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Banjo help needed

Llanfair 11 Jun 03 - 06:54 PM
GUEST,Jon 11 Jun 03 - 08:16 PM
BanjoRay 11 Jun 03 - 08:23 PM
Llanfair 12 Jun 03 - 02:36 AM
Geoff the Duck 12 Jun 03 - 03:48 AM
GUEST,Jon 12 Jun 03 - 04:51 AM
GUEST,noddy 12 Jun 03 - 06:46 AM
GUEST,KingBrilliant 12 Jun 03 - 06:54 AM
Geoff the Duck 12 Jun 03 - 06:56 AM
Leadfingers 12 Jun 03 - 12:53 PM
Llanfair 12 Jun 03 - 12:54 PM
GUEST,Jon 12 Jun 03 - 03:51 PM
Geoff the Duck 12 Jun 03 - 07:42 PM
Llanfair 13 Jun 03 - 02:57 AM
Geoff the Duck 13 Jun 03 - 12:13 PM
Geoff the Duck 14 Jun 03 - 12:59 PM
Leadfingers 14 Jun 03 - 01:04 PM
Geoff the Duck 16 Jun 03 - 12:41 PM
GUEST,Black Jake 12 Oct 21 - 07:23 AM
Sol 12 Oct 21 - 10:31 AM
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Subject: Banjo help needed
From: Llanfair
Date: 11 Jun 03 - 06:54 PM

I acquired a banjo at auction yesterday, and need some help in idetifying it.
It was made by J.K.Simson & co, London, and has the number 185 stamped on. It is a 5-string, with the "short" string threaded through to be tuned from the head, which has guitar-type machine heads. It has frets, and inlaid circles, diamonds and stars.
There is a fixed resonator, and metal surrounding the skin.
Any help would be appreciated, particularly with age and possible value.
I'll tell you how much I paid for it later.........
Cheers, Bron.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 11 Jun 03 - 08:16 PM

What you describe sounds like a typical zither banjo construction. Windsor are probably the best known for making them.

A little bit on Windsor on this page.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: BanjoRay
Date: 11 Jun 03 - 08:23 PM

It sounds like a Zither banjo of which there seem to be an infinite amount wandering around at the moment, often quite pretty and can be nice players if maybe a little quiet. The maker's name does not seem to appear in Terry Holland's banjo pages, so it's difficult to say very much about it. I would say that unless it's totally immaculate with beautiful inlays it won't be worth much more than a couple of hundred pounds.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Llanfair
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 02:36 AM

Thanks for that, folks. Does the "zither" refer to the way the 5th string works, or the guitar machine heads?
The condition isn't bad. It needs cleaning up and a new fret and strings. The "skin" is very dry. What do I use? Neatsfoot oil?
Cheers, Bron.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 03:48 AM

Bron - DO NOT put anything on the skin.
If you try to "wet" the vellum it will stretch, and may split.
A banjo skin has to be HARD to hold the pressure which is transmitted via the bridge to a VERY NARROW section of the skin - i.e.All the pressure is where the feet of the bridge touch. The only time a banjo vellum is deliberately soaked is to initially fit it to the hoop. Once the vellum is correctly in place you take all possible steps to prevent it getting wet.
The term Zither Banjo refers to the 5th string disappearing down a brass tube and reappearing at the machine head. The original "zither" banjo was invented by Alfred D Cammeyer(1862-1949). The first design appeared around 1888. Two sets of three guitar tuning pegs is fairly standard. The tuner manufacturers didn't make sets with TWO tuners on a plate.
Cammeyer also played banjo and composed music in the "Classical Banjo" style. I used to play one of his tunes which someone found on sheet music, but I don't know if I still have my hand transcribed copy.
The manufacturer's name on your banjo doesn't ring any bells, but I am not an authority on manufacturers. I do know that a lot of banjos made by the Windsor company bear different names. My Great Grandfather's zither banjo - the one I learned to play on, is a Barnes & Mullins No.2. Barnes & Mullins sold musical instruments, but did not make banjos. Their branded banjoes were actually Windsor Banjos with a different name stamp.
There are numerous previous threads on 5-string care, maintenance and repair. The forum search will find you some interesting information.
Also Llanfair - If you wish to get in touch with ME (send a PM) I can tell you a lot more than fits in a thread.
Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 04:51 AM

Geoff, I don't know much about makers either but going by this page, Barnes and Mullins appear to have made thier own banjos between around 1901-1965. It also mentions a couple of other makers who, in addition to Windsor, supplied them with banjos.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: GUEST,noddy
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 06:46 AM

if the skin is dry best thing is to get about a gallon of petrol and a match. I find it works beautifully. Lovely WARM sound and feel.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: GUEST,KingBrilliant
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 06:54 AM

Hi Bron.
Go on then - how much was it????
I've been dying for a banjo for ages - and Om wouldn't let me play with her Uke banjo that we got from Bill after the 1st Llanstock gathering.
HOWEVER - now she's decided to take up the fiddle, which she will also ban me from having a go at. So I said she could be sole fiddler if I could play with her banjo. Yipee! Am now merrily looking up websites for hints & will start playing with it tonight.
I bet it looks easier than it is!

Do you already play banjo, or are you about to learn? Have fun with it anyway!

Kris


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 06:56 AM

Of course you need a couple of accordians and a few bodhrans to really get it going....
(YAWN!!!!!!!)


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Leadfingers
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 12:53 PM

I always thought that a 'zither'banjo was constructed so that the resonator was a cylinder into which the head was seated,hence a smaller head and less volume,with the head level with the sides of the body.I have come across open backed and resonator banjos which had the 5th string going down a tube to the head stock,rather than
a tuning peg on the side of the neck.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Llanfair
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 12:54 PM

Thanks for the info, Geoff, I'll be in touch.
KingBrilliant, I paid £44.
This is the auction where I bought an american harmonium for £30, and some idiot paid £10 for a spanish guitar with a seriously bowed neck. They haven't got a clue!!!
Cheers, Bron.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 03:51 PM

Sounds pretty reasonable. My GUESS as to value would have been along the same lines as Ray's, i.e. around the £200 mark in good playing order. There were loads made (and yours is probably "badged") and I don't think specially sought after.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 12 Jun 03 - 07:42 PM

Assuming it is "sound" the price sounds excellent.
What is the problemwith the fret? Is one missing, or just deeply grooved where the string lies? It is common for a well played banjo to have notches in first fret, 2nd string or second fret, 1st string. This may interfere with playing, but often does not, as long as there is sufficient clearance above the higher strings.
Don't mess with worn frets unless there is a problem with producing a note.
More info to follow...
Quack!
GtD.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Llanfair
Date: 13 Jun 03 - 02:57 AM

The 3rd fret is missing, Geoff. Can you tell me what kind of strings to get? The originals are rusty!
Cheers, Bron.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 13 Jun 03 - 12:13 PM

Bron - Most Music shops will sell a set of strings for a 5-string banjo. That said, there are good strings and poor ones. If there is a choice available, there are some brand names which usually do a good job. I will list a few in no particular order.
D'Addario, Ernie Ball, Dean Markley, Vega.
The only brand I will not buy at all is Rotosound. I have taken rusty strings of a banjo, replaced them with Rotosound and been so disappointed with them that I have put the old ones back on.
Some people like heavy gauge strings, others prefer medium or light. You will only reach your own preference by playing experience. I personally go for medium gauge strings.
If you look at the packet insert for a "set" of strings, they usually list the gauges for individual strings. These are normally given in decimal divisions of an inch e.g. ".010" = one hundredth of an inch. Over several changes of strings you will get to know which combination suits you best.
I usually go for a medium gauge set with :-
First string (D)    .010
Second       (B)    .013/.012
Third         (G)    .015/.016
Fourth       (D)    .024 (wound)
Fifth (short) (G)    .010

Once I once bought a set with a wound Third string, but I didn't like the set-up it produced.
One thing you can guarantee is that you will break either the First or Fifth string (same gauge - you may note - They are interchangeable). If you overtighten / try to tune higher than usual, the First or Fifth are the most likely to snap. The fifth string is usually close to its maximum stretch. If your shop sells individual strings, it is ALWAYS worthwhile having a couple of spares.
Get your fret fitted before putting on new strings, as they might need to be removed during the fitting.
If the vellum is very old, it might be worthwhile fitting a new one. That said, if it is intact, you will still be able to play.
Once you have a working instrument, come back and ask questions about the fine points of setting it up for playing. Neck Adjustment, vellum fitting, nut and bridge height, neck angle and others.
Quack!
Geoff.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 14 Jun 03 - 12:59 PM

Cat's been down so thread dropped off bottom - refresh


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Leadfingers
Date: 14 Jun 03 - 01:04 PM

I always use John Alvey Turner banjo strings,available on mail order from J A T 36 New Road Ware Herts SG12 7BY or phone 01920 466924


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 16 Jun 03 - 12:41 PM

Refresh again - Mudcat is back after the lightning.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: GUEST,Black Jake
Date: 12 Oct 21 - 07:23 AM

I know this post originated a long while back but a few extra comments on the English zither-banjo may still be appropriate.
Coming from a long line of zither-banjo ('zb' from now on) players going all the way back to The Great Vance aka Alfred Glanville Vance (not his birth name) in the 1850's according to family legend, I utterly reject the notion popular accross the pond, that AD Cammeyer 'invented' the zb and the term. I know AD was a child prodigy, but the term 'zither banjo' was almost certainly in use in England) before he was born and by the time William Temlett Snr took out his patent for the instrument in 1869 (when AD was about 7 or 8 years old) the term and the special type of construction was, in all probability, already in use. Which is why Temlett never claimed to have invented it.
Llanfair asks about why 'zither' for this type of banjo? Almost certainly this was an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the zither at that time and because zb's sounded quite different from their American open-backed counterparts. There were also things called 'zither' dulcimers.
It's the construction of the head that makes zb's different from almost all other banjos. First of all the neck is not attached directly to the head. It is attached to a closed-backed wooden bowl or hoop upon which the head is 'suspended' by a number of metal Z-shaped brackets. The head itself is constructed quite differently, as you will discover if you take one apart.
The popularity of the zb in England from 1880 to 1914 is difficult take in. They were produced in their tens and scores of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands). That's why so many are still around. The reason for the poor condition of many zb's is the trgedy of the First World War. Their owners never returned but relatives for sentimental reasons hung on to the instruments where they eventually ended up in damp attics, sheds and garages -not good for any instrument.
However good zb's can still be found. My Windsor Artistes model originally cost the equivalent of £1,000, and I can't see anyone of the late Victorian/Early Edwardian era spending that kind of money on rubbish instruments.
All I would suggest is avoid high tension strings or a bridge height of more than 5/8 inch. 1/2 inch is ideal. Because many zb's are in the region of 100 years old, some owners de-tune their banjos so that instead of gCGBD for classic C-tuning, fA#FAC is substituted (that's fCFAC instead of gDGBD for standard G-tuning) in order to reduce the tension on the neck.
Not all 5-string zb's have the six machine heads. I've seen quite a few with five as originally fitted. And I don't think Barnes & Mullins made zb's in years some have mentioned. These were mostly all made by Windsor.
OK folks, that's it.
Happy zither-banjo playing.


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Subject: RE: Banjo help needed
From: Sol
Date: 12 Oct 21 - 10:31 AM

I can't believe the OP has got off so lightly given the possible 'baited line' interpretation of the title thread.


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