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Restoration - Spencer Banjo


So here's a beautiful old banjo I've been asked to take a look at. It's a short-scale, small pot little banjo, with space for five tuners on the headstock (though only four of the originals remain), and a tunnel for the fifth string. On the heel and the dowel stick, it's marked by Richard Spencer, Clapham - so it was probably made between 1880 and 1915. There's more info on Spencer here.



Down the years it's seen a fair amount of messing around! I wonder if the frets might not be original, since they don't line up with some of the inlay dots. And at some point (presumably after the fifth headstock tuner was lost?) someone has drilled a hole for a fifth string tuner mounted on the neck.


When it was given to me to work on, it had a very old cake tin lid wedged onto the back as a resonator - the cause of the deep holes and scratches on the heel, above - and was missing any fifth string tuner, so I expect it was strung up like an Irish tenor banjo whenever it was last played. I've already given it a bit of a clean up, re-oiled the very dry fretboard and replaced a couple of missing tensioners. Next I'm going to:

  • Sort out a couple of sharp fret-ends

  • Make a couple of blocks to hold the dowel stick firmly in place (see the gaps between the brace and the rim, below)

  • Clean up the four original friction tuners

  • Find a fifth tuner that will fit in the existing hole

  • Bring the skin up to tension and put some new nylgut strings on

  • Find an appropriate bridge

I'm looking forward to hearing what this one sounds like!



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