified Pre War Gibson Style 00 Identification

Dec 2, 2022 - 10:22:22 PM
14 posts since 5/18/2016

A few hours ago I acquired this banjo from a very nice gentleman who bought it 30ish years ago at an estate sale in Alabama because he had a fleeting interest in banjo and liked the case. He threw it in the closet with the Christmas decorations and generally ignored it until today, when I purchased it from him.

As the pictures show, there’s a lot wrong with this banjo. The finish, the inlays, the terrible mastertone sticker, ect. However, there’s also a lot that’s right. I am led to believe I have a full thickness style 00 rim, a pre war Dohler one piece flange, a pre war resonator, a prewar Presto, and pre war resonator thumb screws. Please call me out if I am off the mark on any of these.

The tension hoop and tonering are definitely not prewar and look to be chrome plated. The hooks, armrest, and coordinator rods don’t seem right either. I’m guessing they are seventies or eighties Stu Mac parts but I’d love to hear any input on the matter.

The biggest question for me is the neck. As pictured, there were dot inlays that were filled in on the fingerboard. The shape of the peg head sure seems spot on for a style 00, and none of the repair work is spot on. I’m inclined to believe it is an original five string RB-00 neck that has been heavily modified, but I welcome any feedback on the matter one way or another.

Also posted is a photo of the gorgeous Brown Lifton case, which in contrast to the banjo that lives in it, has gracefully survived the decades.

I’m really thankful for all the knowledge that the banjo hangout brain trust has shared with me, and I hope we can figure out what on earth I just brought back from a Cracker Barrel parking lot a few hours from home.


























Edited by - Karl Smakula on 12/03/2022 08:40:34

Dec 3, 2022 - 3:04:55 AM

264 posts since 12/19/2017

I think you’re right with the description. It is a mix of new and old. As for the no hole tone ring, it looks like it has no markings. There were several Asian makers that all looked alike. The neck is modified but I have seen worse. If it plays well and the tone is good then I would say that you did good.

Dec 3, 2022 - 4:32:52 AM

2428 posts since 1/4/2009

I'm not sure the neck is original Gibson, can we see  bottom of the neck? The headstock shape doesn't look right.

Edited by - kyleb on 12/03/2022 04:35:20

Dec 3, 2022 - 5:46:47 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

10266 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by kyleb

I'm not sure the neck is original Gibson, can we see  bottom of the neck? The headstock shape doesn't look right.


The headstock shape looks right to me. Compare Style 00 on earnestbanjo.com.

Dec 3, 2022 - 5:56:43 AM

2428 posts since 1/4/2009

it might be the binding creating an optical illusion but it looks too pointy on the side and top, I own two tb 00s and an rb 00.

Dec 3, 2022 - 6:04:07 AM
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1411 posts since 11/29/2004

When I first saw the inlay I thought Rual Yarbough. Since the came from Alabama, I'd venture a guess that Rual had something to do about the upgrades. He used that Gibson pattern on some of the banjos he built over the years,  MK Kirk did most of his neck building after Randy went to GTR in the early 70's.

Edited by - DHutchens on 12/03/2022 06:06:25

Dec 3, 2022 - 6:04:52 AM

2428 posts since 1/4/2009

My phone won't post pictures here anymore but the headstock shape is not right. The part that bends in the side is wrong, the point on top and sides are too pronounced and not in the exact right place. I don't think it's a real Gibson neck. The rim however looks like it could be.

Dec 3, 2022 - 7:34:46 AM

3190 posts since 4/7/2010

Here's the Peghead of a TB-00 I had last year next to the peghead of Karl's mystery RB neck. I wish I had a pic of the TB without the trussrod cover. Comparing the trussrod access recess might add to the ID confirmation.

Bob Smakula


 

Edited by - Bob Smakula on 12/03/2022 07:37:05

Dec 3, 2022 - 7:49:26 AM

2089 posts since 5/19/2018

It’s a mix of old and new.

I’m near positive that the neck is new. If not new , then the fingerboard, nut ( which originally would have been ebony or rosewood) and peghead have been heavily reworked, but I’m going with new as the angles or curves look a little "off". Can't define why, but the look too sharp and a little more than ones I'm used to seeing. Seems as if the nut on the adjusting rod is a little large. Also the heel would have to be re-cut to accept the after market larger tension hoop. A lot of work, when making a all new neck would be a lot easier.

The pot looks legit with the exception of the tension hoop and added armrest. No idea as to the tone ring - Stew Mac, Asian, or an orphan 27 Gibson ring. Resonator is in my opinion, also not original.

Interesting thing is that case. My 1937 RB-00 that I picked up an number of years ago came in the exact same style Brown Lifton case. Beautiful case, though I’m almost positive that case was not original to the instrument as it’s a 1950’s case. If I’m wrong on the time frame on those brown Lifton cases, it might add to the argument of your neck being an original five string neck, just very highly worked over.

All in all, a very cool looking instrument. If RY made that neck, I’m sure it is a fine neck. Looks like you got yourself a very nice and unique parts banjo. Congratulations.

Edited by - Alvin Conder on 12/03/2022 07:52:37

Dec 3, 2022 - 9:17:18 AM
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14 posts since 5/18/2016

Thank you all for the input. Some interesting points have been raised that warrant further information on my end. I have posted some new pictures that may help answer some questions or bring up new ones.

Alvin, thank you for raising the point about the heel needing to be recut to accommodate the larger tension hoop. It appears to me portions if not all of the heel have been recut. Also note how the 22nd fret is ridiculously close to the end of the finger board. Also please note the rim has been drilled to accommodate a different placement of the lag bolts. The old holes were "plugged" with two small dowels that are not glued in.

I will reiterate the filled in dot holes and the previous presence of Grover Two tab tuners as evidence to this being an original neck. I feel like the added peghead binding makes the angles seem more sharp that they are in person, but that is an interesting point worthy of more discussion. If any owners of an original necked Style 00 banjo could post a picture of the peghead with the truss rod cover removed, that would be really appreciated and helpful to the dialogue.

One aspect about the neck that gives me pause about its supposed Gibson pedigree is the area around the fifth string tuner. The curve there doesn't quite look right to me but I'm curious about what others think.

I had a hunch Raul Yarborough's shop had something to do with this when i first saw it as it's my understanding they were the go to in Alabama for banjo work when this banjo would configured in its current form, which would have likely been the seventies or eighties. Glad to have some backup on that theory.

The originality of the resonator was understandably raised. My personal case for its originality is the presence of three pre-war wal lugs and one shiny newer one. Also present are three unused holes from where three wall lugs previously were, which would be the number of wall lugs original to a style 00. However, being double bound would be atypical for a 00 resonator.

Thanks again everyone for your thoughts on this. Please let me know if you disagree with any of the points I've raised here. Its been really fun trying to figure this banjo out and the points that have been raised in this discussion have been really helpful.

Edited by - Karl Smakula on 12/03/2022 09:18:40

Dec 3, 2022 - 10:05:32 AM

14 posts since 5/18/2016

quote:
Originally posted by Karl Smakula

Thank you all for the input. Some interesting points have been raised that warrant further information on my end. I have posted some new pictures that may help answer some questions or bring up new ones.

Alvin, thank you for raising the point about the heel needing to be recut to accommodate the larger tension hoop. It appears to me portions if not all of the heel have been recut. Also note how the 22nd fret is ridiculously close to the end of the finger board. Also please note the rim has been drilled to accommodate a different placement of the lag bolts. The old holes were "plugged" with two small dowels that are not glued in.

I will reiterate the filled in dot holes and the previous presence of Grover Two tab tuners as evidence to this being an original neck. I feel like the added peghead binding makes the angles seem more sharp that they are in person, but that is an interesting point worthy of more discussion. If any owners of an original necked Style 00 banjo could post a picture of the peghead with the truss rod cover removed, that would be really appreciated and helpful to the dialogue.

One aspect about the neck that gives me pause about its supposed Gibson pedigree is the area around the fifth string tuner. The curve there doesn't quite look right to me but I'm curious about what others think.

I had a hunch Rual Yarborough's shop had something to do with this when i first saw it as it's my understanding they were the go to in Alabama for banjo work when this banjo would configured in its current form, which would have likely been the seventies or eighties. Glad to have some backup on that theory.

The originality of the resonator was understandably raised. My personal case for its originality is the presence of three pre-war wal lugs and one shiny newer one. Also present are three unused holes from where three wall lugs previously were, which would be the number of wall lugs original to a style 00. However, being double bound would be atypical for a 00 resonator.

Thanks again everyone for your thoughts on this. Please let me know if you disagree with any of the points I've raised here. Its been really fun trying to figure this banjo out and the points that have been raised in this discussion have been really helpful.


Dec 4, 2022 - 6:13:09 AM

Brett

USA

2464 posts since 11/29/2005

Sorry can’t seem to post Rualtone pix look in my pix


Dec 4, 2022 - 9:03:36 PM

gugger

USA

352 posts since 6/15/2004

regarding the neck, I think it is likely the original neck . It does not appear to have a volute at the hand stop which I believe is correct. Also whoever dressed up the neck must have also added the binding to the edges of the fingerboard when they bound the peg head and likely added the top binding to what was likely an original single bound resonator. The prewar fingerboards were thinner than the modern ones and the binding thickness seems to show that. That's my "two cents" and best guess. Mike

Dec 5, 2022 - 8:58:48 AM

2428 posts since 1/4/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Karl Smakula
quote:
Originally posted by Karl Smakula

Thank you all for the input. Some interesting points have been raised that warrant further information on my end. I have posted some new pictures that may help answer some questions or bring up new ones.

Alvin, thank you for raising the point about the heel needing to be recut to accommodate the larger tension hoop. It appears to me portions if not all of the heel have been recut. Also note how the 22nd fret is ridiculously close to the end of the finger board. Also please note the rim has been drilled to accommodate a different placement of the lag bolts. The old holes were "plugged" with two small dowels that are not glued in.

I will reiterate the filled in dot holes and the previous presence of Grover Two tab tuners as evidence to this being an original neck. I feel like the added peghead binding makes the angles seem more sharp that they are in person, but that is an interesting point worthy of more discussion. If any owners of an original necked Style 00 banjo could post a picture of the peghead with the truss rod cover removed, that would be really appreciated and helpful to the dialogue.

One aspect about the neck that gives me pause about its supposed Gibson pedigree is the area around the fifth string tuner. The curve there doesn't quite look right to me but I'm curious about what others think.

I had a hunch Rual Yarborough's shop had something to do with this when i first saw it as it's my understanding they were the go to in Alabama for banjo work when this banjo would configured in its current form, which would have likely been the seventies or eighties. Glad to have some backup on that theory.

The originality of the resonator was understandably raised. My personal case for its originality is the presence of three pre-war wal lugs and one shiny newer one. Also present are three unused holes from where three wall lugs previously were, which would be the number of wall lugs original to a style 00. However, being double bound would be atypical for a 00 resonator.

Thanks again everyone for your thoughts on this. Please let me know if you disagree with any of the points I've raised here. Its been really fun trying to figure this banjo out and the points that have been raised in this discussion have been really helpful.


 


I'm traveling but when i return tbis weekend ill get detailed pitcures of my rb-00 neck for you to compare. 

Dec 6, 2022 - 7:52:48 AM

369 posts since 2/14/2013

Karl,

I also believe the neck to be a prewar RB-00 neck. Besides the previously mentioned lack of volute, there are other convincing features: the 5th string tuner is in the correct spot for one thing (most repro neck makers favor a centered position between the 4th and 5th frets) but more compelling is the heel cut. You can see chisel marks (in the prewar days, much of the heel end was shaped by chisels, as well as the tell-tale circular marks (from the drill chuck?) around each of the lag screws. The heel has been modified however, but only looks like the flange cut has been opened a little further towards the bottom. Most of the heel cut looks intact. Also, the closeness of the last fret to the end of the fingerboard is consistent with most RB-00 necks. Also, many of the RB-00 necks had a plain fifth-string pip as yours is. The truss rod pocket and nut also look proper. The shape of the peghead looks dead-on to me, as well as the exact placement of the tuner shaft holes. Also, as you say, the imprint of the two-tab tuners. It is odd that it is a mahogany neck, but even that is not out of the norm. I've also seen RB-11's with mahogany necks as opposed to the typical maple.

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