PO Box 882, Elkins, West Virginia 26241
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Banjos, Contact us...
Page updated 10-17-2017
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FIVE STRING BANJOS
Openback 5 string banjos are a specialty here at Smakula Fretted Instruments. Everyone who works here plays clawhammer banjo, a style well suited to the open back five string. We rarely have resonator Bluegrass banjos for sale, but from time to time we will have one or 2 in stock. Please inquire, as those instruments might not make it to the web page.
Fifth String Railroad Spike Capos; Installed free on request when you buy one of our banjos.
Just In; S.S. Stewart with very fancy conversion fretless 5-string neck by Jim White. More info soon. Photos
2005 Goose Acres T11M. This Cleveland, Ohio made banjo will bring you more years of happiness than LeBron James brought that city's basketball fans. However, this banjo won't leave you, millions of others, and a city's economy in despair when is deserts you for Miami because it is a simple yet superbly crafted banjo with an 11" 2-ply maple rim, a brass tone hoop, Remo Fiberskyn head and no-knot tailpiece. The neck is straight maple with an ebony headstock overlay, 26-1/4" scale length ebony fingerboard, and Schaller tuners. It plays better than Johnny Manziel did for the Browns, and sounds better than any lame Cleveland sports analogy I could ever muster up. No less, these are great banjos and they never last long here. Snap it up at $1,350 With a brown Superior Case. Sorry, Sold, Photos
New Enoch Tradesman by Enoch Instruments. 11" or 12" rim with black finish, 25 1/2" scale, natural finish walnut or cherry neck with a Dobson-style profile and round heel, Richlite fretboard with dot inlays and an adjustable trussrod. Geared Gotoh planet & 5th tuners and cool octagonal dowel stick. Available fretted or fretless. In our opinion, the best new utility banjo on the market. GB; $1,335fretted, $1,265 fretless. All our Enoch Tradesman Banjos are made with the optional fretboard scoop.
Enoch Tradesman 1/2 Fretless. So you like playing fretless banjo but are afraid of hitting a wrong note up the neck? Then this is your banjo. It's fretless to the 6th and fretted from #6 to 17. 12" rim with a cherry or walnut neck. It's new with a gig bag. $1,490. Photos
Enoch Tradesman Flush Fret. A great place to start your fretless career. Instead of raised frets, this instrument has inlaid white lines where the frets normally go. You can get the fretless sound and have the accuracy as long as you are looking. New with a gigbag, with Scooped fingerboard; Walnut neck with 12" rim and neck scoop in stock. $1,310
2004 Enoch Tradesman Fretless. Before the Tradesman banjos were standardized, Kevin Enoch experimented with different specifications. This banjo differs from most of the tradesman line as it has an Indian Rosewood fingerboard. All other specs are the same. Walnut neck with geared tuners and a 12" lightweight maple rim. We have it set up with a frosted plastic head and red Nylgut strings. Price is $950 and a Canadian made Everest hard case is included. Photos
Click here for a list of new Enoch Tradesman banjos in stock and ready to ship today.
1906 A.C. Fairbanks Whyte Laydie Number 2. Original Fairbanks and Vega Whyte Laydie banjos are among the most desirable of any manufactured. The Fairbanks Company, unknowingly, created a template that many openback banjo makers still use more than 100 years later. This banjo is exactly the instrument modern makers would like to copy. The peghead sports the classic Griffin inlay engraved by Iccilio Consalvi. Though the peghead overlay is the original dyed maple, notorious for decomposing after 100 years, we stabilized it allowing the 100+ year look and solid structure. The original fretboard was also dyed maple, but had deteriorated enough that the previous owner had us replace it with a reproduction of ebony. We re-inlaid the original engraved position markers in a new 26-3/16" scale fretboard. New aged grained ivoroid binding was installed as well as new frets. Pre-war Ludwig planet tuners replace the original friction tuners that were on the peghead and a Schaller for teh geared 5th tuner. The 10-3/4" Whyte Laydie rim is the heart of the instrument. With a half spun-over scalloped tonering and 28 brackets on the bracket band, this rim is right on. The only minor issue as a replaced binding piece about 2-1/2" long. The rim's serial number matches the one on the dowelstick and the A.C. Fairbanks plate is present, complementing the Whyte Laydie and NO. 2 stamps. Though the instrument has some discoloration from years of playing, it is a solid great sounding and playing banjo. In very good condition, we are selling this banjo for $4,500 and include the original hard case. This banjo is truly a classic. I doubt I would ever find a banjo I like better. You Tube Video
1902 A.C. Fairbanks Imperial Electric. #0. Amazingly we have had 4 similar original Fairbanks Imperial Electric banjos through our shop in the last couple of years. The last one we had for sale was purchased within hours of it being available. So what are you waiting for? A description? Fair enough. The blond maple neck is very similar to a Whyte Laydie N.O. 2 of the time period. A Consalvi engraved mother of pearl gryphon is the centerpiece of the peghead with the other familiar corresponding engraved mother-of-pearl inlay. Antique small shaft planets have been added for tuning ease. The original dyed maple 26" scale fretboard has turned to an attractive shade of cocoa brown. Though it exhibits some wear, it is in solid condition. The original inlays are still present and attractively engraved. The banjo's10-3/4" rim has the internationally known Electric Tonering, early two point shoes, and barrel style nuts. The only repair on this instrument we notice is an over coat of clear finish on the peghead. Not offensive at all. Tone is full with a good volume. Played clawhammer style over the neck you can get a good pop on the strings. String height is a little high for some players, but 9/32" at the 22nd fret is perfect for some. The price with an original case is $4,000. Photos
1898 Fairbanks Special Electric NO. 5. This shop has seen its share of visually stunning instruments, from the hot pink Barbie guitar I procured at a South Elkins yard sale for fifty cents to the finest works of Boston's turn of the 20th century banjo makers. The latter definitely describes this rather rare and elegant instrument. It has a 10 3/4" spunover rim with an Electric tonering, cobra hooks, a skin head, and two point shoes. The rosewood neck has a multi-layered backstrap, a 27" scale ebony fingerboard, a truly tasteful quantity of inlay and an overcoated finish. Presently, this instrument is set up with its original ivory? Tuning pegs and tailpiece, so it is strung up with nylgut strings. You could become one of the fancier members of your neighborhood classic banjo club, as this current setup would sound quite good for your version of "St. Louis Tickle" (definitely not my version of "St. Louis Tickle", which is as tragic as the ending and soundtrack to Titanic.) It also has a nice mellow pop that lends itself to clawhammer quite well. And in exchange for $6,000 it'll lend itself to making you look much classier than Sinatra drinking non-gas station wine. Includes a hardshell case. Photos
1890's A.C. Fairbanks Electric rim with circa 1999 John Gough neck. John Gough has a worldwide reputation for pearl inlay and engraving similar to that seen on the premier Fairbanks banjos of the late 1890's through about 1905. This instrument was patterned after a classic high end Fairbanks banjo known to collectors as a "Double Griffin". The neck on this banjo is made of cocobolo, a heavy and beautiful type of rosewood. The peghead inlay fills the available space with the double griffin and other heavily engraved shell inlay. The 24-7/8" scale fretboard is also filled to maximum capacity with heavily engraved mother of pearl and abalone inlay. There are 5 cherub-angel images to cheer you on while you play as well as a double dolphin image. The 10-13/16" diameter rim is an original Fairbanks electric with an upside down scallop. The shoes are elegant long two pointed shoes and are accompanied by original ball end nuts with brass hooks. The design of the neck adds about 1-1/4" of fretboard past the 22nd fret and bring the bridge close to the middle of the rim. This makes a basy full sound that is very popular with today's musicians. This beautiful interpretation of a 115-year-old classic costs $6,000, about 1/3 of an original similar banjo made entirely in the Fairbanks factory in 1895. We also include a good modern hard case. Pictures Coming Soon.
1882 Fairbanks and Cole. Audrey Hepburn. Bugatti automobiles. The Biltmore estate. Sure they might seem like unquestionable icons of classic elegance, but in comparison to this instrument, they have the sophistication of getting arrested in the parking lot of a Tudor's Biscuit World for selling pirated DVDs. The 11 9/16" spunover rim has a gorgeous new Stern Calf skin head installed, a bone tailpiece, a two foot bridge similar to what it would have had originally, and a surprisingly comfortable original Walker's Arm Rest. The mahogany neck has an ebony backstrap, peghead overlay, and new 26 3/16" fingerboard installed here at SFI. All inlays are original save for a few on the fretboard. While the ebony violin style friction pegs aren't the most ideal in terms of modern functionality, they are what this instrument would have had originally so given its age and originality, we opted to install new reproductions. It's stung with Nylgut strings, and paired with the fresh set of frets it has, it plays effortlessly and sounds mellow with just a little bit of snap, as required by many black tied classic banjos players. Be the classiest person you know and get this. It embodies the best of 1882, in contrast with The Chinese Exclusion act and the death of Mary Todd Lincoln. $2,200 With TKL Hardshell case. Photos
1910 Vega-Fairbanks Tubaphone rim with Bob Anderson "Bee and Thistle" neck. Easily the fanciest bee- themed banjo in the shop. The Cocobolo neck has a 23 3/8" scale fingerboard festooned with inlays of honey bees, honey combs, thistles, and possibly the most elaborate bee hive ever inlayed on a banjo. The peghead overlay has a rather large thistle with bee on top presumably pollinating it, and the peghead's back strap is adorned with the rear view of that image. The neck also features extensive thistle themed heel carving that extends all the way up to the seventh fret, as well as Five Star Planetary tuners that have elegant amber knobs. The 10 3/4" rim's hardware is all gold plated minus the original cammed No-Knot tailpiece, and has the typical Vega blonde finish. Oh yeah and there are some more bees on the dowel stick. Overwhelmed? Yep, me too. But if you need a bee-lated Christmas gift for your favorite old-time banjo/apiary enthusiast, I humbly submit a suggestion. With TKL hard case, $6,500 Photos
1923 Vega Tubaphone Conversion. This Vega Tubaphone Style M was converted handsomely to a 5-string banjo about 40 years ago. The previous owner was told Doug Unger made the neck, but with us being intimate with Mr. Unger's craftsmanship, we think maybe it was created by Unger disciple Greg Gfell. Whomever the pedigree belongs to, it is a fine instrument with a great tone. The neck is vivid quilted/curly maple with a 27" ebony fretboard. Inlay is Fairbanks/Consalvi inspired lion inlay on the peghead and a Whyte Laydie NO 2 fretboard pattern. The Tubaphone rim is 11-13/16" in diameter with original brackets and dowelstick. In used, but not abused condition. $2,000 with a TKL hard case. Photos
1970s Gibson RB-175. Even though it says Gibson on a fiddle shaped headstock, this is no utensil of Stanley sound. That's because any instrument with a 31 15/16" scale length isn't gonna cut it on the "How Mountain Girls Can Love", or even more modern Stanley family "classics" like "Papaw, I Love You." Yes, it's a long neck banjo, as favored by folks who know all the words to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Charlie on the M.T.A." This one in particular has an 11" 10 ply maple rim with a rolled brass tone hoop, which lends itself surprisingly well to a really cool, field recording type old-time sound. The lanky mahogany neck has a 1 3/16" nut width and a D profile. Its fun and easy to play, though a little too easy to knock into things given its giraffe like proportions. For $1.200, it can knock into your things! Includes the original cardboard case. Photos
1900s A.A. Farland Concert Grand. If you like large quantities of Birdseye green beans, we'd like to direct you to the frozen food isle over at the Food Lion. However, if you like large quantities of Birdseye maple, look no further than this Farland banjo. The 11" birdseye maple rim has the typical Farland bevel top in place of a tonering, and has some remaining parts of a Farland mute affixed to the dowel stick (it looks like a mustache!) The neck, which is a little less intense with the birdseye figuring, has a carved heel and a 27" scale length ebony fingerboard. The floral decorated headstock overlay was replaced by SFI using the original inlays. Also, the neck has a few circular divots that while odd (capo marks? Tooth marks?), don't impede the excellent playability of this instrument. The tuners are ABM planets with a Schaller 5th and the playability and functionality has never been better. $1,800 with a modern hard case. Photos
1918 Cole's Eclipse. A rare and very nice Cole banjo that's pleasing to the eyes, ears and wallet. Being from the lower end of the catalog, this banjo has attractive yet simple engraved mother of pearl inlay on the dyed maple 27" scale fretboard. The neck width is 1-3/16" at the nut and has a V shape. The black rim is 11" in diameter and has a vintage Rogers calfskin head installed. The mahogany neck and rim have been refinished, or at least overcoated. The dowelstick is untouched and retails the original Cole's Eclipse stamps. We installed ABM planet tuners and a Schaller geared 5th with the original grained ivoroid knobs. The tone is maybe the best Cole I have ever had. Warm, precise and fun to play clawhammer style. The price is $1,200 and includes a Boulder Alpine gigbag. Photos
1900 Lyon & Healy Professional. Lyon & Healy was likely the most prolific manufacturer of musical instruments in the United States from the 1880's to just after 1900. They made the Washburn line, Lyon & Healy instruments, and dozens of other lesser known brand names under one roof. From their mega-factory in Chicago 120 years ago, L&H has diminished to a small workshop crafting concert harps. No banjos anymore. Can you believe it? This example of their banjo boom time has a cherry neck with a 27-1/8" scale ebony fretboard, 1-1/4" nut width and an 11" spunover rim. We have installed ABM planet tuners and a Schaller geared fifth tuner as well as one of our wire armrests and a few close matching vintage brackets. The tone, with the Remo Renaissance head, is full, crispy and precise. The price is $1,200 and includes a Boulder Alpine gigbag. Photos
1893 S.S. Stewart Orchestra No. 2 Flush Fret. Stewart's Orchestra model banjo was their largest of their standard production. A 27-1/2" scale and a 12"rim (though 13" was optional) this is a fairly big banjo. The number 2 ornament has an attractive number of pale abalone inlays in the peghead and fretboard and a nicely carved heel. The original beaded celluloid tuning pegs have been properly fit and work very well with the Nylgut strings. This banjo even has a Stern calf skin head, so there is nothing you would want to change. One well-executed repair is a replaced peghead ear at the first string. This instrument's long time owner purchased this banjo with a chunk of pine nailed there. He had SFI restore that portion of the banjo in the early 1990's, when this banjo was only about 100 years old. Seems like I can not keep S.S. Stewart instruments in the shop for more than a few weeks these days. Better get it while the getting is good! $1,500 and includes a sturdy TKL gigbag. Photos
1897 S.S. Stewart Presentation Solo Banjeaurine. This is a gorgeous example of the work that came from the 221 & 223 Church Street factory just before the turn of the 19th century to the 20th. The peghead is adorned with vase with flowers and 3 butterflies. Of the 20 frets, there are only 6 that do not have glittery trademark Stewart inlay. And what is a Stewart without a carved heel? Certainly not this one, as the carving is a crisp as it left the factory 120 years ago. And to add just a little more, the inside of the rim is layered with multi colored marquetry. The specs; 19-3/4" scale, 11" rim with a Remo Renaissance head, cherry neck, original friction tuners with Nylgut strings. One bit of weirdness; All the metal are chrome plated. As commercial chrome plating was not available until about 1925, we are sure this was originally nickel plated. This is a great sounding and visually striking Stewart banjo. Cost is $2,000 and a vintage hard case is included. Photos
1896 S.S. Stewart Lady Stewart. Much like the pinnacle of automotive excellence, the AMC Pacer, this instrument is diminutive in size but big on class. Oh wait, the Pacer is diminutive in size and has a lot of glass. All dream cars aside, this is a charming and remarkably clean example by Philadelphia's favorite banjo maker circa the Grover Cleveland administration. This one has a 9 1/2" spunover rim with a beautiful painted wood grain interior and a calf skin head. The cherry neck has a 22 3/4" scale ebony fretboard with a fresh set of frets. The ebony friction pegs and nylon string set up are as at home on this banjo as a Pacer in Conway Twitty's driveway ("One of my favorite things on this earth is my Pacer auto-mobile"-actual Conway Twitty quote. Not making this up). We think you'll love it like Conway loved his Pacer at just $1,350 With gigbag Photos
1890 (or so) No Name Banjeaurine. Banjeaurines are kind of an odd duck in the classic banjo orchestra world. They have a short scale for higher pitched solo parts, but a larger rim for tone and power. Now they are mostly used by folks that enjoy a short string length. This one has a walnut neck with a 19-1/4" scale. The rim is 12-3/8". More or less. We have it strung with Nylgut strings and the original champion friction tuners work just fine with those strings. Though some parts of the craftsmanship resemble the work from the JH Buckbee factory, there is enough that differs to keep us from ID-ing it as such. Price is $800 and we will include a case if we can find one to fit this unusual size. Photos
Recent Mike Ramsey Amish Model. This banjo, being Mike's Amish model and named for it's simplicity, does not have much bonnet going on, but a lot of draft horse, That would be big. The first big you notice is the nut width of 1-11/32" on the mahogany neck. The 25-3/4" scale ebony fretboard has dimple dot inlay. The 12" rim has a 5/16" brass hoop tonering visible through the Remo Renaissance head. Like all instruments that we sell in our shop, we've gone through the details so you receive a solid, great playing instrument. With a TKL hard case, this banjo is $950. Photos
1997 Bart Reiter Grand Concert. When Bart Reiter isn't on his motorcycle touring the countryside or target shooting at the landfill, he makes some darn nice banjos. This instrument is the now discontinued Grand Concert Internal Resonator model. Simple inlays on a 26-1/4" scale fretboard. The rim and neck are both maple, with the rim having an 11" Stewart-Macdonald Bacon style tonering. The head is a fairly thick premounted calf skin, giving the instrument a plunky meaty sound. Great condition and fun to play. Price is $2,000 and we include the original TKL hard case. Sorry, Sold. Photos
Recent Mike Ramsey Fairbanks Homage; On first viewing this banjo, the Fairbanks style inlays take you back to the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries. But playing this banjo it's like hopping into a DeLorean a`la "Back To The Future" and arriving at the turn of the 20th to 21st centuries. The taste of Old Time banjo players has evolved over the years to a shorter scale length, in this case 25-2/4", and the bridge closer to the center of the head. This banjo also has a rosewood tonering on the 12" maple rim to offer a bassy tone with clarity. The neck is big, being 1-5/16" at the nut and 2-1/16" at the rim. And I haven't mentioned that the maple neck, rim, and dowelstick are exceptionally curly. Definitely some amazing looking wood! This banjo inspired by 100 years of banjo technology is $1,950 and includes a hard case. Photos
Recent Chris Dean homage to Jenes Cottrel. Jenes Cottrel banjos are legendary in the West Virginia music circles. They were made entirely by hand in a small workshop with no electricity. Though Jenes bought some parts like brackets and tuning machines, he made all the other parts. That is with one exception. The rim was made from a 1957 Buick Dynaflo transmission torque converter. Looking similar to a Stuart-Macdonald aluminum rim from an Eagle banjo kit, the heavy aluminum torque converter offers a great loud and hollow sound. The neck on this one is Osage orange and is decorated with slices of knitting needles just as Jenes inlaid his originals. Original Cottrel banjos are impossible to find, but this one has the vibe of those banjos made in the 1960's through the mid 1970's. This one even has a bridge made from a pink plastic comb tributing the banjo played by Jenes' sister, Silvi O'Brian. We are charging only $135 per pound for this seven pound instrument. Since you don't want to do the math, we'll just tell you the banjo with the lightweight case is $945. Photos
1986 Deering Golden Era Bluegrass Banjo. The original owner of this banjo recently decided to finally part with this excelent condition resonator banjo. Her comments; "I could never get my right hand to work correctly and I play fiddle now". So, what we are offering is a barely played, excelent condition, 31 year old bluegrass machine! The Deering Golden Era is an homage to the classic Gibson banjos of the 1930's. Hearts & Flowers inlay, one-piece flange, and a 20 hole bell bronze flat head tonering. To sweeten the deal is the amazing curly maple neck and resonator finished in an amber-burst. Included in the $2,200 price is the also excelent condition case that the original owner had the foresight to have a case cover made. Pick It! Photos
2015 Gold Star GF-100 HF. Ever since their introduction in 1976, these Gold Star banjos have been redefining the way the bluegrass community sees imported banjos. Despite being manufactured across the Pacific ocean, these banjos have been seen onstage with some of the most influential groups in recent bluegrass music (The Johnson Mountain Boys, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, and Lou Reid and Carolina to name a few). This banjo features the famous hearts and flowers inlay pattern on its peghead overlay and rosewood fingerboard. It has an 11" three-ply maple rim, a twenty hole flathead tonering, a Presto Tailpiece, and a one piece flange, which are all staples of the classic prewar banjos of the greats. The Mahogany neck has a 26 1/2" scale length and a 1 3/16" nut width. If you need to move "High on the Mountain" of bluegrass banjo tone but don't want to sell your "Old, Old House" or deplete all your "Money in the Bank," you'll "Hit Parade of Love" this instrument. And if nothing else, buy this so other customers don't have to suffer through that terrible sentence of bluegrass song puns. $1,200 With hardshell case. Photos
Recent Gold Tone BG-250-FW. This utensil of 'grass has the 11" maple rim, flat head bell brass tonering, one piece flange, and the large quantity of weight and volume one would hope for in such an instrument. How loud? The guy across the road just called to tell me that the way I just played "Theme Time" "ain't like Mr. Scruggs played it." Which he's right, given that it's a Bill Emerson tune. Anyway, it's got a maple neck and mahogany resonator finished in a brown sunburst, 1 5-16" nut, and a 26 3/8" scale rosewood fingerboard. Plus if you're trying to cut back on carbs, forward rolls are way better for you than those offered by Pillsbury! Sorry. I'll stop. $550 With a gigbag Photos
For the last few years we have been looking for a decent low cost and good sounding openback that is perfect for folks learning to play Old Time Music. There are several manufacturers out there making banjos similar to what I want, but their quality control is inconsistent. The banjo you receive could be completely different from the sample you saw. Then came Gold Tone's latest offerings. Nicely made instruments that look and sound the way we think Old Time banjos should be.
New Gold Tone CC-OT. This model has a maple neck with a 26 1/2" scale rosewood fretboard. The 11" diameter rim comes with a Remo Fiberskyn head The tuners are all geared. We upgrade this model with 4 to 1 Gotoh planet tuners on the peghead and a matching Gotoh geared fifth. The neck comes from the factory scooped near the rim for clawhammer playing and Gold Tone even includes a 5th string railroad spike capo. And to sweeten the deal a little more the package comes with a gigbag, a strap and an instructional DVD. List price is $589 (not including the Gotoh tuners); we sell them for $450. This model is also made with an optional shorter "A" scale. We have that model in stock at the same price. Photos
New Gold Tone CC-OT Left Hand. The same as above, but with the neck manufactured in a mirror image. And yes, we do upgrade the tuners with Gotoh planets for your tuning pleasure. With gigbag, strap, and instructional DVD $490. Photos
New Gold Tone CC-Carlin 12. A banjo similar to the CC-OT, but with a blond finish and a 12" rim with a Remo Renaissance head. The natural finish maple neck has a rosewood fretboard with a 26-3/16" scale. Simple pearloid position markers guide you to the right place up the neck and the scoop after the 18th allows for the over the neck pop Round Peak style players appreciate. As with all banjos in Gold Tone's Cripple Creek line, we upgrade the tuners to Gotoh planets and a geared 5th. Price with a gigbag is $490. Photos
New, Gold Tone BC-120. Like the other models in Gold Tone's Bob Carlin line, this banjo has a 12" maple rim mated with a maple neck that has a 26-3/16" scale scooped fretboard. The finish is an attractive dark walnut color. Geared planet tuners & a geared 5th keep you in tune. Tone has a great bass and good pop. We sell these with a gigbag for $675 and you can upgrade to a Superior 1536 or 2536 hard case for only an additional $90. Photos
New Gold Tone CC-100+. If your playing demands a bright sound and a modest price tag, this imported modern offering from Gold Tone might just fit the bill. With an 11" rim with a frosted plastic head and a rolled brass tonering, this banjo has more pop than the cooler at a fifth grader's birthday party, and is almost as loud as said party would be too. The 26 1/2" scale fingerboard is simply ornamented with snowflake inlays, and the headstock overlay is subtle curly maple. Need a simple, tough, low frills banjo that will cut through at any jam or middle school talent show? You'll like this. Offered, with a gigbag, for $555 Photos
New Gold Tone WL-250. The addition of the Whyte Laydie style tonering makes this imported banjo a little brighter and clearer that the other Gold Tone banjos we sell. The comfortable, slim, maple neck is finished in a walnut color and features cloud inlays on the fretboard. 11" rim and a 26-1/4"" scale. The list price is $1,219. Our selling price with a blue Boulder Alpine gigbag included is $915. Photos
Six String Guitar Banjos
2015 Gold Tone BT-2000. Gold Tone has made the best sounding new Guitar banjo money can buy. With the 12" rim, this banjo has all the growl and funk you need in a guitar banjo. Not a wimpy, tinny sound you get from the easy to find 11" Asian imports. The list price is $1,229. We offer this lightly used model at $550 and include a good gigbag. Photos
J. French Cleve'd O. banjos. J. Lafayette French made banjos in Cleveland Ohio from the 1870's to about 1900. We are currently researching J.L. French and his banjos. If you have any information on J. Lafayette French the banjo maker, or his family we would love to hear from you. We are also documenting any banjos made by his company. Please click the contact button and let us know what you know. We will also gladly answer any questions about J. French banjos to the best of our ability. Check out the in progress web site www.jfrenchbanjos.com
J. French Banjos, Contact us...
1890's Unmarked Spun-Over Banjo Rim. This particular rim is very similar to an S.S. Stewart, but enough subtle differences that I would do not think it was made by that Philadelphia firm. The diameter is about 10-15/16". Depth is 2-1/4". We decided not to clean it for those of you that prefer
1920 Orpheum #1 Rim. This came attached to a neck in really rough shape (Brittany Spears's 2006 meltdown rough shape, if you will), so we elected to just sell it as a rim. This 12 1/4" maple rim has a possibly original calfskin head, the typical Orpheum archtop tonering, all original hardware, and enough playing wear to show someone had a good time with this banjo. These always sound great, so find a nice neck and get it started on another near century of fun. $400. Photos
1915 Cole Tenor Banjo marked S.S. Stewart. In this late period in Cole's manufacturing timeline they were making instruments for other companies. We have had some Cole banjos marked Washburn and now this one Marked S.S. Stewart. After Samuel Swaim Stewart passed away, his company passed through several hands. At the time this instrument was made the Stewart trademark was owned by Buegeleisen and Jacobson (B&J) a musical instrument wholesaler. As a tenor banjo the restoration work is significantly more than the value of the banjo. But the 10-15/16" diameter rim will make a great conversion. All the parts are there and the rim has a great Rogers calf skin head. Price is $500 in as is condition. Photos
FOUR STRING & MANDOLIN BANJOS
1928 Paramount Style A Tenor Banjo. William Lange's banjos had come a long way from the 1890's when he and his partner purchased the remains of New York City's Buckbee Company. From the Buckbee "replicas" to the Orpheum, to the Paramount line, they went from somewhat primitive to a well engineered instrument. I have personally liked the style A banjos the best of all the Paramount models. Hard maple neck with a rosewood fretboard and just enough mother-of-pearl inlay to look fancy, but not get you lost on the upper reaches of the fretboard. This instrument is comfortably worn, but important things like new frets and new ABM small shaft tuners are on board to make it play like a champ. With the Jazz tuning, this banjo has snap and punch that will get you heard, just like Paramount banjo endorser Harry Reser and his Clicquot Club Eskimos. With a Harptone hard case, this banjo is $900. Photos
1925 Paramount Style C Tenor Banjo (As Is). Emphasis on As IS. This banjo presently resembles more of a steam punk fashion accessory than a musical instrument, though it certainly has potential as a restoration or five-string conversion project. However, it would also look in place paired with whatever brass goggles or leather helmet type accoutrements owned by someone who looks like they just escaped from the pages of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That being said, this banjo is missing its resonator, tuners, and tailpiece, and all the hooks and nuts are replacements. The neck angle and frets are worse than being stuck indefinitely on board a futuristic submarine piloted by the enigmatic Captain Nemo (that means the neck angle and frets are bad), so if you were restore this instrument into its original glory, you'd want to take that into account. The maple rim with mahogany veneer is 11 1/8", and has the Paramount archtop tonering. The flange is easily removable if you want to use it was an openback (unless you enjoy the sensation of a thin metal object jamming you in the thigh as you play). All the fretboard inlays are intact (though the original engraving is worn off, though the Ice Cream cone with wings looking one on the third fret is respectable replacement. All the peghead inlays are intact & sill nicely engraved. It definitely needs love and patience, but it could be the recipient of your love and patience for just $400. Includes a faux alligator cardboard case. Photos
1920s Washburn Banjo-Mandolin. Yes, it's loud. But there is a surprising warmth and nuance to this banjo mandolin that is rare in any eight stringed, banjo head equipped instrument. The 10 3/4" maple rim has a donut style tonering, which would be responsible for any trace of tonal subtlety this instrument has. The well-worn neck has a 13 1/16" scale fingerboard and a 1 3/16" nut width. This would probably make a really nice five-string conversion with some help from your favorite neck craftsman, but if you want your neighbors to "enjoy" your version of "Daybreak in Dixie" too, its perfect as it is. $600 with original hardshell case. Pictures coming Soon.
1920's Weymann Style 40 Mandolin-Banjo. Like Will Smith's character in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," this banjo mandolin was West Philadelphia born and raised. While significantly older than Mr. Smith, this well preserved instrument has retained it's freshness through the decades just as he has. Anyway, the 10 1/2" rim and neck are both maple, and all hardware is original. The nut width is 1 1/4", and the scale length of the original refretted ebony fretboard is 14 3/16". And yes, it's loud, but it's a banjo mandolin so you knew that. $700 with original hardshell case. Photos
1925 Weymann Style 35 Mandolin-Banjo. This is a clean and interesting piece of Weyman's ingenuity. A 9" maple rim, with it's likely original calf skin head and the Weyman patented neck adjuster coupled with a one piece hard maple neck with a 13-7/8" scale fretboard. The big bonus with this instrument is the slip on resonator. Sure it's louder, but you also don't have to feel the neck adjuster dig into your belly when you stand up to play. The straight neck and recently dressed frets make this instrument play like a dream. We also made a custom compensated bridge so it plays in tune. Hmm The best of both worlds? Probably not, but this puppy has the punch to be heard in any jam session. From Jug band to alt rock this one will fit. In excelent condition and the price of $950 includes a boulder alpine gigbag. Photos
1921 Gibson TB-0. By the looks of this banjo, it's had an owner or two who spent a lot of his or her free time playing tenor banjo. Given that my free time is often spent loitering in the K-Mart parking lot with a six pack of Kool Aid bursts (blue flavored, of course) until security politely yet firmly asks me to leave, we probably wouldn't have hung out. This is a bummer because some seriously fun times have been had with this banjo. Its got a 10 1/2" rim with no tonering that's 1/2" thick and is setup with a Fiberskyn head. It has a 20 7/8" scale fingerboard with new frets, 1 5/16" nut width, and guitar style two-on-a-plate tuners. New hardware includes all the hooks and nuts, The coordinator rod, the cam neck tensioner, the No-Knot tailpiece and the tailpiece attachment. We have it set up and tuned to jazz tuning (low string is a C). It's a neat piece of Gibson history that even has that great old instrument smell, and is more affordable than my court cost for the K-Mart trespassing charge. Priced at $500 with original hardshell case. Sorry, Sold. Photos
1926 Gibson TB-3 Mastertone. Gibson banjos, with all their interchangeable components, are often like Erector sets. Parts get swapped in and out, and trickery can run rampant. That's why it is a joy to behold this uncirculated banjo that is not only remarkably well preserved, but was well played and enjoyed as well. All parts are original save for the head, though there is a charming note left in the case by the gentleman who last changed it some 40+ years ago. On the-three ply maple rim, the Presto tailpiece, ball-bearing archtop tonering, and two-piece flange are all intact and very clean. The neck, which has a 22 1/2" scale rosewood fingerboard and a 1 3/16" nut width, has some fret and finish wear from decades of continual use, with some likely finish overcoating on the neck only, but is otherwise completely original, down to the Grover Ideal tuners. As this banjo is a prime candidate for a five-string conversion neck, we have opted to leave it in as found condition and leave playability decisions up to the next lucky owner. Included are some Gibson owner's manual-type flyers and a very clean original hardshell case for $2,800. Photos
1915 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone style M Tenor Banjo. Manufactured only a few years after Vega first started producing tenor banjos. This one, like most style M's, has a maple neck. The scale length is 21" and has a freshly refretted ebony fretboard. The rim diameter is 11-13/16" and has all the original hardware with the exception of he reproduction No-Knot tailpiece. Set up for Irish playing, with low tuning and the Remo Fiberskyn head, this banjo has a full tone that is sure to please. 2 minor alterations worth mentioning; a filled hole on the back of the peghead & refinished headstock (good work) and new Gotoh tuners. In very good to excelent condition with an original hard case, this banjo is $1,200. Photos
1914 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone 5 String Tenor Banjo. Vega made a reasonable number of oddball instruments over the years. This banjo falls into that category. In 1914, tenor banjos, as we know them today, were in their infancy. Vega had just started manufacturing them 2 years earlier. At this point Vega had not even assigned model names. Here are the specs of this odd duck; Neck is mahogany. The peghead has a torch inlay while the 19-5/8" scale fretboard has engraved dots, star, and bell thingie. The heel of the banjo is carved in a modified form similar to Vega's Tubaphone #3 5 string banjos. Unfortunately the heel was cracked, but repaired well. To accommodate the 5 strings, an extra hole was drilled in the peghead inlay. The first string is double strung, like a mandolin. The 11-1/2" Tubaphone rim is all there and conforms to factory standards. The Kershner tailpiece has 5 lugs for string loops, but only 4 holes at the edge of the tailpiece. We are selling this banjo as is. To get it up and playing well will take a little bit of repair, but some folks see a banjo like this, with it's rare 11-1/2" Tubaphone rim as a good candidate for conversion to a conventional 5 string. All in all the banjo is in very good plus condition and ready for the direction you want to take it. Priced at $1,200. Photos
1920's Maybell by Slingerland Tenor Banjo. I like Pearloid. Do you like pearloid? That is what I usually say to telemarketers when my day is interrupted by their annoying calls. Since they really can't answer that question they shut up, give up, and hang up. But I really do like pearloid, especially the engraved champagne colored overlay that decorates the peghead. This banjo's spec list includes a maple neck with a 22-5/8" scale fretboard. The 10-3/4" rim has a simple steel hoop for a tonering and a 13-12" resonator. The only significant new parts are the set of Gotoh planetary tuners we recently installed. We set it up in Irish tuning, but if you are committed to jazz tuning, no worries. One set of strings and a new bridge will have you on your way to a Harry Reiser tribute band. Hmmm, something new for the telemarketers; "I like Harry Reiser, do you like..." Nah, I'll stick with pearloid. This prewar banjo is only $400 and a case is included. Photos
1940 Wards by Gibson Tenor Banjo. A simple tenor banjo made by Gibson for the famed discount mail order and department store; Montgomery Wards. This banjo has a mahogany neck with a 22-3/4" scale dyed maple fretboard. The 11" diameter 2 ply maple rim is 5/8" thick and has 16 brackets. There was once a resonator, but is long gone. This one sounds great as a tenor and has great potential for a 5-string openback conversion. In better than good condition with a well worn soft (stiff cardboard) case. Price is $450. Photos
1920's Weymann 150 tenor banjo. From the city of Brotherly Love (and Mummers!), here is a pretty clean example of the work of the storied Weyman Company. This banjo, which is clad in its original sort of green/brown hued finish, has a moderately figured curly maple neck with a 22" scale length ebony fretboard with 18 frets. The 11" maple rim, which also has some nice though subtle figuring, features a Little Wonder style tonering. A bulky, yet functional, "Weyman Patented Neck Adjuster" is attached to the heel and dowel stick, and its recent setup by SFI gave the instrument new Gotoh tuners, a modern no-knot tailpiece, and a fresh set of frets. $650 can take this one home in its new Superior gigbag. Photos
1923 Weymann Model 135 Tenor Banjo. This super clean instrument from the early jazz age is in mostly original condition. The blond maple neck has a 22" scale ebony fretboard with dot inlays with new Gotoh planetary geared tuners installed. Unfortunately the Weyman Keystone State decal on the back of the peghead has deteriorated. The 10-1/2" 6 ply maple rim has no tonering. The Remo Fiberskyn head sits directly on the wood. With the exception of the tailpiece, this banjo retains all it's original nickel plated hardware and includes Weyman's patented neck angle adjuster. Set up for Irish style playing, the tone is clear and precise. But all you early jazz fans take note that jazz tuning is as easy as a new set of strings and a bridge. An excelent condition instrument priced at $500, including a good gigbag. Photos
1922 Bacon Number 1 Banjo Uke. Of all the reasonably priced vintage banjo ukes on the market, these simple Bacon instruments are the nicest. The maple 8" rim has mahogany veneers on the outer layers to match the neck. The rim's hardware is mostly original (we replaced the rusty hooks) and in very good condition. The calfskin head is old and a good chance it is original. It also includes some "interesting" graffiti on the inside of the skin. The mahogany neck has a 13-7/8" scale ebony fretboard (new frets installed here at SFI) and a graceful "Bacon" script inlaid in the peghead. We chose to add the recently introduced Gotoh geared ukulele tuners to this banjo to make tuning enjoyable. The price of $700 includes one of our new brown tolex covered hard shell cases. Soul & tone in a small, convenient package. Photos
1925 Bacon Style 1 Banjo Uke. This one is nearly identical to the one listed above. Similar condition, similar tone, and similar feel. Can't decide? Buy both! Very good condition with a newer brown hard banjo uke case. $700 Photos
1925 Epiphone, new ebony fretboard by SFI, 13 7/8" scale, 8 1/2" rim, heavy! EC; $550
1925 Epiphone, 13 7/8" scale, 8 1/2" rim, heavy!, EC+++ with OHC that is also EC+++ $700. Photos
1920's Gretsch Banjo Uke. In terms of affordability and craftsmanship, I think these are the best instruments ever made by Gretsch. This particular instrument has a 13-1/8" scale and 1 7-15/16" head. Mostly original with the exception of the new Remo Fiberskyn head and the amazing Gotoh planetary ukulele tuners. An openback with a dark walnut finish. In very good condition and priced at $325. An Enoch hard case is available for $70 with the purchase of this instrument. Photos
New Banjo Uke Case For Vintage Gibson UB-2 and UB-3's. Several years ago noted banjo builder and inlay artist Kevin Enoch designed and had manufactured the nicest hard case for his banjo ukuleles (see below). They fit most any banjo uke with an 8" rim, with a notable exception; vintage Gibson UB-2's and Gibson UB-3's. The plate resonator of these instruments made them taller than the Enoch case could accommodate. Partnering with Enoch Instruments, Smakula Fretted Instruments has released a modified version of that case to fit those 8" diameter vintage Gibson banjo ukes. This case is attractive, sturdy and affordable. The introductory price is only $95 plus shipping. Photos
Banjo Uke Hard Case. Designed to the specifications of Kevin Enoch, this banjo case is certainly the nicest one on the market. It fits openback banjo ukes and 5 string piccolo banjos with an 8" diameter rim, 23-1/2" total length and a maximum depth of 3" (from the bottom of the rim to the top of the bridge). The simulated leather covering is brown, and the lid is arched for extra strength. Very nice. Retail price is $120, our discount price is $95. Photos
New Wire Armrest for Openback Banjo. One of the most important accessories we sell is this reproduction Vega and Fairbanks style wire armrest. Adding comfort to holding the banjo allows you to concentrate more on playing. Any banjo we sell that did not come with an armrest has one of these installed before the sale. And if you need one for your other banjo, they are only $18 for nickel plated and $15 for the raw brass. Photos
Guide to Physical Condition;
New; An instrument that came to us from the manufacturer. It has never been owned by a consumer and has it's full warrantee.
Mint; As the instrument came from the factory. No blemishes at all
Near mint; Almost as it came from the factory
Excellent condition, a very clean instrument that has a few minor blemishes
Very Good Condition, reasonable wear for its age.
Good Condition; plenty of player wear.
Plus or minus indicates the condition is half a grade better or worse.
We ship most of our instruments via UPS. Cost to ship a mandolin is $20 to $40. Cost to ship a guitar or banjo is $25 to $60. The cost of insurance is extra. We will be happy to quote before shipping.
Small goods like banjo heads and other parts cost $7 per order for Priority Mail shipping in the continental US no matter what the order size. The cost of orders headed out of the continental US will be quoted before they are shipped.
We are legally obligated to charge 6% West Virginia sales tax on anything purchased here at the shop or shipped within the state of West Virginia. We do not charge sales tax on orders sent out of state.
Please call us at 304-636-6710. For payment we accept checks, wire transfers and MasterCard & Visa. We now accept Paypal as well.
Email; Occasionally a customer will let us know that the "Contact Us" button will not work on their computer. If you have that problem, please use sfi<at>smakula<dot>com You will have to change the <at> and <dot> to @ and .