PDA

View Full Version : S.S. Stewart banjolin help



banjoukenewbe
May-14-2010, 4:17pm
I was given a banjolin that is in pieces. It is marked (S.S. Stewart University 15) on the wood rod that attaches the body to the neck. It has four strings and the body is 6.25 inches across. The instrument is in great shape but has some minor issues. The j-hooks are very rusty and cannot be cleaned/fixed. Some of the threads are non existant. I am in need of some new ones. Is there anyone that can help me find something like this. They are 2.25 inches long and there are twelve of them. I also have the original skin for it but it's very dirty. Can I clean it? Or should I leave it alone. I have checked several sites and found no information on this piece. Short of cutting longer ones down, I don't know what to do. Does anyone know what year it may have been made? All the info I find is for 5 stringers, no 4 strings. Any info would be greatly appreciated. I can post photos if anyone would like to see what I have.
Thanks in advance, Nick

MikeEdgerton
May-14-2010, 5:07pm
With 4 strings you either have a tenor banjo or a banjo uke, not a mandolin banjo. That would have 8 strings. As for parts you might want to check out www.stewmac.com or www.janetdavismusic.com.

Brian Woodruff
May-14-2010, 8:31pm
I have an SS Stewart banjo mandolin and had some of the same issues. The head broke on mine within a few days of tuning it up to pitch. I was able to get a goat skin drum head from www.rhythmtraders.com and replace the head but it's tricky to get the right tension. I ended up breaking a couple of hooks trying to tighten down the rim low enough for the strings to clear the rim. Everything at stewmac looked too long or the hooks were nickel instead of brass. I met Patrick "Doc" Huff of www.docsbanjos.com at the Northwest handmade musical instrument show and he makes his own hooks for all kinds of banjos. He can fix you up with what you need.

mandroid
May-15-2010, 10:33am
Banjo uke would be better suited to keep nylon strings on it, But, you can, say from Elderly, Buy a string set made to tune in 5ths.

I have successfully used Martin Baritone uke strings for the 3 lowest strings,(2 are wound) and one string from a soprano uke set,
(#1 and 4 are the same) to make a set .

+ tuning with friction, 1:1, tuners is a PIA with steel strings because of the short scale ,
and the fact that steel is not elastic, like nylon.

resophonic
May-15-2010, 11:59am
With 4 strings you either have a tenor banjo or a banjo uke, not a mandolin banjo.

You are correct that it would not be a mandolin banjo but there is such a thing as a Tango banjo. The 4 string Tango banjo is essentially a short scale tenor with a mandolin scale length and was used in banjo orchestras during the Tango or dance craze in the 20's. The Tango banjo would have been used as a lead or melody instrument.

The images are a 20's Lyon and Healy Tango or short scale Tenor banjo and a Clariphone label (Gretsch make) Ukulele banjo. The signatures are from fraternity Brohters.

The Tango banjos I have seen have all had full sized pots on them, around 11". The small sized pot on the S.S. Stewart points toward a Ukulele banjo.


Does anyone know what year it may have been made?

Banjo Ukulele's where most common in the 20's. The S.S. Stewart likely dates from that time. While they did have a role in banjo orchestras, they where most popular with college boys, especially fraternities. It is common to see these instruments with signatures all over the head, it would have been the signatures of the fraternity brothers. When the young man graduated college he was expected to grow into an adult role and leave the adolescent instrument behind.

Brian's recommendation on the hooks may be your best bet. I wouldn't worry too much about a dirty banjo head, someone must have played the hell out of it. However, replacement skins are readily available but you would have to mount it yourself or pay to have it done. If you haven't done one before it's not terribly difficult and there is information on the internet.

Here is a couple of tutorials, there are more if you search:
http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/I-0522.html
http://www.banjoseen.us/Calfskin/HowToIinstallACalfSkin.pdf

Post your pictures, it would be fun to see them.

banjoukenewbe
May-15-2010, 8:13pm
Thanks for the advice on where to get parts and letting me know what I have. Here are some pictures. More pictures to follow.

banjoukenewbe
May-15-2010, 8:18pm
Here are pictures of the hardware I was talking about. I just realized I don't have the bridge. I guess I can find one of those. I can't wait to get this thing back together again and hear it. I have never heard, or seen one of these before. Thanks again for all the help. Nick

mandroid
May-16-2010, 11:19am
The Melody banjo is what some 4 strings with short scales are called .

There is a bit of fingerboard extension on those, over the head, and a bigger rim..

That is definitely a Ukulele banjo.
23 skidoo ;)

resophonic
May-17-2010, 11:45am
Looks like a fun project and it will make quite a nice banjo uke when your done, definitely worth your efforts.

banjoukenewbe
May-17-2010, 7:44pm
Thanks again for the help eveyone gave in where to find parts. I play guitar but I've never seen an instrument like it anywhere. Glad you like it and I can't wait to play it! I'll post some photos of before and after I'm done.

MikeEdgerton
May-17-2010, 8:10pm
You are correct that it would not be a mandolin banjo but there is such a thing as a Tango banjo. The 4 string Tango banjo is essentially a short scale tenor...

Yes, and that would still be a tenor banjo. You might as well mention the longer scale plectrum as well. What I failed to catch was the diameter of the pot. It's a banjo uke.

resophonic
May-18-2010, 10:22am
You might as well mention the longer scale plectrum as well.

?? I only mentioned the Tango banjo or short scale tenor because it has the same scale length as a mandolin. For that matter, a banjo Uke will be a 13" to 14" scale length too. I suppose one could string it like a short scale tenor and then you would have a short scale tenorlele. ; - )