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Oct 3, 2023 - 10:25:56 AM
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3421 posts since 4/7/2010

The junk mail arriving at my address seems to be changing from grocery and department store advertisements to a daily onslaught of Medicare supplement flyers. Just like my mailbox contents, there are changes coming to Smakula Fretted Instruments.

First the good news; We have finally embraced web technology of the early 21st century. Our new website with on-line ordering, is on-line. We have filled a handful of orders using that system with no issues, but I do expect there will be a few bugs to work out. Now when the urge to purchase a 10-3/16” banjo head hits you at 3:17 AM, you can do so without losing momentum.

As of 12-31-2023 I will be closing the Smakula Fretted Instruments repair shop. Between the backlog of repairs in the shop and the waiting list, it is safe to say we can not accept any new repair projects.

Taking care of hundreds of customer’s instruments in the last 34 years has been gratifying. Many interesting instruments have come through the doors and we were always up for the restoration challenges. I am particularly proud of how the Smakula shop, with Andy Fitzgibbon doing much of the banjo repair, accomplishes nearly seamless restoration of A.C. Fairbanks banjos.

At the beginning of 2024 my two repair specialists will be opening their own shops. I will put their contact information on the FAQ page of the web page when they are able to accept work.

I plan to work on the dozens of instruments that have been in my closets for years waiting for my attention. I want to work on them while I still have the skills.

I will no longer be consigning instruments for sale and only buying things that I will enjoy having around.

Though I will be dealing in far fewer instruments, I will continue the banjo parts business. There are many people around the world that rely on the Smakula shop for odd size Remo banjo heads, banjo heads with no logo, Gotoh banjo tuners, ABM narrow shaft banjo tuners, and countless other items that no other instrument dealer seems to think are important.

Thank you to the banjo community for your support of Smakula Fretted Instruments for the last 34 years. I am looking forward to a few more years of supplying your banjo part and occasional instrument needs until I fully retire.

Bob Smakula

Edited by - Bob Smakula on 10/03/2023 14:31:56

Oct 3, 2023 - 10:40:51 AM
Players Union Member



463 posts since 5/16/2017

That's bittersweet news. I'm happy for you but sad to hear that you'll be closing chop. I'm trying to buy a WL #7 that I was going to talk to you about restoring. I probably won't get the banjo until December... oh well, I'll reach out then anyhow. Good luck and happy retirement!

Oct 3, 2023 - 10:46:47 AM
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2187 posts since 4/18/2007

Thanks for everything, Bob. All the best to you.

Oct 3, 2023 - 11:36:35 AM

565 posts since 7/28/2016

Good luck Bob in your future endeavors !
I just looked at your new site and in the words of Tony the Tiger "it's great" !!

Oct 3, 2023 - 11:44:26 AM
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1588 posts since 1/9/2012

Acknowledging and accommodating the March of Time -- I'm very familiar with that.

Thanks, Bob, for all the help in the past. I'm glad I can still refer youngsters for heads -- which I did just yesterday.

Oct 3, 2023 - 11:58:02 AM
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Players Union Member



17294 posts since 8/30/2006

Thank you for the help and support that allowed others to play millions of notes with enjoyment and insurance that you would get them just the right thing

I waited 15 years to give myself the gift of new tuners with custom knobs and I knew just where to get them
Thank you and you owe me 50 smiles, oops 49

Oct 3, 2023 - 12:26:38 PM

521 posts since 11/29/2012

Thanks for all the knowledge and the gear, good to know that's not going away. Cheers Bob!

Oct 3, 2023 - 1:50:50 PM
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1075 posts since 10/31/2007

Thank you Bob!
Will look forward to still getting parts from you.

Tom in Maine

Oct 3, 2023 - 2:02:28 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)


27576 posts since 6/25/2005

Thanks for your work and presence over the years—and for not selling out to some big banjo corporation.

Oct 3, 2023 - 3:39:43 PM

181 posts since 3/7/2011

Hope your new road takes you to wonderful places Bob. Thanks so much for all you do and have done from a loyal and very satisfied customer!

Oct 3, 2023 - 4:17:31 PM
Players Union Member



257 posts since 12/12/2021

Just gave my friend your details only yesterday, but today gave him this new site and he ordered a 8" low crown top frosted for his mini-project.

Couldn't say enough good things about dealing with you Bob!

Oct 3, 2023 - 5:04:23 PM

2307 posts since 5/19/2018

Always excellent to deal with you.

Enjoy the slowdown and enjoy the next chapter of your life.

Oct 3, 2023 - 5:53:06 PM
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3350 posts since 2/18/2009

Thank you for all of your help with parts and advice and all. The new site looks great, and must have been a big job to put together. I hope you'll enjoy the new direction and will be able to get caught up on all your instruments that have been waiting for you.

Oct 3, 2023 - 6:26:07 PM
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3421 posts since 4/7/2010

Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Thanks for your work and presence over the years—and for not selling out to some big banjo corporation.

My crew and I had the opportunity to tour the nearby Pratt & Whitney jet engine rebuilding plant several years ago. I was impressed with how tidy and organized the operation was. Though I thought we  would be a good fit with P&W, as both Jet engines and Tubaphones need  precision rebuilds. Sadly  they did not make an offer to  buy me  out.


Bob Smakula

Edited by - Bob Smakula on 10/03/2023 18:34:25

Oct 3, 2023 - 6:31:08 PM
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3421 posts since 4/7/2010

Originally posted by Zachary Hoyt

Thank you for all of your help with parts and advice and all. The new site looks great, and must have been a big job to put together. I hope you'll enjoy the new direction and will be able to get caught up on all your instruments that have been waiting for you.

The new website has been years in  the making. Plenty of little compromises had to be made, but it's now close to an ideal web presence for SFI.

Part of the slow down plan is to see what scenic Piercefield has to offer. Hopefully you'll be home!


Bob  Smakula

Edited by - Bob Smakula on 10/03/2023 18:35:23

Oct 3, 2023 - 6:58:28 PM
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3350 posts since 2/18/2009

We'll be very glad to see you any time you feel up to making the arduous trek all the way up here, and we're usually home in the physical sense, though I am mentally out to lunch much of the time.

Oct 3, 2023 - 7:52:35 PM

1040 posts since 2/17/2005

So glad to hear the small parts will continue Bob - I've long told anyone who needs anything that you are the best in the biz. It's sad that your shop will be slowly restricting its scope but very glad to hear your repair folks will be carrying that torch forward.

Oct 3, 2023 - 10:50:38 PM



13914 posts since 12/11/2003

Good luck Bob. And thanks!

Oct 4, 2023 - 5:28:50 AM
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663 posts since 11/9/2021

Mr Smakula, even though I am relatively new to banjo ownership and playing, I recognize how much a part of the VERY limited resources available to players and collectors your presence is. Fiddles - there is a TON of them and people who repair, service and sell them abound everywhere. Banjos - not so much. I hope you enjoy the free time the website and new business model afford you.

Oct 4, 2023 - 6:43:20 AM
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15500 posts since 10/30/2008

Thanks for all you have done and what you will continue to do. Best wishes for a relaxing, satisfying pruning of your agenda.

Oct 4, 2023 - 9:02:32 AM
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1070 posts since 3/23/2006

Relieved to hear that you are making changes and not wrapping things up. It has always been a pleasure doing business with you.

Oct 4, 2023 - 2:32:24 PM

80 posts since 9/15/2005

Bob, thanks for all the help you have provided to me personally. Most of all, thanks for your contributions to the banjo community. With all you've done you're certainly entitled to do whatever you want with the shop and your time going forward.
All the best,

Oct 4, 2023 - 7:15:44 PM



1369 posts since 11/30/2015

Well done, in many respects! Your service is AMAZING and is something many businesses are lacking nowadays.

Oct 4, 2023 - 9:09:46 PM

John Yerxa


77 posts since 9/13/2021


I just visited your new site this morning, before I read this. It looks great, and I'm glad the parts business will continue - I've just started banjos 3 & 4.

Thanks for your good service and enjoy the slowdown!


Oct 5, 2023 - 4:24:02 AM
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3487 posts since 1/2/2004

We will miss the gigantic presence of what I have long called Smakula International . . . but we're glad you will still have a presence in the banjo world.


Oct 5, 2023 - 4:42:56 AM
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462 posts since 9/23/2009

Plus Bob has infinite patience for microscopic banjo-nerd questions - that quality will be irreplaceable.

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