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Thread: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

  1. #1
    Registered User Oliver R's Avatar
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    Default Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Hello,
    I have an old zither banjo in at present.The fretboard at some point has had some dents filled and the board painted a 'really' badly finished gloss black (including the frets!!).
    I have cleaned and leveled the frets and flattened down the gloss black to a 'patchy' mat black.
    It will be impossible to totally clean the board back to wood as the paint has soaked in and my plan was to carefully repaint the board but sticking to matt black...and advice on paint choices?
    Cheers
    Oliver.

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    Registered User Oliver R's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Also...it's a bit weird, it's obviously a 5 string but it has six tuners on the headstock (including one for the string buried in the neck)

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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    I'm no luthier, but why not try automotive spray paint? You could mask it off and easily spray it on. You'd have to clean the frets again but that would be relatively easy (right?). Maybe you could carefully apply something like petroleum jelly to just the tops of the frets first so the paint doesn't stick as much.
    I built a kit Les Paul clone once and painted it with automotive paint and the results were excellent,even for a newbie, and it was very durable.
    Matte finish,whatever you use, will get some finger polishing as the banjo is played. Maybe you could get an eggshell or semi-gloss.
    Pictures please, in any event!
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  5. #4

    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Six tuners, with one unused, on a five string zither banjo is a common setup.

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    Registered User Oliver R's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Yes I was thinking that kind of thing and as you say Paul ..might go with a sort of satin finish.

    Is that so about the unused tuner..thats interesting, just using what they have I suppose!

  8. #6

    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    You might consider using just a light coat of black lacquer. A scrap piece of bone or soft brass with a small slot cut into an edge can be used to remove the black from the fret tops with additional cleanup via a q-tip and acetone. Just let the lacquer wear normally over the years. It might end up looking appropriate for the age of the instrument.

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    Registered User Oliver R's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    That would be nice but I’m not sure how well it will adhere to the board. As I said I cannot get it back to bare wood so not sure if that would be a problem?

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    The 6 tuner 5 string banjo with the tube for the 5th string was exclusive to the UK and I never really understood why they did that.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Oliver R's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    No Mike, it’s bizarre to say the least, but that’s us lot for you!��

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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    The 6 tuner 5 string banjo with the tube for the 5th string was exclusive to the UK and I never really understood why they did that.
    I have one hanging on the wall of my shop. I believe it can be played as a 5 string banjo, and because the 5th string goes thru the neck and is not in the way, it can also be played as a banjo guitar.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I have one hanging on the wall of my shop. I believe it can be played as a 5 string banjo, and because the 5th string goes thru the neck and is not in the way, it can also be played as a banjo guitar.
    Maybe if you slotted a new nut and a new bridge, have enough holes in the tailpiece and don't mind a very narrow fingerboard you could. It's just very strange. I've seen a few where they removed the string post from one of the guitar tuners.

    I'm going to guess the original builder either could not get banjo tuners or didn't like them very much. I don't know.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    If you can believe everything you read on the Internet this might explain it. I'm not so sure but I don't have any other explanation.

    https://creekdontrise.com/acoustic/z...ther_banjo.htm
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    It says in the article Mike, some tuned them as guitars. It's anybody's guess, there were a lot of weird instruments that never caught on in those days.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    I'm sure they tuned them as the high four strings on a guitar. You can't magically make string slots and space on the fretboard appear. Heck, I tune tenor banjos Chicago style half the time. I'm sure somebody has tried to make a six string out of them, I'm just not sure how easy it would be on most of them.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Oliver R's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    I would say looking at this example that what you say is correct Mike...4 string slots, 5 string posts at the tail and if somehow you did manage to get six strings on it I would defy most peoples fingers to be of any use playing it!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    I have seen 6 string banjos and even 7-string ones with the shorter drone. Some players of classical or ragtime styles did play banjos with more than 5 strings. A friend of mine owned a 7 string fretless banjo. It was not a zither style but was made by a known American maker.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Jim, there will always be mutations. I just think the majority of these zither banjos that have 5 strings with 6 tuners wouldn't just convert to a 6 string banjo without some real modifications. As the proud own of what luthier Dave Nichols refers to as an abomination (a six-string banjo) I'm pretty familiar with the genre. Every time I used to see zither banjo with the 6 tuners on eBay my first thought was "can I make it a six string". It's just not an easy conversion.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  21. #18
    Registered User Oliver R's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Yep, lots of variations on a theme but this particular banjo looks like it is a 5 string using what was a modified neck off a six stringer of some sort. I suppose it might have been cheaper than making new jigs.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Actually I think my friend did have a Lyon & Healy 7-string like this one.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  23. #20
    Registered User Oliver R's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Thats some neck!
    The one I have is a John Grey one very like this...Click image for larger version. 

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  24. #21
    Registered User Oliver R's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    As an aside, does anyone have any tips for taking these things apart 'without' removing the vellum (which is in good nick and a nice tension).
    Cheers
    Oliver

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    Registered User MB-Octo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    Glad this topic came up. I saw Sarah Jarosz using a 6-string on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert (YouTube) and have been pondering it. Finally looked it up. There's a blurb about it half-way down this page:

    https://americansongwriter.com/2012/...ring-garden/3/
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  26. #23
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    My first 6-string banjo was a Deering B-6 that I had customized with a more traditional looking plate and better tuners. I should have kept that one. It was light and sounded pretty good. Instead I bought a six-string unfinished Deering neck and mated it to a Deering tenor pot that I bought from a Cafe member in Canby, Oregon. Put Fults tailpiece and Waverly tuners. It sounds wonderful but is heavy as heck.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  27. #24
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old banjo fretboard question (no mando content)

    OK, here's at least one explanation from a zither banjo article:

    The curious thing about most 5-string zither-banjos is that they had six tuning pegs. The main reason for this was that many manufacturers found it more economical to use "3-on-a-plate" guitar tuning machines. However some makers did make their custom tuners with one side "3-on-a-plate" and the other "2-on-a-plate." Also, there were 6-string zither-banjos (5 melody strings and 1 short "thumb" string) and 7-string versions.

    Makes some sense to me. Most zither banjos had slotted headstocks, like many guitars of the period, and buying a set of guitar tuners to attach to a symmetrical headstock could be an obvious manufacturing "short cut."

    The "tunnel" for the 5th string, with the tuning peg on the headstock rather than on the neck at the 5th fret, is another curiosity of the zither banjo, but there are some evident positive features in terms of not having to work around the 5th string peg when fretting.
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