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Help identifying this unmarked fretless fivestring (1880s W. Temlett?)

Dec 7, 2023 - 2:42:33 AM

SkinnyGeorge

Germany

36 posts since 7/31/2010

I've recently acquired this fretless fivestring banjo. It has no maker's marks, no serial number, no nothing. Can anyone help with identification?

Pictures: dropbox.com/scl/fo/ae5y0zi7o7t...eyc2&dl=0

It has 30 lugs, wooden pegs, a natural head, and the neck is shaped roughly triangularly. It looks very similar to this 1880's Temlett, but deviates in some details: https://reverb.com/item/54453963-w-temlett-fretless-banjo-1880s-natural

The bridge is a modern replacement.

Bonus question: is it an original no-knot tailpiece or a replica?

Thanks for taking the time!

Edited by - SkinnyGeorge on 12/07/2023 03:01:06

Dec 7, 2023 - 5:33:43 AM

249 posts since 6/20/2020

Nice fretless banjo. The tailpiece is not a 'replica'. However, the patent date 1901 would appear to make it an after-sale addition to your banjo. In the late 19th century instrument dealers heavily advertised and sold tailpieces, pegs and bridges of different styles. It was quite common that players purchased and replaced/changed items on their banjo much as we do today.

To my best recollection the W. Temlett (and also his son W. E. Temlett) banjos that I've seen were typically stamped with the maker's name on heel and/or perch pole. An arc of dots at the base of the fingerboard at the rim joint (as on your banjo) are also a characteristic inlay design often used by Temlett. Probably Temlett, though I can't assert that with 100% certainty but I'm sure others here will be able to give you a definite answer.

I'm claiming a 1/2 point for at least answering your bonus question. wink

Edited by - Pomeroy on 12/07/2023 05:51:32

Dec 7, 2023 - 5:52:58 AM

8085 posts since 9/21/2007

19th century tailpeices are often destroyed by wire strings (or excessively heavy plastic strings).

I noticed that the strings you have on it are so thick that you are not able to fit them in the notches. I don't know why the makers of these strings have decided to make them so heavy but the tension can often equal that of wire.

While there is not a lot of data on string sizes, they were much thinner than what is being sold by most today. .018, .022, .028, .024 silver plated copper over floss, .018. (in inches) is one set we have documentation of. The 4th, as far as is known, was always wound.

Dec 7, 2023 - 6:39:40 AM
like this

1897 posts since 4/25/2007

I'm pretty certain your banjo was made by George P Matthew of Birmingham UK. as is the Reverb banjo. It might be worth checking the underside of the dowel with a small mirror for a makers stamp although it appears not all of his banjos were stamped. I believe the inlay pattern, hooks, nuts and tailpiece are of a particular style used by Matthew.

Dec 7, 2023 - 9:45:24 AM

249 posts since 6/20/2020

Georg, as Steve has identified your banjo as likely made by Matthew you may be interested in our George P. Matthew research group page here:

banjohangout.org/group/georgep...archgroup

Hopefully the mirror via may reveal confirmation in the shape of a maker's mark on the rear of the perch pole.

Edited by - Pomeroy on 12/07/2023 09:46:00

Dec 7, 2023 - 11:14:36 AM

1897 posts since 4/25/2007

Could you also please tell me the measurement from the nut to the 12th mop inlay on the side of the neck George.

Dec 8, 2023 - 7:21:04 AM

SkinnyGeorge

Germany

36 posts since 7/31/2010

What a wealth of knowledge you guys have. Thank you for sharing!

Unfortunately, there is no maker's stamp anywhere on the dowel, so we'll just have to trust in Steve's expertise :-) It's exactly 34cm from the nut to the 12th "fret" mark on the side of the neck. What does that tell you?

Joel, thanks for the advice on the strings gauge. It was stringed by the seller and I am going to try some lighter strings, as well as a slightly wider bridge.

Thanks!
Georg

Edited by - SkinnyGeorge on 12/08/2023 07:23:08

Dec 9, 2023 - 5:50:31 AM

1897 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by SkinnyGeorge

What a wealth of knowledge you guys have. Thank you for sharing!

Unfortunately, there is no maker's stamp anywhere on the dowel, so we'll just have to trust in Steve's expertise :-) It's exactly 34cm from the nut to the 12th "fret" mark on the side of the neck. What does that tell you?

Joel, thanks for the advice on the strings gauge. It was stringed by the seller and I am going to try some lighter strings, as well as a slightly wider bridge.

Thanks!
Georg


Thankyou George I was just interested in the scale length. Also for your interest the tailpiece may well be a reproduction they are readily available these days.

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