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This is the Vega Tubaphone from the late ‘70s. It was made in Japan after Martin, I believe, sold the name to Galaxy Trading. When I got hooked on claw hammer banjo, one of my major heros was (and still is) Chris Coole from Toronto. So, I had to have the same banjo that he plays. This is basically the same banjo that the amazing Canadian Chris Coole (and Arnie Naiman, another fabulous player) plays. Chris is a terrific, inventive player, and has definitely made these popular and sought-after banjos over the years. He made some modifications to the basic model, specifically changing the head to a skin head , and replacing the planetary tuners with guitar tuners. This banjo still has the original tuners, and, as far as I can tell, the original “pre-EPA” Weather King head on the pot. These heads are very desirable, and generally sell at a premium.
One other modification that Chris did, was to rough-cut a frailing scoop under the 5th string from about the 18th to the 22nd frets. The legend has it that he used a pocket knife. Well, I knew I wanted the same frailing thumb access, so instead of doing it (badly) myself, I had well-known Canadian luthier and banjo maker extraordinaire, Carl Arcand (of Second Life Banjos), professionally cut a smooth scoop removing those 5 frets, but only under the 5th string, so you still have usable frets for the remaining 4 strings. This was a $300 upgrade, and well worth it.
This is currently set up as an open-back banjo, like Chris’, but I acquired it with the flange and resonator installed. As a “hook and shoe” style of banjo, the conversion to open-back is fairly easy, and requires no modifications. The same thing goes for putting the flange and resonator back on. It’s a pretty cool setup, actually, that allows you to select between two types of banjo in one.
As mentioned, it is currently set up as an open-back, but you will also get the flange and resonator along with the banjo. Also included is the original case and tailpiece. The “no-knot” tailpiece was added to make it more like Chris’.
The banjo itself is in very good condition. A few small nicks and some cracked binding that was reglued by Carl Arcand in his restoration, but it seems like it has just sat in the case for the last 42 years, with little or no fret wear at all. The only real issue is that the binding has shrunken over the years, and cracked in a few places. This was professionally repaired by Carl, and is not a problem. The neck is straight, and the action is only slightly high, but not by banjo standards. This can be remedied with a lower bridge if desired, but it plays fine now. It plays and sounds great and I will include a fresh set of new strings with the purchase.
Asking $1650 plus $100 shipping, OBO.
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Posted: Apr 6, 2021 04:34 PM CDT
Glenford NY 12433
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