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Feb 24, 2024 - 7:09:52 PM
8 posts since 7/5/2023

Hello all.
I believe I have identified this old fretless 5 string.
It has a very pronounced V profile neck that I like.
I managed to find an old fretless 5 string on line that has nearly identical inlay work with the same fret marker dot inlays on the side. The one that has very similar inlay and neck heel style with a softer V profile is a Geo. P Matthew of London.

If this is the same maker I’m pretty sure this example is really early as there are no markings or stamps on this anywhere. The parts I do have seem to check out as typical of early Matthew works from around 1870 before he went factory production.

I’ll need 5 pegs, a parchment head, a bridge, a tailpiece and a few hooks to rebuild this. The real challenge for me is the inlay repair work as I’ve not worked with MOP before.

Does anyone think this is worth restoring? No clue what an old Matthew banjo like this is worth or how much money I’ll have to sink into it. I got it in a trade for some old alnico speakers.

I would like to keep this as close to an original turn of the century English banjo as possible but have no idea what tail pieces or bridges are of that ilk.

Thoughts?






Feb 24, 2024 - 7:30:57 PM
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3300 posts since 3/30/2008

This is well worth restoring, ...You will learn a lot, & your practical skills will improve.

Feb 25, 2024 - 1:26:20 AM
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1945 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by tunethatdangthang

Hello all.
I believe I have identified this old fretless 5 string.
It has a very pronounced V profile neck that I like.
I managed to find an old fretless 5 string on line that has nearly identical inlay work with the same fret marker dot inlays on the side. The one that has very similar inlay and neck heel style with a softer V profile is a Geo. P Matthew of London.

If this is the same maker I’m pretty sure this example is really early as there are no markings or stamps on this anywhere. The parts I do have seem to check out as typical of early Matthew works from around 1870 before he went factory production.

I’ll need 5 pegs, a parchment head, a bridge, a tailpiece and a few hooks to rebuild this. The real challenge for me is the inlay repair work as I’ve not worked with MOP before.

Does anyone think this is worth restoring? No clue what an old Matthew banjo like this is worth or how much money I’ll have to sink into it. I got it in a trade for some old alnico speakers.

I would like to keep this as close to an original turn of the century English banjo as possible but have no idea what tail pieces or bridges are of that ilk.

Thoughts?


You might like to take a look at the Matthew group here on the BHO. Looks like a worthy project to me.

Edited by - Stephen John Prior on 02/25/2024 01:29:53

Feb 25, 2024 - 2:30:55 AM
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325 posts since 6/20/2020

Definitely worth the time and care to restore this banjo.

Hopefully encouragingly I can add that I felt daunted at the prospect of repairing inlay on a similar age vintage banjo too. However asking for and receiving advice from experienced builders on BHO combined with spending a little on the appropriate tools I surprised myself at the neat job I did even on my first attempt. That the inlay recess is already there makes a big difference. Cutting and shaping MOP or abalone is not too difficult if you prepare carefully and take your time. One tip is to first cut a template out of thin white plastic (I found the lid of a yoghurt pot was perfect for this). If you mess up on the plastic template the first few times it doesn't matter; you just get better at it and there's plenty of plastic. When you have a plastic template that you're satisfied is a close fit to the inlay recess you can temporarily attach this with water soluble glue to the MOP. When it's dry score round it using a steel rule and scalpel, remove the template with water and then cut the MOP to those score lines with a jeweller's saw. It will be fractionally oversize and you can then lightly sand the edges to be a perfect fit. You can used the scalpel to scrape out any old glue from the inlay recess taking care not to scrape into the wood and alter the original profile. I used water soluble deer hide glue to fix the MOP in place. That's likely close to what the original craftsman used.

Here is a link to the Matthew group that Steve mentioned: https://www.banjohangout.org/group/georgepmatthewresearchgroup

Edited by - Pomeroy on 02/25/2024 02:43:16

Feb 25, 2024 - 2:31:59 AM
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4756 posts since 4/29/2012

You also seem to be missing the 2 hardwood wedges that snug the pot up to the neck. Easy to make yourself. My Matthew has a metal tie-on tailepiece. I'll post a photo later.
Best bridge for these is a thin 1/2 inch plain maple one.
Not valuable. Mine cost a bit below £200 on ebay. But well worth restoring.

Feb 25, 2024 - 7:40:29 AM
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1945 posts since 4/25/2007

I have a similar banjo with J Riley and Son stamp that I'm just setting up. The inlay pattern is quite interesting. I've always assumed the kite shaped inlay pattern was indicative of Matthew banjos. There again they were within a few hundred yards of each other in Birmingham and Matthew was a major player in supplying to the trade.

Feb 25, 2024 - 7:49:26 AM

8 posts since 7/5/2023

Thanks everyone for their advice and encouragement.
I have to correct myself here as I mistakenly said that George Matthew was from London. He was a Birmingham based builder.

The plastic template idea for MOP inlays is brilliant. I’ll now hunt down a jewellers saw and pedestal. I may be able to borrow one for a week or so.

I was looking at English banjos of that period and noticed that many of them sport a sideways D shaped metal tailpiece that the strings are tied to.
Does anyone know what these are called? Are there better options.
I’m contemplating making one out of some hardwood like ebony. I could mimic a few of the inlays on the neck and fit them on a hardwood bridge.

I will cut some hardwood or bone shims to wedge between the frog and the rim.

I think the hardest part will be procuring six matching clew hooks and screws but my Grampa has a box of old banjo parts in his basement. I may get lucky there. He just gave me an old Clifton Essex zither banjo the other day that had some neck dive. I corrected the neck angle on that and cleaned it up. It plays like butter now!

Thanks all!

Feb 25, 2024 - 7:59:14 AM

8 posts since 7/5/2023

quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior

I have a similar banjo with J Riley and Son stamp that I'm just setting up. The inlay pattern is quite interesting. I've always assumed the kite shaped inlay pattern was indicative of Matthew banjos. There again they were within a few hundred yards of each other in Birmingham and Matthew was a major player in supplying to the trade.


I would like to see some photos of that J Reilly sometime. 
I was reading up on Geo. P Matthew last night and he made a lot of banjos for various companies like Rose Morris etc. 

Feb 25, 2024 - 9:03:36 AM
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325 posts since 6/20/2020

quote:
Originally posted by tunethatdangthang


I have to correct myself here as I mistakenly said that George Matthew was from London. 

 


You were right first time. George Matthew was born and grew up in the St Pancras area of London where his widowed mother ran a business selling pianofortes. George relocated to Birmingham sometime around 1880 initially as an employee for Birmingham musical instrument sellers C. Scotcher & Son. Whether that move was smoothed by his functioning as some kind of agent in relation to his mother's business we'll probably never know. However, he quickly saw the opportunity that Birmingham's industrial economy offered to manufacture in volume and set up independently as a banjo maker in nearby city centre premises. His early advertising refers to his previous connection with Scotcher & Son which may be a clue that he began making banjos while working for that company.

Edited by - Pomeroy on 02/25/2024 09:18:43

Feb 25, 2024 - 9:54:54 AM
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1945 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by tunethatdangthang
quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior

I have a similar banjo with J Riley and Son stamp that I'm just setting up. The inlay pattern is quite interesting. I've always assumed the kite shaped inlay pattern was indicative of Matthew banjos. There again they were within a few hundred yards of each other in Birmingham and Matthew was a major player in supplying to the trade.


I would like to see some photos of that J Reilly sometime. 
I was reading up on Geo. P Matthew last night and he made a lot of banjos for various companies like Rose Morris etc. 


Yes certainly I'll be posting them here on completion of the banjo. 

Feb 26, 2024 - 7:55:54 AM
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1945 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by tunethatdangthang
quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior

I have a similar banjo with J Riley and Son stamp that I'm just setting up. The inlay pattern is quite interesting. I've always assumed the kite shaped inlay pattern was indicative of Matthew banjos. There again they were within a few hundred yards of each other in Birmingham and Matthew was a major player in supplying to the trade.


I would like to see some photos of that J Reilly sometime. 
I was reading up on Geo. P Matthew last night and he made a lot of banjos for various companies like Rose Morris etc. 


Here are a couple of photos of the Joseph Riley and Son. I'm just making a Maple bridge for it. 




Edited by - Stephen John Prior on 02/26/2024 07:57:57

Feb 26, 2024 - 9:30:39 AM

8 posts since 7/5/2023

Handsome restoration job!
I see a fair bit of similarity in the inlay work. Does it sport fret marker dots along the top side of the neck? All of the Matthew fretless examples I’ve seen have these dots.
The pot on your Reilly & Son shined up nicely.
I am a bit torn on whether or not to shine up the metal pot on mine. I like antiques to look antique; patina is like gold plating. But on an old instrument this handsome would it be detrimental to shine it up? I’m leaning towards a nice, shiny pot having seen these pics.

Also I’m wondering if anyone today makes similar tailpieces to this style or if I’ll have to hunt one down on fleabay.

Feb 27, 2024 - 1:20:29 AM
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1945 posts since 4/25/2007

Matthew used the kite inlay pattern on many of his banjos. His factory was within a few hundred metres of Riley and Windsor so there are a number of possibilities regarding inlay suppliers, inlay craftspeople movement etc. It does have side position MOP fret markers which were referred to as "professional frets".
It's not that shiny :-) probably the flash from the camera. There is some brassing wear to the rim brackets but the metalwork on the pot and tension hoop is in remarkably good unpolished condition .
I made a new brass flesh hoop as the old one had rusted badly and mounted a new vellum head.
Because of the patented tailpiece I'm pretty certain it dates to the late 1890's.
I have a tin full of period tailpieces. Let me know if you need help finding one.

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