Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Mystery banjo

I just bought this banjo off of Craigslist. Does anyone know what it is? From the emblems, I am guessing a gold tone, but not sure which model. It does appear to have a brass tone ring in it.

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Kinda looks like a homemade job. How does it sound?

hmm, I didn’t consider that. After looking at it after you saying that, you could be right. some parts look a little rough to have come from a factory. It sounds pretty good - about the same as my Deering. The frets are a lot lower which makes it easier to play. The neck is a little narrower though which causes me to push the top D string off the fingerboard sometimes.

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I’d be curious if there is any labeling inside.

If you don’t adjust to the string spacing, you can cut a new nut or have it done relatively inexpensively.

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Ugh! They mounted the head skin crooked! :angry: it looks like the neck is crooked, when it’s the head. Enough ranting; it looks pretty good, the wood on the back is quite pretty, and it seems to be in good condition (albeit well played) how much did you pay? (Not what you told your wife you payed)

I paid $200. I could not pass on that. It has planetary tuners even and a nice hard shell case

Hi Joe, I am inclined to disagree with @Mark_Rocka I think that banjo has been built by a professional, the way the neck has been built and the inlay, for $200 you got yourself a good deal. That banjo has been played well and loved alot. Check the frets bridge and nut for wear, a good clean up and a new head and strings shouldn’t cost a lot. Take off the resonator and look inside you may find the makers name. I am sure I have seen inlay on another banjo, look up Arthur Hatfield and Warren Yates.

About 7 years ago Craig Evans over on the Banjo Hangout travelled the US and put together a series of documentary films about Banjo Builders. Not sure if he is still active over there but I am sure he maybe able to shed some light.

Just because it looks nice doesn’t mean it isn’t home made. You’ve seen my archtop, right? :wink:

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I like it. I’m guessing whoever had this banjo, knew what he wanted and had it made or altered that way.

It appears the crooked neck didn’t deter him from playing it a lot.

Hi @Mark_Rocka I really think it’s a pro built banjo rather than a home made one. Some of the features on it suggest to me that it is and I am pretty sure I have seen others like this one. I am not dissing your opinion or your banjo. I like you am just offering an opinion I am sure Joe is happy with his purchase no matter who’s best guess it right. I certainly wont loose any sleep if I’m proved wrong.Wll you ? :heart_eyes:

Homemade vs pro built isn’t always either or. It could have been built at home by a pro. Either way, for $200 it’s a good deal. And the crooked head made treblemaker think the neck was crooked too.

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I took it to a fret shop today. The banjo dude did not know what it was either. He suggested I post pictures to banjo hangout. I just got through tearing it down and after looking at it more closely, I think it is a Frankenjo. The neck and the pot appear to be made from different wood with different finish on the outside. The flange appears to be homemade. The holes in the flange are not evenly cut circles. The inlay patterns appear to be glued in on top of the fretboard. That is something the banjo guy at the shop noticed. Two of the nuts for the j hooks were not the same size as the rest of them. The armrest hardware is soldered into the armrest. The banjo guy said it plays very well and sounds great. So I am going to replace the odd hardware, armrest, head, bridge, nut, and strings and see how it looks and sounds. Tomorrow, I plan on polishing the hardware and wood. If anyone has good suggestions for wood polish, please let me know. Banjo guy suggested Nevr-Dull for the metal parts. It has a brass ring and a very heavy tension hoop. The hoop is heavier than the ring. I wanted a banjo with a brass ring and now I have one for a cheap price. I will be excited to see how it turns out. For the small investment, I am not afraid to work on it myself and experiment a little. I might even try to change the wood finish if I do not like the look of it after polishing.

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Hi Joe,

Sounds as though @Mark_Rocka was right after all.

You ask for some cleaning tips. If the wood is dirty/ smells of smoke use a soft cloth dipped in some vinegar diluted in water this should remove most if the dirt and help prepare the surface for polish. Stelling recommend Giyde-cote, but most wax furniture polish will restore the wood. For the metal parts Stelling recommends Simichrome. I tiny amount is all that’s required. For the fretboard I use lemon oil to clean the surface wipe off with a dry cloth. When you have the resonator cover off put one small drop of 3in1 or gun oil on the threads of the tension hooks to prevent rust and to lub the threads.

I am sure @Jake and others may have other tips and suggestions

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Well, I put the FrankenBanjo back together. I am so impressed by the tone it creates. I think it was meant to be an open back and it sounds great just like that so I plan on leaving the resonator off.