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Thread: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

  1. #1
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    Default Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    New to the forum. I'm a guitar player - acoustic, electric, baritone...- I just came across a banjo mandolin which my neighbour had under the stairs for a good 20 or 30 years, in its original black case. Photos attached.
    The name on the headstok is 'Boomerang' in the shape of...you guessed it...a boomerang!
    I'm thinking of bringing it back to life (the instrument, not the neighbour...)
    Does anyone recognise what it is, its make and what it's made of?
    Can I use lemon oil on the fretboard and how do I clean the skin without damaging it?
    What strings would be best?
    Any advice and/or info would be greatly appreciated.
    Cheers.
    Michel
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  2. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    It looks English, and from the spelling of your neighbor (neighbour), that may well be where it is, or at least nearby. Other than that, I can't tell you much.
    Perhaps there are ways to clean real skin heads somewhat, but in my experience it will not look new again so it might be best left as is.

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    When you get strings don't put heavy mandolin strings on it, it is a banjo after all. Banjos don't have heavy strings. I use two sets of tenor banjo strings 10-28.
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    A Pink Pearl eraser is strong enough to remove grime, but gentle enough to keep from damaging the head. Just don't press hard or go over the same spot for too long.
    I brought an old, neglected Bacon mando-banjo back from the dead that way. You can find Pink Pearl erasers in any stationery store.

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Thankyou, Sunburst, Pops1 and Rickbella. I'm in Australia. Do you know if some of those things were made here, especially with a name like Boomerang?

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Maybe you can get Pink Pearl erasers through mail order? Maybe even at a decent price? Good luck with it.

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    I restored and cleaned the head of an old banjo with a "Flash" magic eraser, and it worked like "magic" would you believe.

  10. #8
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Mick de V View Post
    ...I'm in Australia...
    I thought that might be the case with the name Boomerang for the instrument. It still looks a lot like an English banjo, but it could have been built anywhere (including Australia) by someone influenced by such designs.

  11. #9
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    I had (may still have) a mandolin-banjo similar to this. I had had a Vega Little Wonder which I bought from my best friend's sister, and it was a fine addition to my arsenal when I was playing in a jug band. It was extremely loud, though, with a full-size (I believe 12") plastic head. It did not need to be miked. I described it as being utterly devoid of subtlety. It was good for upbeat numbers, providing a loud driving rhythm. Anything requiring a softer touch meant using the mandolin.

    Somewhere along the line I encountered an instrument like what you've got - a much smaller skin head. Its tone was much easier on the ears. I could still play the raucous numbers on it, but it lent itself well to more mellow songs. AT some point the skin broke. I brought it to my luthier for replacement, who noticed it had issues - the neck was warping, frets needed replacement, etc. The cost of repair would be much more than the cost of acquisition. While contemplating how much I wanted to sink into it, my tenure with the band came to an end. No longer as highly motivated to fund the fixing of the wee beast, I let time elapse. It may still be there, for all I know.

    It may not. His storage area was in the basement, and there was a flood, causing the stream near his house to rise, nearly up to the first floor. I'm not sure whether he was able to rescue every instrument he had there. One of these days I should ask.

    Anyway ... you may well have a fine instrument there, worth putting some effort into restoring. Good luck with it!
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    As another player of a Little Wonder mandolin banjo, who has taken my share of abuse on the Forum because of my choice of instruments, I thought that your header was about an instrument that you kept trying to throw away, but kept returning -- like the proverbial cat
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Thank you all for your contributions. Some quite funny (Ranald).
    I actually spotted the instrument seven years ago under my elderly neighbour's staircase, among a trove of violins, trombone. trumpet, flute, saxophone... It was only last weekend that he suggested I might be interested in checking it out properly. He says he picked it up over 30 years ago from a local friend who in turn said it had been in the family for a very long time but he couldn't recall anyone playing it.
    On the technical side of restoration, any reason I couldn't use a regular (PVC free) rubber eraser to clean the skin?
    Also what lubricant to use on the keys - the metal on the cogs looks remarkablywell preserved.
    I have ordered 2 sets of Alice AM04 Mandolin Strings 10-34 on line. Amazingly cheap, perhaps there's a reason, although reviewers write they're happy with the way they dull the shrill brightness of banjo mandos.

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  15. #12
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Itis almost certainly English made and could date from the 30s through to the 50s. The Boomerang ranking suggests that it might have been imported by J Albert & Son who where/are a major music publisher and who imported boomerang shaped harmonicas from Germany and published the Boomerang Songsters, with the lyrics from current pop songs for decades. The problem with these banjo mandolins is that string tension tends to distort the circular plywood rim and the neck pulls up and makes them unplayable. If the neck angle is ok and the skin is intact, string it with the lightest possible strings and hope it stays together. Australia is littered with these things and almost all of them are unplayable and not worth putting much in the way of effort changing that.

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Thank you Graham. Just as well as I only ordered cheap light gauge strings. I'll see how I go. If anything, it'll be nice to give it back all clean and strung up.

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Looks like a UK-origin instrument, and as Graham says, they are in plentiful supply and very often not in playable condition. If you can remove the eight screws holding the back and top together there might well be a label inside there.
    The tuners look remarkably unused and unworn, but the headstock seems to have a very nasty crack going down the length of it right along the line of the tuner post holes. If it is not just a veneer crack but actually in the headstock itself then when you try to string it up and put tension on those pegs you may experience some serious problems. Have it looked at anyway.
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Thank you, John for the good advice.

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    A standard bit of kit I've found in many old banjo cases from the first half of the 20th Century is a tan art-gum eraser. That seems to have been the tool of choice for cleaning a calfskin head, and it works fine.
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kelly View Post
    The tuners look remarkably unused and unworn, but the headstock seems to have a very nasty crack going down the length of it right along the line of the tuner post holes.
    The picture of the back of the headstock shows no crack. Hopefully that's just in the top veneer. Hopefully ...
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    I think you're right. The crack does not appear to be past the veneer.

  22. #19
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    For a full restoration see: http://thisoldzithermandolinbanjo.blogspot.com/
    Good luck with it!
    John

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Excellent! Thank you!

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Well, a few days later, a new set of strings, lemon oil on the fretboard and headstock veneer and here we go. I didn't work too hard on the skin as I don't want to damage it.

    The tuners are in perfect order but a finger killer, being so small and which not much leverage. Had to order a peg winder on line.

    Comments as to how hard those things are to tune and keep in tune are on the money. Although, with new strings, the instrument not having been under tension for decades and massive changes in humidity day to day here on the east coast of Australia, that's not surprising. I'll give it a few days and see if it settles.

    Cheers and thanks to everyone for their help and advice.
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  26. #22
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    I believe you can lubricate the tuning machines a tiny bit and they will be easier to operate. Slack off each one while doing this so you can work the oil in well. Someone else will be able to recommend type or brand. Perhaps graphite is best. But ask the experts, not me.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    This YouTube vid attributes a Boomerang mandolin-banjo to the British maker Windsor:




    The instrument's similar to yours, but differs in many aspects, so yours may not be by the same maker (and I don't know how the repairer came by the "Windsor" attribution). Quite likely Albert & Sons imported English/European instruments from a variety of manufacturers, and put their "Boomerang" label on them.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Here is a page on a Boomerang tenor banjo. No additional info except to note that is is an Australian brand, but I noticed that the headstock on this tenor resembles instruments sold by John E. Dallas in the UK. Now those banjos and mandolins may have been made for Dallas by Windsor.
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    Default Re: Boomerang Banjo Mandolin

    Search this forum for Triflow for a lubricant

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