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Thread: Anyone know what this thing is?

  1. #1
    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default Anyone know what this thing is?

    Ran across this small banjo on Reverb. Any thoughts on what it is intended to be?

    https://reverb.com/item/6762363-antique-banjo-1890-1930

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    This is the second time I've seen this posted recently (the other was on Facebook I think, maybe it was here). I have no clue but I don't think it was made in the US.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Wow. No ideas on what it is, but it might be worth a drive just to see if it plays.
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  5. #4

    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    banjolinetto?

  6. #5
    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    I looks like a banjo-head Puerto Rican 10 string cuatro to me

  7. #6
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Interesting!... all banjolin-ish with 5 courses... very interesting!
    aka: Spencer
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  8. #7

    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Hmm 9 strings, just noticed that. Banjo-waldzither?

  9. #8
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    It has a nut for 5 two string courses, but only 9 tuners. If it is strung as a right handed instrument, it looks like the highest string is a single string. The next two courses may be strung as octaves. Then, where one would expect the lowest strings are two courses that look like very light guage. Strange.

    ps: I bet Elderly does not have replacement heads for it in stock.

    editted to add the following:
    Seller has quite a few non-typical-USA stringed instruments up for sale.
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  11. #9

    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    ... I bet Elderly does not have replacement heads for it in stock. ...
    Lol! True though. With that shape, any potential head replacements would definitely involve starting out with a blank piece of calfskin (or other suitable material depending on one's interests, e.g. are there moisture-resistant and/or vegan banjo head blanks nowadays?? etc). For posterity, here's the shape of the instrument being discussed:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	odd-shaped-banjo.jpg 
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ID:	161347

    Also, I would think that it might be a little tricky to get that head tensioned *evenly* across the entire surface. I've always thought banjo-head instruments sounded better when the tension was even, instead of hit-or-miss tightening of the tension hardware. Maybe it wouldn't be as difficult as I'd first thought though, as upon closer inspection there aren't very many brackets on this particular instrument... so maybe not quite as difficult as trying to get even tension when tightening spokes on a bike wheel (or standard banjo rim with lots of brackets, basically the same principle) ... or would it be *more* complicated due to the odd shape?

  12. #10
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    "Interesting"
    Mandroid?
    Sorry Mandroid, it just came to mind.
    Maybe a "mandborg"/"cyberlin"?
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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  14. #11
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    It has a nut for 5 two string courses, but only 9 tuners. If it is strung as a right handed instrument, it looks like the highest string is a single string. The next two courses may be strung as octaves. Then, where one would expect the lowest strings are two courses that look like very light guage. Strange.
    I wonder if it uses reentrant tuning? The small diameter plain strings at the extreme bass side surely couldn't be anything other than a reentrant high course.

    As for the tuners, I can't figure this out. The bass side of the peghead obviously has 5-on-a-plate tuners, but only 4 visible tuning posts in the slotted peghead. One string seems to go towards the end of the peghead and disappears into a hole in the wood. None of the pictures seem to indicate where the hidden post is, or how the heck you would actually string it. Can anyone make sense of that?

    It is indeed an interesting and unique instrument. If I had money to burn, I'd buy it just for the unique aspect. And I absolutely LOVE the case!
    Keep that skillet good and greasy all the time!

  15. #12
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    If you look at the pic of the back of the headstock the top tuner shaft is visible with it's hole. On the front you just see the hole for the string to go into.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  16. #13
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    No idea who made this or what period it comes from, or what type of music it was used for but a unique and charming banjo.
    No ideas, but they know it's worth 2K?
    Never say "bouzouki" to a TSA agent...

  17. #14
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    If you look at the pic of the back of the headstock the top tuner shaft is visible with it's hole. On the front you just see the hole for the string to go into.
    OK, I see now. For some reason, when I looked at it before, it looked like just a grommet or rivet head on the back of solid wood. Now I can see that it's actually the tuner post with the string hole. It was a big "duh" moment for me.

    So what's the deal with that neck splice just below the peghead? Was this the original neck that got broken and repaired, or is it a replacement neck? Or perhaps both? The wood of the neck looks too clean and freshly finished to be original, and the way the dark peghead wood is spliced into it is sort of amateurish. But then that other splice below it looks like a repair of a snapped neck to me. Thoughts?
    Keep that skillet good and greasy all the time!

  18. #15
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    They are following the old eBay adage 'If the local guitar/ antique shop does not know what it is then it must be worth a fortune'.
    Anglocelt
    mainly Irish & Scottish but open to all dance-oriented melodic music.
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  19. #16

    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    I wonder if it uses reentrant tuning? The small diameter plain strings at the extreme bass side surely couldn't be anything other than a reentrant high course.

    As for the tuners, I can't figure this out. The bass side of the peghead obviously has 5-on-a-plate tuners, but only 4 visible tuning posts in the slotted peghead. One string seems to go towards the end of the peghead and disappears into a hole in the wood. None of the pictures seem to indicate where the hidden post is, or how the heck you would actually string it. Can anyone make sense of that?

    It is indeed an interesting and unique instrument. If I had money to burn, I'd buy it just for the unique aspect. And I absolutely LOVE the case!
    yeah the string guages definetely suggest re entrant tuning.

  20. #17

    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    just the case is fantastic. it is a sort of persian tar crossed with a waldzither that married an english style banjo.

  21. #18
    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    I suspect it is a failed sort of parlor instrument: it's a mix of everything, isn't it: banjo, guitar, mandolin, violin (check out the scroll on the headstock).

    A part of me wants to suggest it European, but US makes a lot of sense. or even South American...


    Lovely, lovely instrument though.
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  22. #19
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    I don't think it was US made. That headstock is screaming European to me.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  23. #20
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    So what's the deal with that neck splice just below the peghead? Was this the original neck that got broken and repaired, or is it a replacement neck? Or perhaps both? The wood of the neck looks too clean and freshly finished to be original, and the way the dark peghead wood is spliced into it is sort of amateurish. But then that other splice below it looks like a repair of a snapped neck to me. Thoughts?
    First thing I thought of when I saw it was a broken neck that had been repaired.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  24. #21
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    I know three things about it, for sure:

    1. It's a very cool piece.
    2. There is no way I would pay $2,000 for it.
    3. Not only does Elderly not have replacement heads for it (or Stewart-MacDonald for that matter), but Mel Bay doesn't have an instruction book for it either!

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  26. #22
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ostrander View Post
    No ideas, but they know it's worth 2K?
    "Askin' ain't sellin'!"
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  27. #23
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Quote Originally Posted by gweetarpicker View Post
    Ran across this small banjo on Reverb. Any thoughts on what it is intended to be?

    https://reverb.com/item/6762363-antique-banjo-1890-1930
    It was made for Henry VII.His minstrel played it.

  28. #24
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    I know three things about it, for sure:

    1. It's a very cool piece.
    2. There is no way I would pay $2,000 for it.
    3. Not only does Elderly not have replacement heads for it (or Stewart-MacDonald for that matter), but Mel Bay doesn't have an instruction book for it either!
    Tony will make a Tone-Gard for it though.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  29. #25

    Default Re: Anyone know what this thing is?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Tony will make a Tone-Gard for it though.
    And a blue chip will make it sound even better!

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