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Thread: String distance and identify my banjolin

  1. #1
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    Default String distance and identify my banjolin

    Hi all,
    I recently acquired my grandfathers banjolin from Perth, Western Australia. The skin was broken and over where I'm living in Spain my mate repaired using a USA authentic calfs skin.

    The luthier (my mate) when changing the skin came across one of the nut/bolts to be different and not like the other ones holding the skin in. He could not seem to setup the distance between the strings and fretboard correctly. You can see a gap where the neck meets the body and the distance between strings and fretboard is massive. Unplayable.

    He can modify the neck so it fits flush but this means cutting it slightly. Something I'm not too happy with. As I don't think my grandfather had this problem when he played it.

    My question is if there is some way to adjust this gap between the neck and body to avoid cutting the wood to make it fit?

    He has tried everything but can't seem to get the neck flush with the body. I'm also trying to identify this banjolin. I have no idea what year its from and what make and model. Any information much appreciated.

    Here are some photos:

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    Thanks,
    Rob

  2. #2
    Registered User Rob Grant's Avatar
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Rob,
    From the photos it would appear that the neck is actually separating from the body from string tension or distortion of the timber body shell from shrinkage or warping.

    If the action is too high then the neck will have to be reset and the joint between the body and the neck will have to be properly secured. This should eliminate the offending gap and correct the action problem.

    Did your grandfather live in Australia? If he originally purchased this instrument in Oz, then it is probably of English origin. Back in the pre-electric days these little "POME" banjolins were very popular at rural country hall dances. Your grandfather's instrument looks to be of a higher quality then the ones I usually see.
    Rob Grant
    FarOutNorthQueensland,Oz
    http://www.grantmandolins.com

  3. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Have you pulled off the resonator to determine how the neck's attached to the shell -- is there a "dowel stick" that goes through the body, are there bolts through the shell into the neck, or is the neck simply glued to the shell? Of course you should immediately take the string tension off the instrument, and attempt to reattach the neck. Most banjo-type instruments have a neck attachment that's more than just an unpinned glue joint, since the neck-shell attachment is an obvious weak spot.

    You must have had the resonator off to install a new head. Some pics of the "inside" of the banjo body would be helpful.

    Most mandolin banjos found in Australia appear to be British-made; common brands were Houghton and Windsor, but this one doesn't look quite like either. The overall design, with the small head and the top-facing bracket nuts, is quite British, so I'd be pretty safe to attribute it to an English exporter. If there's no label inside the shell, it may be hard to get specific as to manufacturer and date.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    I'm with Allen. I'd expect to find a dowel stick inside, running from the heel to the tail. Adjustment to neck angle is made by changing the angle of that dowel stick - quite how depends on what's going on inside.

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  6. #5
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Unusual to find a dowel stick in those English banjo mandolins. More commonly the neck is screwed on from inside the shell and it is not unusual for the entire shell structure to warp over years of string tension. The entire metal rim/skin assembly should be fairly simple to remove by taking out a few small screws and it may be possible to remove and re-attach the neck at a better angle. Even when all the geometry is OK and they are playable, they still sound pretty ordinary.

    cheers

  7. #6
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Sorry for the lack of response. I'll ask my mate if it has a dowel stick or not. I'm not sure if before the skin was repaired (by my mate) the "gap existed" I forgot to look before he dismounted it all. I can tell you its not had strings on for many years as i recovered it from my father shed. This is the first time in many years the skin is tight and new strings put on. I'll get back to you guys with more info.

    Any ideas on the year, make or model?
    Cheers,
    Rob

  8. #7
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Just checked with my mate and there is no dowel stick inside.

  9. #8
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Graham has most all the correct answers. Zither banjos are constructed quite differently from American banjos, not matter how many strings they have. Getting the head assembly off (which had to have happened when the calfskin was replaced) will reveal the neck connection. Usually they're held with a screw, and rarely mortised in. In any case, your one chance to adjust the neck angle for a good action height is in how the neck is properly reattached. It may need refitting, it may just need to be snugged back down. The neck is solid walnut, and if it's attached with a screw, be careful not to split the heel. It's not the most ideal way to attach a neck, and there's a tremendous amount of tension on that joint.

    Judging by the tuners, it seems to be 1920's, perhaps earlier. It's of above-average quality, very pretty. The strings are wound the wrong way around the string posts.
    .
    ph

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  10. #9
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Thanks for all the help. We are going to tackle the neck adjustment with all your comments very soon. I'm hanging out to play this. Its been in an unplayable state for way too long.

    Yes unfortunately we put the string on wrong. LOL. I'll get another set and re-do it correctly. From scanning internet it looks like its a Windsor, between 1900 and 1915. These where mainly sold in Australia and France according to google searches. That fits my grandfathers age location etc.

    I'll keep you guys posted.
    Cheers,
    Rob

  11. #10
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    It could well be a Windsor, though they were pretty fierce about identifying their instruments.

    You don't need another set of strings, just get a string crank and wind the ones you have the other way.

    But get the neck aligned first!
    .
    ph

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    Paul Hostetter, luthier
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  12. #11
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Hi Guys,
    11 years later I've managed to resolved the neck and string distance issues I had. A long mission that if interested I'll explain later on.

    For now what strings should I use for this (amazon link?) and what tuning?

    We are doing the last stress test on it to see if the repair works and holds out.
    Many thanks,

  13. #12
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Since it is a banjo first, I have recommended several times here. Use banjo strings not mandolin strings. I like two sets of tenor banjo strings 10-28. You don't need anything heavier than a 28, and if you use an 09 instead of a 10 that is ok too. These are built like a banjo, but with the extra strings have more tension so keep the gauges low, you will like the sound better for it.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  14. #13
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Since it is a banjo first, I have recommended several times here. Use banjo strings not mandolin strings. I like two sets of tenor banjo strings 10-28. You don't need anything heavier than a 28, and if you use an 09 instead of a 10 that is ok too. These are built like a banjo, but with the extra strings have more tension so keep the gauges low, you will like the sound better for it.
    Ok thanks. Where I live I'm limited. Seems I can only get these for 4 string banjo packs. D'Addario EJ63 (Tenor) (9 16 23w 30w) or D'Addario EJ63i (Irish Tenor) (12 16 24w 36w) or Martin V720 - 009-0.03 Would they work? Can't see anything 10-28?

    Also what tuning is recommended on the strings? ADGC ?

    Thanks.
    Last edited by robbo007; Oct-19-2021 at 5:24am.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

    The set I use from GHS is 101/2, 12, 20w 28w. I tune it like a mandolin. If you can't get lighter strings you may want to buy singles. The 16 is a little heavy.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  16. #15
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    Default Re: String distance and identify my banjolin

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    Hi guys, Just want to update. Here are the photos of the reparation. Strings all on and the action is very playable now. Amazing. Thanks for everyone' input over the years..

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