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Dec 8, 2023 - 5:59:28 AM
85 posts since 12/9/2018

Several years ago I bought an archtop 5-string banjo from a local pawnshop. It had no branding on it anywhere, it was well made, sounded messed-up but interesting and was definitely in need of a rescue. I got it home and field stripped it to clean it up and start from scratch on an initial setup.

The tone ring was (is) unusual to me. It is a pressed/stamped steel (looks like stainless steel) "U" shaped or channel cross section with a flat bottom which just sets on top of the flat top rim (no piloting diameter). The vertical legs of the channel are of unequal length to create the archtop appearance. I've always thought it looked like something Stew Mac may have sold for kit banjos.

I got it rehabed and played it occasionally for years. It sounds quite unique (in a good way). I'm thinking about posting a for sale ad for the banjo and I would like to be able to identify the tone ring if possible. I'm reluctant to disassemble it just to take a photo of the ring. Hopefully my description will permit someone out there to put a name on it. Thanks in advance for your help.

Dec 8, 2023 - 6:51:56 AM

1518 posts since 10/5/2006

I recall that Lee Vance produced some stamped tone rings in the Columbus Ohio area many years ago.
Perhaps one of his.

Dec 8, 2023 - 3:41:45 PM

85 posts since 12/9/2018

Thanks for the suggestion. I tried searching the Forums here for any mention of Lee but I didn't find anything that I thought was conclusive. Do you recall if he built complete banjos or just made the rings?
As a retired tool die maker, I can see that it took some time and money to develope the tooling and the process to make them in even limited quantities.

I'm hoping to hear from others that might help to piece together the story. The banjo probably isn't really valuable but I always like to know what history might be available from a seller. If it proves to be a dead end, it won't be the end of the world. It will give the new owner the challenge of identifying the ring.

Dec 8, 2023 - 8:12:12 PM

85 posts since 12/9/2018

I have become curious enough that I disassembled the banjo that I have questioned the tone ring.
I hope they prompt more replies. It had been long enough since I had this apart that I did not remember the skirt feature on the ring so my initial description was not complete.  I tried to remove the ring from the rim but it isn't at all eager to come off. Also, does any recognize the wood used for the rim? It appears to be a 3 ply construction but it looks to me to be oak, which doesn't seem possible. Thanks for any additional help identifying this tone ring.


Edited by - UTM on 12/08/2023 20:22:32

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