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Dec 5, 2023 - 8:42:37 PM
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banjonz

New Zealand

11952 posts since 6/29/2003

I recently obtained this banjo from a friend who owns a second-hand store (don't know the equivalent name there in the US). It was a bit rough with the Presto TP snapped in the usual place. It had been finished in shellac, even the fretboard. I managed to clean it up and refinish the neck with shellac. I removed the shellac finish on the reso and refinished with lemon oil. I re-ebonized the fret board. The original vellum was intact but starting to pull up so that was replaced.
I have worked on a lot of GH&S instruments (banjo ukes, banjolins etc) over the years but I have never seen a 5 string from them in this configuration (5 tuners on the peghead and a tunnelled 5th). It has the original nut so I know that it was originally strung with steel strings. I am going to re-string it with Nylgut and replace the TP with a no knot as I just don’t like the sound I’m getting from it.

Could anyone hazard a guess as to approx. date of manf?








 

Dec 6, 2023 - 5:36 AM

8085 posts since 9/21/2007

Someone on Facebook wrote that these 5 on the peghead with tunneled 5th and regular banjo bodies were "Plectrum 5 strings" (regular 5 string banjos intended to be played with a pick).

Based on articles in the BMG, the British were more receptive to wire strings, particularly for the first string due to "climate" as well as war caused shortages that normalized them.

Since I have limited data on many makes of British banjos, I cannot support the "Plectrum 5 string" explanation but it seems reasonable, after all, Gibson did the same thing (their 5 string banjos were plectrums with an octave string).

Dec 6, 2023 - 7:26:21 AM

2014 posts since 1/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks


Since I have limited data on many makes of British banjos, I cannot support the "Plectrum 5 string" explanation but it seems reasonable, after all, Gibson did the same thing (their 5 string banjos were plectrums with an octave string).


Did Gibson market their banjos that way? 

Dec 6, 2023 - 8:15:31 AM

8085 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Andy FitzGibbon
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks


Since I have limited data on many makes of British banjos, I cannot support the "Plectrum 5 string" explanation but it seems reasonable, after all, Gibson did the same thing (their 5 string banjos were plectrums with an octave string).


Did Gibson market their banjos that way? 


Not that I know of, but they did make clear that their focus was on plectrum played instruments. Early catalogs ask that buyers stipulate if gut or wire will be used on guitars.  This was not (that I know of) done with their regular banjo listings even though the magazines they advertised in still supported gut strung fingerstyle banjo.

The catalogs mention that they may be played with fingers or thimbles (Hawiian guitar picks).  We know they were wire strung and at least one catalog says that "banjos" use a 5/8" bridge.  I am no Gibson expert, but it seems to me that they made plectrum banjo but offered regular banjos (plectrums with octave 5th strings).

One of the examples of a fingerstyle banjo they made for Alex Magee was very different from their stock styles having a 12" rim and cutaway on the resonator (which strangely, Alex wrote that he played this banjo without the resonator).  Burton Gedney played a RB fingerstyle using a Hartnett tone bar (interestingly, Gedney was taught banjo by Frank Converse).  Gedney also endorsed their plectrum banjos. 

Dec 6, 2023 - 8:55:50 AM

2014 posts since 1/13/2012

That makes sense, as they got into the banjo market right as regular banjos were declining in popularity. Even though their shop foreman had a long history in the manufacture of regular banjos, Gibson's first offering was a tenor.

The taller bridge is a physical necessessity on most of Gibson's early '20s instruments, as the bulk of them had an elevated extension fingerboard. Their neck angles are about the same as other banjos of the period.

Dec 6, 2023 - 12:33:04 PM

banjonz

New Zealand

11952 posts since 6/29/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Someone on Facebook wrote that these 5 on the peghead with tunneled 5th and regular banjo bodies were "Plectrum 5 strings" (regular 5 string banjos intended to be played with a pick).

Based on articles in the BMG, the British were more receptive to wire strings, particularly for the first string due to "climate" as well as war caused shortages that normalized them.

Since I have limited data on many makes of British banjos, I cannot support the "Plectrum 5 string" explanation but it seems reasonable, after all, Gibson did the same thing (their 5 string banjos were plectrums with an octave string).


You may be correct about them being played plectrum. This came to me with a crude tin plectrum/pick holder attached to the tension band with what looked like very thick (3mm) bone picks.

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