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Windsor Zither - Popular No. 5 repairs

So, I've been bad at updating this workbench progress blog. But that's partly because a lot of the banjo-related work I was doing towards the end of last year was stuff to do with workspace upgrades. I'm excited to have a planer-thicknesser on a nice trolley now, but that kind of thing makes for dull reading.

I've started 2023 with a more aesthetic project though - repair and set-up work on this beautiful example of a Windsor Popular No. 5 zither banjo.

As someone on Instagram commented on a photo of this instrument while it was awaiting attention - 'I'm guessing doing banjo work in the UK is gonna involve a lot of zither banjos that haven't had any love in decades.' It does seem to be that way! There were so many of these instruments made either side of the turn of the 20th century in Britain, and because the style fell so thoroughly out of favour after that every zither banjo I've met has quite a life story. Lots are simply never going to be properly playable again but this one is both an example of a nicer make and is still structurally solid, just waiting to be brought back to life a little.

On arrival, this banjo had some serious chips and gouges to its fretboard - several of them due to roughly installed and removed railroad spikes; and missing inlay at the 7th fret.

The neck was a little bowed due to years of string tension - sadly not much to be done on that front. To counter this at some point someone seems to have inserted a thin shim at the neck-pot join, to force the neck backwards a degree or two. That might have helped with the neck angle and action a bit, but it had also put strain on and eventually torn the veneer at either side of the pot, and caused cracking and chipping on the heel.

Finally, the skin was in need of replacing, and there were a number of tensioning bolts missing.

And I did a general set-up service, including:

- Cleaning the tensioners

- Cleaning and oiling the fretboard

- Sourcing replacements for 4 missing tensioning bolts - Fitting a new skin

- Fitting a new bridge - Putting on new strings

And along the way made some repairs.

I filled the holes in the fretboard with new matching wood, and made a replacement piece for the missing mother of pearl inlay.

I filled the cracks and reinforcing neck-pot join around the shim at the front.

And replaced the chipped wood and lost binding on the heel cap, gluing down and re-finishing the torn veneer on the sides of the pot.

So this Windsor Popular Model No. 5 is back up and ready to play again - you can see a summary of this work in my repairs gallery here.

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