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Dec 3, 2022 - 7:31:23 PM
2702 posts since 9/18/2010

I have not been able to find any images of a banjo like this. I have some suspicions, but when I get down to is, I just don't know what it is. The headstock obviously has Vega inlaid, the dowel stick has Vegaphone stamped in it along with a bunch of very small poorly struck stampings that I haven't been able to read. I'll post a few pictures at a time so as not to overtax my sluggish backwoods internet service. If you are familiar with banjos that look like this please let me know.




 

Dec 3, 2022 - 7:33:59 PM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

The tonering has little grommet looking things at the holes.




 

Dec 3, 2022 - 7:36:17 PM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

It has a resonator, not a "pie section" type.




 

Dec 3, 2022 - 9:21:25 PM
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rcc56

USA

4585 posts since 2/20/2016

The peghead veneer might have come from a Vega banjo.
The fingerboard also might have come from a Vega, but if so, the inlays have been modified.

Neither the neck, nor anything else that I can see resembles any Vega product that I am familiar with.

A picture or two of the dowel stick and the neck brace might be useful.

Dec 3, 2022 - 11:47:41 PM
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Nekosan

Japan

17 posts since 9/7/2018

The pot looks like a B&D Bluebell model.

Dec 3, 2022 - 11:52:13 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

26685 posts since 6/25/2005

Looks like a B&D Silver Bell tone ring and maybe a B&D Super shell. Don’t know about the resonator. No Vega or B&D necks of the period the banjo wants to come from (mid-1920s) had truss rods.

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 12/03/2022 23:54:27

Dec 4, 2022 - 6:29:20 AM

121 posts since 2/4/2010

The banjo is a " bitsa "- car lingo for something put together from various parts - this banjo has a homemade neck, Bacon rim and resonator as several folks have mentioned, the peghead veneer ( and probably dowel stick ) is from a Vegaphone Professional model. I'd be curious to know the serial number on the dowel and the serial number inside the rim. The old peghead veneer was cut up so that the trussrod on the new( ish ) neck could be accessed.

Dec 4, 2022 - 8:05:57 AM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

My suspicion was Bacon pot with a swapped neck. The neck definitely does not look "homemade" and there is absolutely no evidence of the overlay being transplanted.
The number on the pot is 17521
The number on the dowel is 73662
The neck looks like it was meant for a thicker rim:

The dime, by the way, is 1966


 

Edited by - sunburst on 12/04/2022 08:15:41

Dec 4, 2022 - 8:07:45 AM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

A couple of images of the dowel:

Dec 4, 2022 - 8:10:58 AM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

Images didn't load. trying again:




 

Dec 4, 2022 - 9:03:25 AM

rcc56

USA

4585 posts since 2/20/2016

The dowel stick is an authentic Vega part from the late 1920's or so.

However, the style of the neck's center lamination does not match that of any Vega from the period that I am aware of. Neither have I seen a volute on a Vega 4 or 5 string banjo, unless some of the post-Martin era imports had one. I do not believe that the neck was made by Vega.

I'll add that Jim Bollman knows more about Vega banjos than just about anyone else. I defer to his judgement.

Edited by - rcc56 on 12/04/2022 09:07:31

Dec 4, 2022 - 9:32:08 AM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

If the neck was made by an individual I'd like to know who it was!
I know from experience how challenging it is to match factory work, the tendency being to do it little better. If some individual made this neck, they made it look like good factory work; no better, no worse. The finish looks convincingly old and appropriate to the pot. The only indications to me that the banjo is not all authentic is the mismatch between parts and the lack of images of similar ones on-line.
(I'd like to know what happened to the original tailpiece. whether It was 4-strng or 5-string would shed a bit of light in the situation. Probably 4-string would be my guess.)

Dec 4, 2022 - 11:10:40 AM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

I've been searching around still and Bill, I think you nailed it.
Images of the B&D super look like this pot exactly. I suppose the neck will remain an enigma.

Dec 4, 2022 - 11:17:05 AM

rcc56

USA

4585 posts since 2/20/2016

If the dime is any indicator of when the neck might have been made, the neck is now older than the rest of the banjo was when the neck was made.

A friend of mine showed me an old top tension Gibson that he had bought in the 1970's. The neck had been made by the then young John Monteleone not too many years earlier. Monteleone got a good finish match, and by the time I saw the banjo, the neck was over fifty years old. As a result, it was very difficult to tell that the neck and the pot had not been made at the same time.

Dec 4, 2022 - 2:11:09 PM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

I have a Monteleone-made TT Gibson replica neck, unfinished, in my shop that John gave me. It was destined for Bill Keith when it was started but for some reason the project was never completed.
I also currently have a Monteleone mandolin on the bench for some serious repair/restoration. Being that familiar with Monteleone's work, I'm pretty sure this neck was made by someone else. People's craftsmanship is almost like a signature when one is familiar enough with it.
My own TT neck (that I made) as aging rather nicely itself, and starting to look more like a contemporary of the (1937) pot, but the experienced eye will see telltale signs that it was not made by Gibson.

Dec 4, 2022 - 2:18:38 PM

rcc56

USA

4585 posts since 2/20/2016

A partial list of others who were making banjo necks circa 1970 might include Tom Morgan, Gene Horner, Randy Wood, and whoever was doing the neck making for Intermountain Guitar and Banjo. Don Teeter may have also made a few, and possibly Frank Ford also. I don't think that Michael Allison and Steve Senerchia started making necks until later in the 1970's.

My first guess for your "Vega" neck would be Intermountain, since they were always big into Vega banjos; and after that someone like Frank Ford.  Most of the others were more heavily engaged in building Gibson style necks.

I reshaped and refinished the neck for an old Gibson Roy Smeck guitar about 5 years ago.  With the help of my expert old-fashioned cabinet maker friend, we were lucky enough to get a 95% finish match.  I sold the guitar a couple of years back, but if I live a very long time, I'd like to see the guitar 30 years from now and see if the neck finish looks original after aging in.

Edited by - rcc56 on 12/04/2022 14:32:25

Dec 5, 2022 - 2:18:50 AM

1910 posts since 1/13/2012

The neck does sorta look like an IG&B unit. Sometimes they stamped the backside of the dowel with a logo stamp (which included an anchor, as I recall).

Dec 5, 2022 - 4:20:17 PM

2017 posts since 2/9/2007

A sure enough mongrel, but looks to be (with a good setup) a very good player, and maybe a really exceptional one.

Dec 5, 2022 - 6:53:21 PM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

I'm going to set it up and see what it sounds like...

Dec 21, 2022 - 9:52:06 AM

2702 posts since 9/18/2010

Follow-up.
I added a 5th tuner and a 5-string tailpiece and set the banjo up. An 11/16" bridge gives good action height, the neck is a little straight (could use a little more relief) and the truss rod doesn't seem to work, but it is plenty playable as is.
It is loud! I haven't played it with other instruments to see if it "cuts through", but I have my '27 tb3 conversion in the shop, and by comparison it is equally loud. The 4th string has the "growl". Note separation could be better. I might try a frosted head when I feel ambitious enough to deal with all those hooks and nuts and see what that sounds like.
It may not look like a Bluegrass banjo, but it sure can be. I can't play old time banjo styles but it might work for those also, but it would be rather bright for my taste in an old time situation.

Dec 21, 2022 - 11:06:46 AM

12477 posts since 10/27/2006

The inlays and white pearl headstock can be an early '30s Vegaphone Professional tenor. I've never seen a plectrum from that era with the 1st fret inlay.

Dec 21, 2022 - 1:48:04 PM

10286 posts since 8/28/2013

With that B & D pot, I am not at all surprised that it's loud.

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