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May 20, 2024 - 9:43 PM
133 posts since 8/14/2018

Hey folks!

A while back I got my hands on a pretty cool TT parts banjo — stamp implies a 1929 Gibson rim (9522-13), Burlile ring and what is believed to be a Sullivan TT-style neck (though non-radiused, which I dig).  I’m unsure where the TT hardware and tailpiece were sourced from:



It had a clamshell tailpiece mounted, but seemed it wasn’t properly mating with the top tension hoop.  Note the “L” bracket that slips over the hoop on the top, and the  punched metal slot on the bottom that presses against the tone ring:


I don’t know if this particular tailpiece was designed for a taller hoop, or maybe the crown height of the head is wrong?  But the hoop doesn’t have enough of an exposed lip protruding above the head to allow that “L” bracket to be properly seated atop the hoop.  What I wind up with is this:


…such that any downward pressure is not being supported by the hoop, but rather head and ring.  If you look close in this pic you can see the small grayish mark in the head, somewhat parallel to the hoop, where contact is made:



That can’t be correct… right?  I swapped out the clamshell for a presto shortly after I got it and never really looked back.  Until now.  Changing strings… kinda curious what tonal difference, if any, I’d hear with a clamshell… lookin back!

 

What do you reckon the issue is?  Wrong tailpiece for that hoop?  Non-standard too-shallow hoop height?  Crown height?  

I can always go back to the Presto and be perfectly content.  But I like to tinker, and appreciate any insight/advice!

Edited by - TimFoster on 05/20/2024 22:16:57

May 20, 2024 - 10:28:23 PM
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2944 posts since 9/18/2010

The clam shell TP on my '37 TT doesn't have any of that "extra" stuff; the part that is supposed to hook over the hoop and the protrusion that is supposed to fit against the tone ring. If I were you, I'd stick with the presto or seek out a clam shell without the extra parts. Sullivan used to have an exact replica of the older, simpler TP, not sure if they still do.

May 20, 2024 - 10:31:47 PM

133 posts since 8/14/2018

Ahh… that makes sense. Thank you John!!! Will look into the Sullivan version or (hopefully) find a similar alternative!

May 20, 2024 - 11:26:29 PM
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HSmith

UK

573 posts since 12/30/2005

Hi
Never seen a tailpiece with that 'L' shaped hook.  To avoid contact with the head itself, the stretcher band would need to be very deep.  Frankly, it looks to me like a very ill-considered piece of design.  Surely it will cause damage to the head, eventually resulting in a split and the need for replacement?   In fact, one of your photos shows early signs of just such damage.  If it were me, I'd ditch that tailpiece and use a simpler "normal" style.  I have a Grover 'two hump' on my Chief which I think is an excellent design. It offers more adjustment than a Presto, is very solidly made and looks (to me anyway) elegant.

Edited by - HSmith on 05/20/2024 23:37:21

May 21, 2024 - 4:40:17 AM

3056 posts since 2/12/2005

I Wonder if a low crown head would put the hoop up high enough. How much clearance would you have at the hoop to fingerboard joint then?

May 21, 2024 - 4:47:16 AM

258 posts since 3/6/2008

Cut off the hook,then it will more like a real clamshell tailpiece. I have 2 real Grover’s & numerous replicas & none have the hook like yours.

May 21, 2024 - 6:07:18 AM

133 posts since 8/14/2018

Thanks guys!

randybartlett — just checked and looks like I have a hair over 2mm clearance between the surface of the stretcher band and the top of the fretboard… but I think I’d need that hoop to come up about 3mm to ensure no contact is made with the head… so low crown height head probably isn’t an option.

markdonc — I do have a dremmel and metal cutting wheels, but not sure it’s up to the task? I might give it a shot…

But I was able to find the Prucha “Historic” clamshell on Sullivan’s site — based on the Grover — and am assuming it won’t have those extra bits. I’ve only dealt with prestos and the Stelling tailpieces to date, and just sort of assumed that bracket was part of the typical clamshell design…. But this one seems a bit wonky based on the feedback here. I figure I’ll grab the Prucha and have some piece of mind that it’s a quality tailpiece — that way there are no “what-if’s” left over if it turns out the Presto was what works best for me all along.

Definitely appreciate everyone’s help!

May 21, 2024 - 8:10 AM

beegee

USA

23256 posts since 7/6/2005

I use a tensionator on my Lane Top-Tension.

May 21, 2024 - 10:43:23 AM

133 posts since 8/14/2018

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

I use a tensionator on my Lane Top-Tension.


First I'm seeing that... seems like a cool premise, but my immediate thought was -- might the lack of overall rigidity in the design impact vibration transfer, volume/tone etc compared to a more simple setup?  

maybe the more granular string adjustment makes up for it?  I will say one of the things that made me consider mucking with the presto on my TT in the first place was that the 3rd string seemed to have a bit less sustain/overtones than the rest, and I sort of wished it had a bit more downforce to level the playing field for global adjustment.  Of course the string change may help there too lol.

whats your experience been?

Edited by - TimFoster on 05/21/2024 10:44:15

May 21, 2024 - 11:02:40 AM
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3025 posts since 4/16/2003

Harry Smith wrote:
"Never seen a tailpiece with that 'L' shaped hook."

If you mean the "clip" which is meant to attach to the top of the tension hoop, several tailpieces have them.

Many clamshell-style tp's have them. I suspect the reason the one the OP has, which doesn't fit correctly is because they're designed to fit a "standard" tension hoop, not a TT hoop which may have a "thicker" cross-section.

The Saga "re-designed Presto" which was used on Gold Star banjos has this, as well.

The clamshell "Gibson" tailpiece used on the 1970's banjos has it, also.

Advice to the OP:
If you don't want to modify the TP you have to fit (I think you could grind away the offending metal), then replace it with a TP that DOES fit.

Really, that's about all there is to it.

May 21, 2024 - 12:18:05 PM

beegee

USA

23256 posts since 7/6/2005

quote:
Originally posted by TimFoster
quote:
Originally posted by beegee

I use a tensionator on my Lane Top-Tension.


First I'm seeing that... seems like a cool premise, but my immediate thought was -- might the lack of overall rigidity in the design impact vibration transfer, volume/tone etc compared to a more simple setup?  

maybe the more granular string adjustment makes up for it?  I will say one of the things that made me consider mucking with the presto on my TT in the first place was that the 3rd string seemed to have a bit less sustain/overtones than the rest, and I sort of wished it had a bit more downforce to level the playing field for global adjustment.  Of course the string change may help there too lol.

whats your experience been?


May 21, 2024 - 12:55:30 PM
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beegee

USA

23256 posts since 7/6/2005

I had two Lane top-tensions. Each had Tensionators, each sounded great. I find the Presto tailpieces sort of cheap-looking and the Tensionator is solid brass and well-plated. The adjustable fingers can be adjusted for tone. I Set mine all about the same. I have never noticed any diminution of sound nor volume and they are as solid a tailpiece one could want. For the Gibson "purist" the presto is more about looks than functionality. People forget(or never realized) that Gibson was more about selling than building. The fact they had some success with their banjos was more accidental than anything. They continually sought ways to cut costs while maintaining eye-appeal. They also bought tailpieces in bulk at the lowest price possible. I digress. Harry Lane tried Presto, Kerschner, made his own, and the Tensionator was his final choice. The Tensionator also balances the bulky look of the top-tension hoop. I still use Prestos on my 28 Granada and my Sullivan Deluxe and RK-75's and RK-76. I sold my Model D Lane top-tension, but my Gold Model G(show pony) still sports the Tensionator. My Fender Artist still has its original tailpiece, but I have a Tensionator for it after I regret it. Adcock used a Tensionator on his Fender, did he not?. My other Fender Artist still has a Waverly. I have learned to use each to its maximum ability, PLUS the Tensionators are and expensive when you think about replacing them on each banjo I own.


May 21, 2024 - 1:47:25 PM

133 posts since 8/14/2018

Wow. That gold Model G is quite the looker!!!

I’m teetering on analysis paralysis — now you have me thinking if I’m gonna try something new, why not really diverge from the “norm”…. I think I’m going to pick one up; I like the idea behind it in theory…

But in the meantime… as soon as I wrap up work, I’m stringing my TT back up with the ol’ Presto and going through every single 5/8 and .656 bridge in my stash… lol…

May 21, 2024 - 3:46:19 PM

beegee

USA

23256 posts since 7/6/2005

I have a box of bridges of every style and brand and shape and height. I have settled on the Scorpion as my #1 and Kat-Eyez as a secondary choice. I like the .656 standard-spacing on my banjos.

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