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Jun 19, 2024 - 8:11:31 PM
75 posts since 12/4/2023

Hi there fellow pickers and tinkerers, I hope everyone is well.
I just took ownership of a 1950’s Gibson RB-100 (6509-52). I was looking on the banjophiles website trying to get a better idea on the year it was made, and I located 2 banjos with the 6509 pedigree. Numbers 53 and 57, dated to 1954 and 1955, respectively.
I would assume that puts my banjo’s birthday in 1954, but we all know what they say about making assumptions…..
Could anyone suggest any other resources where I might find more accurate information about when my banjo was made?

The banjo appears to be mostly original parts, except for a Presto TP and a newer looking 5/8” bridge.
I don’t plan to alter it. I like the way it sounds right now, with the little brass hoop. But, I also want to make sure I’m getting the most out of this banjo, setup wise. I will probably try some different bridges and maybe some different tailpieces, since the originals are gone anyway, but I wanted to ask you all that have experience with these banjos, if there is anything special about them that I should know about when setting it up?
Thank you in advance

Jun 19, 2024 - 9:37:24 PM
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5827 posts since 5/29/2011

I had a 1951 RB100 with the original car trunk tailpiece which I strung with ball-end strings. I kept the tailpiece loose and the head tight. With a 5/8" bridge it would hold its own in a jam session. I don't know what drum dial reading it would need because I've never owned one, but it never sounded good if the head was too loose. It had the easiest playing neck of any banjo I ever owned.
It won't hurt to try different bridges and tailpieces. Just make sure to experiment with the tailpiece tension. Mine always seemed to sound better if the tailpiece wasn't cranked down too tight.

Jun 19, 2024 - 9:55:03 PM

75 posts since 12/4/2023

Cool, thank you Mark.
That is good to know, because it arrived with the tailpiece all the way down. Touching the tension hoop. I backed it off a bit right away, but it still stayed with the front end angled down. No matter how much I raised the back, the front stayed diving down.
Maybe someone bent it. I have it apart for cleaning now, but I’ll try a different TP when I get it back together

Jun 20, 2024 - 5:46:17 AM

15747 posts since 10/30/2008

A Presto tailpiece can't be adjusted up and down. That little "adjustment" screw is there just to brace the tailpiece against the rim, at whatever distance you select. Crank it too much and you might break the tailpiece at the 90 degree bend, so the tailpiece doesn't flop around. Most folks remove that little adjustment screw in fact.

If your tailpiece tip is really down CLOSE to the head, you may need a new head that the tension hoop won't pull down so far. The other thing to try first is to relax the nut on the tailpiece hanger bolt so the entire tailpiece can sit "higher" above the head. Most folks prefer to have 1/8" open space between the top of the tension hoop and the underside of the tailpiece. Easy to try. The tailpiece will seem floppy as heck, but string tension will hold it in place when you tune up. The engineering on a Presto is pretty miserable...but folks like their sound.

Jun 20, 2024 - 11:56:48 AM

75 posts since 12/4/2023

Hi Dick, thank you for the info. I do not use that adjustment screw on my Prestos. I remove them.
I think I was using the wrong lingo when I said I was adjusting it up and down. I meant that I loosen the nut on the hanger bolt.
When I took it apart & reassembled it last night, I found that the L bracket for mounting the TP on the back of the co-rod was small and did not stick out far enough past the flange. So it was pulling the TP in and then causing the front to dive down. I ordered a new, proper length bracket and shimmed the old one with washers for the time being and it seems to be at the right angle now.
Where the strings meet the TP closest to the bridge is 5/16” off the head. I like to start around there.

I have another question, and this thread might need to move to a repair section. I apologize to the moderator, but I have no clue how to do that…..

So the fifth string sounds dull and muted. It’s not ringing out.
It’s not touching any of the frets and it sounds dull all the way up the neck.
Could that be the friction peg not putting enough pressure on it? It stays in tune

Jun 20, 2024 - 12:11:12 PM

15407 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by CaseyJones

So the fifth string sounds dull and muted. It’s not ringing out.
It’s not touching any of the frets and it sounds dull all the way up the neck.
Could that be the friction peg not putting enough pressure on it? It stays in tune


Could be binding in its pip/nut.

Is it bone or wood? If the string feels tight in the slot, can you file the slot a bit more open?

If you're not averse to a change, you might consider filing the slot so deep that the string is resting solidly on the fifth fret and the pip/nut becomes simply a guide.

You can easily test the probable effect of this change without having to do anything to the slot. Simply lift the fifth string out of the slot and lower it onto the fret on the 4th string side of the pip. The pip will act as a post, keeping the string from sliding off the fingerboard. You'll hear how the string would sound with it being on the fret. It will be a bit closer to the 4th string, but you may find it to be playable this way until you're ready for a permanent change.

If you fret the fifth string in your playing, you'll appreciate the improved intonation of the fifth string going live at the fifth fret.

I think replacing the friction fifth tuner with a geared fifth is a worthwhile upgrade. You can keep the old peg just in case.

-  -  -  -  -

It could also be binding in the bridge.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 06/20/2024 12:13:43

Jun 20, 2024 - 12:23:48 PM

75 posts since 12/4/2023

Hi Ken, I did put a new AMB bridge on, so I think it’s on the other end because I had the problem with both bridges.
On the tuning side, there is just a little “guide” at the end of the fretboard. It looks like a fin. After that, it rests on the fifth fret. There was a small pip that wasn’t doing much and when I tried to grab it last night, I wound up pushing it in more, so now it is completely useless.
I will attach a picture of the situation now:


 

Jun 20, 2024 - 4:45:36 PM

15407 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by CaseyJones

On the tuning side, there is just a little “guide” at the end of the fretboard. It looks like a fin. After that, it rests on the fifth fret. There was a small pip that wasn’t doing much and when I tried to grab it last night, I wound up pushing it in more, so now it is completely useless.


That's one of the strangest things I've ever seen on a banjo. I believe that could be your problem. And I could be wrong.

As you're aware, this banjo used to have a standard fifth string pip. You saw its remains. Now there's just a scar where it used to be. That metal fin inserted in the side of the fretboard (!) looks like it might be a railroad spike with the head cut or filed down. Could be this arrangement doesn't result in the string laying with good pressure on the fret, which could be the source of the weak sound.

It is entirely common to use a spike instead of a pip for the fifth string. But in a standard installation, the spike is in the fretboard surface set back from the fifth fret, in line with the fifth string. Again, I have never seen anything such as the metal in the side of your fretboard.

If this were my banjo, I'd either install a spike in the appropriate location and clean up the remains of the wood(?) pip, or get a new bone pip installed -- but slotted deeply to be a guide as I described before.

Jun 21, 2024 - 2:55:54 AM
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75 posts since 12/4/2023

Ken, I think you are 100% correct that, “the fin” is causing my heartache.
And I think a spike will be the route I take to, hopefully, resolve this. I have a Deering banjo with a spike on the 5th that I can use as a cheat sheet.
When I learn to build necks, I will learn to install a pip the right way. But for now, I don’t want to experiment with a 70 year old fretboard

Jun 21, 2024 - 12:15:29 PM

15407 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by CaseyJones

Ken, I think you are 100% correct that, “the fin” is causing my heartache.
And I think a spike will be the route I take to, hopefully, resolve this.


I think a good location for the spike will be right in the seam/intersection of the broken pip and the fretboard, on the side facing the edge of the fretboard. With the head of spike pointed toward 4th string, it looks to me that will keep the fifth string on a straight path.

It occurs to me now that a reason for the "fin" or sideways spike to be the problem is because it's not contributing to downward force of the fifth string onto the fret. Or it's even interfering. And then with the string binding on that fin, there's something about the length of string between it and the fret that's affecting fifth string tone.

This is perhaps similar to how the length of string between the bridge and the front of the tailpiece can affect tone. We think of these areas of string as dead or neutral, but they may not be.

I changed the way I installed spikes after watching these videos:

Richie Dotson RR spike installation how-to video - part 1

Richie Dotson RR spike installation how-to video - part 2

Jun 21, 2024 - 2:18:06 PM
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75 posts since 12/4/2023

Hey Ken, thank you again!
I just watched the videos and I have compiled all the tools Richie used into my shopping cart at Stew Mac.
I ordered the little hand drill separately because Stew Mac doesn’t have one. I saw another video where a gentleman used a dremel, but I prefer doing things by hand as much as possible.
As soon as the stuff arrives, I will be installing that spike exactly where you suggested.
I really like Richie Dotson’s how to videos. His videos and others like him and the advice of folks on this forum, like Old Hickory , have given me the confidence and information to do work on my banjos that I wouldn’t have even tried, or if I had I certainly would have screwed up without their guidance.
Thanks fellas.
I will update when the parts have arrived and been installed

Jun 26, 2024 - 1:49:37 AM

75 posts since 12/4/2023

Alright, update time….
So I have not received the tools & parts from Stew Mac to install the spike on my 5th string, but last night, the new (proper sized) bracket for the tailpiece hanger bolt arrived from Greg Boyd’s. I installed it and it was the right length, allowing me to remove the washers I had in place (on the old, short one) to shim it out from the rim far enough for the hanger bolt to catch.
Lo and behold, the banjo sounds great now. The 5th string is ringing out beautifully and the whole banjo sounds fantastic now.
I’m really digging that sound from the pot with just a tone hoop

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