Anyway on to the Banjolele - What I have invited is a Banjolele branded Pennant by Barth, Lutchins and Feinberg of New York, made some time in the 1920s probably by Oscar Schmidt, (can't be sure until I see the whole thing. and as ever since I am collecting it I won't have to wait very long until its here - What I will have to do is get that new rail up!!
and it was made by Globe Musical Instrument Co. not Oscar Schmidt. its also in very good condition and was made in 1927 - there is a little note written on the perch pole saying it was a Christmas present for E.F. Lorey that year - Well in 2014 its a Christmas present for Lardy Fatboy, (but I won't write that on it anywhere). As well as being in good condition with no tensioners missing, original tuners, original tailpiece and original resonator, it's very loud (and very welcome to Ukulele Corner)
But its a Classic, Its got all of the original plastic bits, the damage is only superficial, (hopefully you never know what is hidden buying online) and its a breath of swinging sixties surfing sunshine even if it was made a long way from the beach - Its the the Petersen Polk-a-lay-lee!
The damage is listed as a largish chuck of the top layer of ply off from the back, hopefully no more and hopefully with its 4 foot plus length it can get to Ukulele corner without getting any more (going to be fun to pack!) Once it is here I will be able to strum away and dream of the beach
and its been snapped in two in transit right where the tuners are. Its also in a lot worse condition that described with most of the top layer of laminate peeling away as well as whole chunks of laminate missing from the front and the back! I don't know if this can be brought back from the dead at all!! Anyone need some Polk-a-ley-lee tuners?
Now I really must get a job and get those new rails up And I hope it sings as sweetly to me once it arrives
That slow boat from China is getting faster and faster
It's all lovely and shiny and new, (well not shiny as it has a matte finish but you know what I mean). It has Aquila strings and nice enclosed tuners. The rosewood veneer is pretty and so are the bindings. It doesn't have a side port which surprised me and with the single set of small sound holes it is quite quiet. The epaulette itself does look more ovation like than I was expecting from the publicity photo but everything else is very different from an Ovation so it doesn't come across too much as a copy. The factory set up is pretty good so it doesn't need anything done to it except being loved and played; and I can do that.
And I still have no idea where it came from? There is no "Made In China" label but there is no made in anywhere label just a Bryce BUK08 label but that was probably added by the distributor. From the build It really doesn't look Chinese made? The Spanish heel (yes slot head and a Spanish heel!!) the golpeador the fretboard, (or lack of even a pretence of one) the brass frets the finish; Everything! This certainly comes from a different factory from any of my other Ukuleles, and the overall slightly less machine made quality of the build makes me think a slightly a slightly laes modern industrial nation that China. maybe India? Maybe Venezuela? Is very good for the money though
Well I asked and it IS made in China but clearly from none of the factories I have ukuleles from already
and its a lot more beat up that the listing said! both the back and the sound board are coming away, there is a split in the back and it looks like the bridge is coming away too. I'm not sure how original the finish is either it is quite amateurish and looks sticky without quite being stick to the touch(?) I'm tempted to sent this one back as "not as described" but postage would cost pretty much what the Ukulele did so I'l keep it and see if I can get it restored.
In addition to being a crock of shite there are no other markings that give away anything about its origin and nothing legible on the very old box apart from Hand & Co W1 - not even a postmark date. Well I've put the box away safely. I think, (hope), the re-glueing will be straightforward so lets see if I ever get a tune out of it
Alas this didn't come into stock when advertised and I'm going to have to wait at least another month for it Well they say good things come to those who wait so it must be a good thing
They missed that delivery date now its due for Christmas (I do believe in Santa I do believe in Santa...)
Santa didn't help now the delivery date is after the 15th January (that is 2015 isn't it?)
And a bit more beat up than I had hoped - so yes I am back to buying Clunkers
In addition to the missing bridge pins, (and sadly they weren't in the case as I had hoped), the saddle is missing; not normally much of an issue but in this case the saddle must be really thin to fit the slot for it and not like any standard saddle. Without seeing one its going to be difficult to know the dimensions to get a new one, the slot is really thin! There is some back separation, it looks repairable but it will need to be by someone better than me, and the whole thing shows that it is certainly experienced. It would be nice to loose the scars and get some of the shine back, but this again is not a job I can do. Other than that, it clearly was, and still is, a very very nice Ukulele. The scale length is 15½ inches (39½cm) so a big Concert, but still a Concert, it must be from the same people who make De Vekeys but there is no label in this one there isn't any new information.
And I've got to stop buying clunkers again! (at least for a bit until I can get all of these ones sorted)
What is it? its a JMG reputedly the best Australian Ukulele from the second half of the 20th century, possibly ever the best 20th century Australian Ukulele? With an arched front and back, it was said Jack Maskell (the JM, G stands for Guitars), learned luthiery making Violins and the design of this was closer to a Violin than a normal Ukulele? However this example is missing its floating bridge (which is a bugger because I'll never see another original one - Yes I can get some mandolin/violin type bridge to replace it but thats not quite the same), its quite scuffed up, (but after 60 odd years who isn't?) and it has quite a poor repair on the back where some separation has been reglued. Well at least this one has all of its tuners and it comes with the original hard case too, (because I need more original hard cases- but this one does look better than most) It's also coming for America(?) so another story, if only it could talk (but these are expensive in Oz so the us connection left it in my price range - lets just hope the ebay bods allow this one to be exported)
So another clunker; but you don't see many of these so a rare one
and so is the mandolin bridge - though to be honest the Mandolin bridge looks a bit big for it
So first, despite what I have read its a Soprano scale - or will be when I can get a bridge and some strings on it. form the nut to the 12th fret is exactly 6¾ inches which will give a scale length of 13½ inches; standard Soprano. But thats about it for standard, with the pressed arch overlapping front and back the bolt on neck the small sound hole the tailpiece and everything its not like any other Ukulele. Thankfully though not great, the back gluing isn't quite a noticeable as I feared I'm looking forward to getting the bridge (mando or banjo?) sanded to the right shape so I can string it up and see how it plays?
And I think it probably is a Mandolin?
On the definites - It definitely is very nicely made with a nice solid spruce top, good tuners, good electrics, good body. It definitely is big and fat, and heavy, (but thats ok so am I) It definitely is only suppose to have 4 strings; this is the way it was made, no alteration of the nut, bridge or headstock. It definitely is a model Q50E there is a nice sound hole label saying so...
But the neck is narrow for a Ukulele much more like a Mandolin and it has a truss rod suggesting that, although it came with nylon strings, it was made to take steel ones? I shall have to ask Crafter what they had in mind when they built it?
Whatever it was, its future is to have a new set of Ukulele strings put on and be tuned and played as a Ukulele
What fun it has been re stringing it too! Having a 14 in scale its right at the cusp of where Soprano and Concert meet. If anything its a small 14in and that moves it to a Soprano scale! But its way to big to be a Soprano! Im going to stick calling it a Concert at the moment even though I have put a set of Aquila Soprano low G reds on it. I'm not sure I will leave them though, they seem a bit light for it (the red doesn't go well with the spruce - not a good reason to change on its own but...) and I started out putting a set of D''Addario Titanium Concerts on the strings themselves seemed way too long but from when I started the extra bulk drove the soundboard better. I'll leave them for a bit and see if I like them any better but I'll carry on calling it a Concert and I might put heavier string on later?
On the other hand as its probably a Mandolin anyway if I call it a Mandolin it won't matter
What I have won this time is a plain (as in not a Le Domino) J.R. Stewart Soprano. Its a bit of a clunker as there is a crack on the lower bout soundboard but hopefully Fatmullet Slim can fix it (he want's me to do some work on the Saltwater Rednecks web site and he's good at this sort of thing) I qualify the term plain because for the photos its quite a dramatic walnut grain both front and back (that the seller assures me has no cracks). Once again though I put in a low bid, (in this case the starting price) thinking I'm bound to get outbid and no one else bid! so I got it for the starting price! this is great but I have put a bid in on some other clunkers and I'm worried I'm going to win them the same way too - worried because I can't afford it at the moment, they are quite beat up but also they are quite rare and don't come up often so if I do bail will I ever get another chance? Well thats all a problem for a different place, for the moment lets bask in the fact that one of the prodigy of one of Chicago's more short lived Ukulele makers is coming to stay at Ukulele Corner.
and it is pretty but on the down side there are two small cracks under the bridge, they don't notice much at the moment but they are only going to get worse if left unrepaired with the strings under tension. there are a couple of other chips as scrapes on it too, as a result of it being made in the second half of the 1920's so nearly 90 years old and a little shrinkage so the frets need dressing, I think the shrinkage is also what caused the cracks, (well int in soggy old blighty now so it won't dry out any more). Also on the down side a stray mark on the import documents has led to me being charged an extra £12 in import duties; which is a bit of a bugger.
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