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Page updated 6-17-18
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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.
Just In; 1988 Goose Acres Elite, 2014 Chuck Lee Tubaphone, 1890's Thompson & Odell. More information below.
Fifth String Railroad Spike Capos; Installed free on request when you buy one of our banjos.
1988 Goose Acres Elite. 30 years ago at the corner of Random and Cornell Roads Cleveland was in the middle of their second great banjo manufacturing boom. The first was 100 years earlier with the J. French company on Bolivar Street near Cleveland's downtown. One century and 5 miles apart, Goose Acres unknowingly was partner to a Cuyahoga County manufacturing tradition building a limited quantity of artisan banjos. This rare banjo was made at the high point of Goose Acres banjo production. With Peter H. Smakula, Bob Smakula, & Kevin Enoch having their hands in making Goose Acres banjos at that time, it is safe to say there is no better Old Time banjo. The heart of this instrument is the spun over 11" rim with a scalloped tone ring. The Fairbanks Electric was the inspiration for this design, but I have to say Peter H. Smakula's metal work was more precise. The neck is natural finished straight maple featuring a 26-1/4" ebony fretboard with engraved mother of pearl inlays suggestive of Fairbanks number 2 decoration. The tone is full and snappy and the feel is precise. This instrument is all original with the exception of normal maintenance items including new frets, Remo Fiberskyn head, bridge and strings. Goose Acres banjos usually sell before I can post them on the SFI website. Now is your chance to own a one of a very limited number of Cleveland, Ohio made string instruments. In excellent condition with the original TKL hard case, the price is $2200. On Hold. 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; $1,335 fretted, $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
Click here for a list of new Enoch Tradesman banjos in stock and ready to ship today.
1910 Orpheum #1. This Orpheum #1 five-string banjo is now better than new. How could that be you ask? Most importantly, the original dyed hardwood fretboard is now replaced with ebony. Those dyed wood fretboards were less expensive than ebony 100+ years ago. Unfortunately they decompose over time and cause lots of banjo problems. With the new ebony board (using original and reproduction inlays) this instrument looks right and feels solid. Other repairs include neck reset and new planet tuners. The rim is all original and in great shape. Scale length is 27", rim diameter is 12 1/8". Perfect for those wishing to emulate Charlie Poole or Walt Koken. EC-, HC $1,950 Photos
2012 Buckeye Tunneled 5th 5-string. When your custom orders reach a 4 year backlog, you know you're doing something right. But alas, we wouldn't wish a 4 year backlog of anything on anyone. While Mr. Galbreath has discontinued custom orders for the foreseeable future, that doesn't mean you won't get lucky and find one of his creations out on the market somewhere. Hark! What's that? Is that the Buckeye no. 127 I hear? And for sale, right underneath your fingertips? You bet your alligator skin boots, Johnny. This banjo, with a tunneled fifth string, walnut neck, and 11" walnut rim, is an excellent example of the craftsmanship that earned Buckeye its reputation (and massive waiting list). Fairbanks style engravings grace the 25-1/2" ebony fretboard as well as the peghead, and the brass Buckeye plate at the fretboard scoop, along with the raw brass hardware, give it a regal vibe without being over-the-top. Currently set up with a calf skin head, nylon strings, and a foam-ring between the rim and the head, the tone is warm and sweet with plenty of growl, and we reckon it would sound just as good with steel strings, too. In nearly new condition, this beauty is yours for $2,500, including a Superior hard case. Expected to sell fast, so get those boots moving! Sorry, Sold. Photos
1908 A.C. Fairbanks Whyte Laydie NO 2. What do Bill Clinton, Babe Ruth, Marilyn Monroe, and this banjo all have in common? Virtually nothing, other than the fact that they all started out as orphans, and went on to greatness. Specifically, we assembled this banjo from an orphan neck, and orphan rim, and installed new hooks, nuts, ABM tuners, and a Schaller 5th tuner. Getting to be around instruments as nice this one is one of many reasons we all haven't ran off to seek careers in middle management. Repairs also include new ebony fretboard with original inlays, and new grained ivoroid binding. 26" string length, 10-15/16" rim. Very good plus condition with a newer hard case; $3,500 Sorry, Sold. Photos
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 try 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 a 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 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 original rim binding had deteriorated significantly. So we made the decision to replace it. Fortunately our celluloid supplier was able to make us some binding strips in an appropriate color. 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. Photos
1919 Fairbanks by Vega Whyte Laydie NO 2. This banjo delivers everything you want from a Whyte Laydie. With the original Rogers calf skin head, the textbook tone is all there - brassy and bright but with plenty of warmth. And, with a recent neck reset and refret by SFI, it plays like a dream. Outfitted with new ABM tuners & a Schaller 5th, with the original grained ivoroid knobs, it has a 10-15/16" rim, and 27" string length. A great player's instrument, and comes in a vintage case with purple interior, which is, of course, too swanky for words. $2,500 Photos
1898 Fairbanks Electric Banjeaurine. Are you worried that regular banjos make your torso look abnormally narrow? If so, we're not 100% sure how to help you. But, this elegantly compact Fairbanks number might take the edge off in the meantime. With a 21" string length, and 11" rim diameter, this instrument is proof that sometimes things that are just a hair out of proportion are, in fact, just right (see- jockeys & their horses, anyone who has ever been seen in public wearing a 10 gallon hat). With a mahogany neck and 16" original ebony fretboard, it boasts a neck reset & refret done right here at SFI. Also has a well repaired heel crack accomplished by an unknown repairman. It's outfitted with vintage Champion friction tuners (stamped Pat May 8, 88) with grained ivoroid knobs, a renaissance head, Nylgut strings. We are fairly sure there are other parts replaced with excelent quality modern reproductions. Give a call for details. It's beautifully inlaid up and down the peghead and fretboard. This instrument not only looks great, but is bright and balanced in its tone, and a ton of fun to play. Yours for $2,000 with vintage hard case. Photos
1891 A.C. Fairbanks Electric. Fairbanks Electric banjos are second only in renowned to the Fairbanks Whyte Laydie. Though many are confused by the "electric" moniker associated with these purely acoustic Fairbanks banjos. They were so named for their bright sound to be associated with the new invention of bright electric lighting. This particular instrument is a high grade in the early Fairbanks line. Fancy pale abalone inlays decorate the ebony fretboard and peghead overlay. The oak neck has a nicely carved heel and a backstraped peghead. Scale length is 25-3/4" and a nut width of1-5/16"the 12" diameter rim has the high-end appointments you would expect. Long two pointed shoes, cobra hooks with square ball end nuts, a newish high-grade calf skin head, and of course the full spun electric tonering. Set up with Nylgut strings, this banjo has a snappy sound and the low string height (1/8" at the 12th fret) makes it easy to play any style you choose.117 years old and in great shape. Price; $3,000 with a gig bag. Pictures coming soon.
1893 Fairbanks Electric. Never letting moss grow under his feet, A.C. Fairbanks was always experimenting and for the most part improving the banjos sold by his company. When I compare this instrument to the 1891 instrument above, I really like the forward direction. Being lucky enough to have played a family heirloom Fairbanks Regent since 1974, I have always been attracted to the decoration, especially the engraving on the shell inlays. This early Fairbanks banjo has a great combination of interesting shapes that come alive with the engraver's touch. Specs on this banjo include a 27" scale ebony fretboard that is 1-9/32" wide at the nut. Neck is mahogany with a carved heel, backstrap, and inlaid heel cap. The 12" diameter rim has the full spunover electric tonering and black finished maple on the inside. The tuners are screw tension friction tuners that wok well with the Nylgut strings. Another great banjo that accommodates the classic sound and anything else you might come up with. Price is $3,000 with a gigbag. Photos
1881 Fairbanks and Cole Flush Fret. S. Owen! Where are you? We found your banjo! Likely Owen is no longer with us as it looks like he very lightly scratched his name inside of this banjo's rim more than 100 years ago. This one is another of the early classic era banjos that really speaks to me. The walnut neck has a smooth round shape. The ebony fretboard with inlaid fret markers of white stuff. Could be bone, could be celluloid, or could be hmmm. The real quirk of this banjo are the inlay positions. The dot at the 3rd fret is normal, but then progresses to 68, 11, 13, 17 and the end of the fretboard. I'm sure the craftsman had his reasons for that. I hope Owen liked it. The 11-1/2" maple rim has a Brazilian rosewood veneer on the outside along with zigzag marquetry. All the hooks, nuts and shoes are attached including the patent applied for washers. The Stern brand calf skin head has an older than it's age look and sounds great. For $1,650 you can own S. Owen's former favorite. We include a hard case. Photos
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
1886 Fairbanks and Cole Imperial. This banjo was a mere 81 years old when Frank and Nancy Sinatra recorded their iconic single "Something Stupid". I think it is safe to say that today, a good 50 years later, was the first time a modal version of that song was played on this banjo. Though originally intended for the "popular in it's day" style of Classic Banjo, the tone and playability of this instrument is inspiring to sneak out of the box and try new things. The mahogany V-shaped neck has a 3/16" thick ebony fretboard with attractive abalone and mother of pearl inlays. The frets, tuners and tailpiece appear to be ivory. One of the tuners does not exactly match the others, but it's real close. The 11-7/16" maple rim is elegantly finished with black shellac and all 32 brackets are original, though not all the washers are patent applied for. If that's a deal breaker, you better just purchase the 1881 F&C listed above, which has not been graced with something stupid, or anything stupid for that matter. Price is $3,000 with a sort of beat hard 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 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 tuning pegs on the peghead are planetary by ABM and a Schaller fifth tuner. 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. That, coupled with the 24-7/8" scale, brings the bridge close to the middle of the rim. This makes a bassy full sound that is very popular with today's musicians. This beautiful interpretation of a 120-year-old classic costs $5,000, about 1/3 of an original similar banjo made entirely in the Fairbanks factory in 1895. We also include a good modern hard case. 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
1978 Vega Tubaphone No 2-5. From 1970 to 1979 the Martin Guitar Company owned the Vega name and produced just under 2,000 Vega branded instruments in their Nazareth PA shop. In 1979, the Vega name was sold to Galaxy Trading of Korea beginning a 10-year run of embarrassingly mediocre Asian made banjos with an iconic brand name attached. With the serial number of 1943, this banjo is one of the last made in Pennsylvania. The bound rosewood fretboard has a 26-1/4" scale and a 1-1/8" nut width. The 24-bracket rim has an 11" Tubaphone tonering and is fitted with a Fiberskyn head. The parts appear all original with the exception of the previously mentioned head. Rosewood armrest cover, and floral pierced tailpiece. Tone is full, meaty, and precise. A great sounding and playing banjo from the end of the 10 year Pennsylvania Vega era. $1,200 with original hard case. Photos
1914 Bacon Grand Concert Special. As per standard ritual, we woke up one the little SFI shop gnomes (they are mostly nocturnal) to test drive and put the final stamp of approval on this fine Bacon banjo. We're pretty sure this instrument wasn't originally built for a pair of tiny, ancient, hands to snake their way through "Old Dangerfield" drop thumb style on it, but it sure did sound good, and so, the banjo hath been anointed and notarized. This beautiful, likely Lange-made instrument features a quilted maple neck with backstrap, carved heel, an unusually long early Kershner tailpiece, 28" scale ebony fretboard, and fancy inlays suited to an instrument of this caliber but not too over-the-top. The 11-1/2" internal resonator rim is carved all the way around with small F-style sound holes, giving a little extra 'umph to the already smooth, crisp tone. It's also been outfitted with new ABM planet tuners, a Schaller 5th, and steel strings. This banjo is in excellent condition and for $3500 + shipping we'll send it straight to your tiny, ancient, hands in a TKL hard case. Photos
1920 Cole's Eclipse Professional. Though this is one of the banjos made late in this firms history, it is still a high quality instrument. With it's 27" scale and the 10 7/8" head it has a bright and precise sound. The ebony fretboard is inlaid with dots, the peghead features an engraved floral design. Modern ABM geared tuners have been installed, the frets replaced, and a proper neck reset done here in our shop. Condition is in the very good range. With a modern hard case this banjo is $1,900. Photos
1892 Jas. A Morrison. Like many of the instruments that pass through SFI, this banjo is further proof that, with a little bit of shepherding and TLC (tuners, lacquer, and careful-repair-work), almost any instrument can look and sound good at 120+ years old. Attention given to this instrument includes a quality refinish of the walnut neck by unknown repairman, as well as a refret and neck reset done right here at SFI. With simple but striking abalone inlay designs, and slightly out-of-the-ordinary peghead shape, the overall look is unique and attractive. Tone is bright and twangy with plenty of volume to cut through in a jam or performance setting. It has an 11" diameter, and 25-1/2" scale ebony fretboard. New ABM long shaft tuners, grained ivoroid knobs, and Renaissance head make the whole package a perfect mix of vintage & modern. Get it now for $1,000 with a gigbag. Sorry Sold. 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 $1.000, it can knock into your things! Includes the original cardboard case. Photos
1890's Thompson & Odell Artist Banjo. We estimate this banjo was in its late teens to early 20s when it heard news of the RMS Titanic sinking into the icy Atlantic waters. It was a witness to the great depression, both World Wars, the birth of television, disco, and American Idol, and now, sitting majestically by my desk as I write this, it is no doubt wondering why I purchased a smartphone the size of a toaster oven. Instruments as old as this one have a certain kind of knowing quality to them, and at SFI we're proud to call them our specialty. This banjo has an 11" spun over rim, mahogany neck, 26-3/8" scale ebony fretboard, and fancy inlays from top to bottom. It also features a most unusual tonering, where the hoop is suspended on posts visible through small cutouts in the wood. It's outfitted with ABM small shaft peghead tuners, a Schaller 5th, steel strings, and a calf skin head. Tone is brassy and bright, and has been expertly set up for smooth, responsive playing. Sent to straight to your door with a Superior II gig bag for $1,000, plus shipping. 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
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
Circa 1895 SS. Stewart rim with modern Jim White fretless neck. Much like DJ Jazzy Jeff, the name S.S. Stewart is synonymous with '90s music of various centuries from Philadelphia. Similar to the many of the sweet jams DJ Jazzy Jeff is involved with, this instrument is something of a collaboration. While the 12-3/8" spunover rim is an S.S. Stewart creation, the stained maple neck and rim interior marquetry is the handiwork of Seattle based craftsman Jim White. Using original Stewart style decoration Mr. White has created an appropriate presentation grade fretless that's as attention grabbing as the jacket Mr. Jazzy Jeff wore on the cover of Things That You Do. The peghead is covered in engraved mother-or-pearl. The ebony fingerboard has less decoration, but is quite complementary of the peghead. Turn the banjo over and get a dose of the large carved lion on the heel and the floral carving on the back of the peghead. The 5-star planetary geared tuners and Schaller 5th are upgraded with carved bone knobs that are beaded around their exterior perimeter. For a sound somehow deeper than the lyrics to DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince's 1991 hit "Summertime" we set it up with Nylgut strings and tuned low to an open E. We can't resist a banjo that booms like that sick Kenwood system you installed in your Impala after DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince dropped there aforementioned smash hit. Bottom line: this banjo is really fun and inspiring to play. With a Lifton hard case from the 1960's, this banjo is $4,000. Photos
Late 1880's Pollman Professional Left Handed Original 5-string. Here is a left handed banjo that legitimately fills us with sorrow for being right handed. When this instrument came in, we had to close the shop for two whole days because we simply could not pull ourselves together. Picture the SFI staff, in their respective chambers, night after lonely night, eating Trader Joe's Scandinavian Swimmers by the spoonful, binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, unable to cope. That's why we need YOUR help, to give this wonderful instrument the caring, left-handed home it deserves. Likely made by Buckbee for Pollman, it has a 10" full spun over rim, all 24 original hooks, nuts, and shoes, walnut neck with ebonized hardwood veneer fretboard, and a 24" scale. It's outfitted with a new Fiberskyn head, non-original vintage, excellent functioning screw tension friction tuners, and light Nylgut strings. The look is clean and simple, with signature Pollman engraved celluloid fretboard plate, and zero inlay save for 6 dots on the fretboard. Lightweight, with a warm, mellow tone, we're counting on all you lefties out there to deliver us from this dark night of the soul. $650 with Superior II gig bag. Sorry, Sold. 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 an appropriate fitting vintage case is included. Photos
2014 Chuck Lee Custom Tubphone. One might say this simple and stylish Chuck Lee number puts the 'tuba' in Tubaphone. With a 12" rim and namesake tone ring, this banjo has enough heft, volume, and personality to satisfy the needs of reformed/recovering marching band members, around-the-house-pickers, and seasoned string band veterans alike. It has a 25-1/5" scale ebony fretboard with long Texas scoop, cherry neck, and Man-In-the-Moon peghead inlay. It's outfitted with Waverly peghead tuners and a 5-Star fifth. Hardware is nickel plated, except for the tube of the tonering, which is unplated. This instrument has a bright, well balanced tone, sure to earn you a spot in the parade. Original retail price was $3440, it can be yours for $1850 with Superior hard case. On Hold. 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 25-1/4", 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
2012 Pisgah Dobson. Straight Outta Asheville - Pisgah is known for quality instruments at a reasonable price (our cup runneth over with such things in the shop right now, must be something in the spring air or whatever). Persimmons are a delectable fruit and their trees have been inhabited by many things in the history of old-time music; raccoons, possums, Liza. But as it turns out, 'simmon wood works beautifully for banjo construction, too. In the case of this particular banjo, the neck, rim, and fretboard are made of the stuff, giving it a strikingly original all-around look. It's got a 26" scale, 12" rim, and raw brass Dobson style tonering. All other hardware is nickel plated. Tone is round and fat with plenty of punch and it plays smooth. This instrument is in excellent condition and it's yours for $1,000 with a Superior hard case. Photos
2007 Ome Jubilee. The Ome Jubilee is one of the most distinctive modern banjo models out there. In nearly new condition, it has an 11" maple rim, oil finished mahogany neck, star & moon inlays, and fretboard scoop. Scale is 26-1/4" with ebony fretboard, and is set up with steel strings, Renaissance head, nickel plated hardware, and a no-knot tailpiece. Plays comfortably over the scoop for a warm, plunky, tone, but is still plenty bright when played over the head. And, yeah, we admit it. It's pretty cool to have the minstrel style scroll peghead without having to do gladiator-style battle with friction tuners. Take it home today for $1,500 with a Superior 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
1960 Harmony Resotone. Do not let the humble price tag fool you. This banjo is in excellent condition and it punches. With a 27" scale length, 10-7/8" rim diameter, and, that's right - a nice big resonator, it's good for clearing out whatever room you need cleared out. All joking aside, this instrument is loud, yes, but articulate, without a ton of echo. It also features a new, geared, 5th string tuner, installed right here at SFI. $200, comes with a chipboard case. Photos
Recent Deering Goodtime; Everything about this banjo screams, "Look at me, I'm so practical!" And it's true, holding a Deering Goodtime in your hands probably won't make your entire being soar, but they are designed and priced perfectly for their intended function. This is your student banjo par excellence, your travel banjo, your some-goon-at-a-festival-borrowed-it-from-you-without-asking-and-left-it-under-their-car-all-night banjo. Its look is simple and straightforward, and tone is just a bit more twang than plunk. It'll hold its own in a jam setting, but also has enough personality to make it satisfying for solo playing. This one in particular is in excellent condition, and has an 11" maple rim, 26" string length, new Fiberskyn head, and the tuners have been upgraded to 5-star planets. Comes with heavy-duty embroidered gig bag. For only $400, your humble workhorse awaits. Photos
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
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
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
1923 Vega Whyte Laydie Style R Rim. These hard to find 11-13/16" Whyte Laydie rims sound great when a conversion 5-string neck is installed. This one is in very good condition and has all it's hooks & nuts as well as all the original 2 point shoes. It does not include the dowelstick, but we will be happy to dig up the neck attachment hardware you need. All original finish with the exception of the bottom of the rim where we had to fill a few screw holes where a previous owner attached a plate resonator. Price is $800 and we can get it in tomorrow's mail. 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. Sorry, Sold. Photos
1913 Vega Style N 17-Fret Tenor Banjo. Can you hear it, that otherworldly sound, far off in the distance? It's the past, come to check-in, to remind you of where you come from. Oh, never mind, that's a garbage truck backing into your neighbor's Miata. Look over here, though. This 1913 Vega Style N is, without a doubt, a dispatch from history, back when America made simple, powerful things, meant to last. This 17-fret tenor banjo, set up for Irish playing, has a 10-3/4" maple rim, 19-7/8" string length, and mahogany neck. It's been outfitted with a Renaissance head, all new hooks, nuts, and shoes, and Gotoh planetary tuners. The only blemish of note is a small chunk missing from the back of the peghead. Regardless, this instrument plays beautifully, with a deep, projecting tone, and plenty of growl in the low end. Don't let the modern world bring you down - it's just as important to look forward as it is to look back. Balance, friend. And besides, at least that ain't your Miata. This excellent player's instrument is yours for $450, including Superior II gigbag. 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
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 the 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
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
1926 Gibson UB-1. This is your chance to own a pre-war Gibson flat head banjo for about one tenth of the current market price of your coveted TB-3 conversion. Well, OK this instrument is not a Mastertone 20 hole flat head. Actually has no metal tonering at all. But it sure is loud! UB-1 were Gibson's least expensive banjo ever produced but with a maple neck and 2 ply 6" maple rim it does have the features of a high grade banjo. The resonator is a flat plate suspended with 4 spacers. I love the stenciled "The Gibson" peghead logo. In very good/excelent condition. At the price of $550 it comes with gig bag. Photos
1920's Stromberg-Voisinett banjo uke. Our advice to you is to purchase this banjo uke, display it prominently in your living room, and immediately invite over your in-laws. No doubt, it will raise all kinds of questions about you that they'd prefer not to ask, while simultaneously cementing their perception of you as a mysterious bon vivant turned humble outsider artist. Or, none of that will happen. Maybe you don't even have in-laws! It matters not to SFI. Even oddball banjo ukes like this one, with pearloid fretboard and a walnut resonator, still serve a practical niche. This instrument boasts a pleasant, balanced tone that's great for singing, rhythmic accompaniment, and front-porch-strumming. Stromberg-Voisinett was the predecessor to Kay, if that gives you any of sense of this instrument's cool/funky/decently-made-on-the-cheap pedigree. It has a 13-7/8" string length, and the rim, outfitted with an 8" Renaissance head, is maple with a walnut veneer. Worried that the world has you all figured out? We've got balm for that. $200 with gigbag. Photos
1920's Unmarked Slingerland banjo uke. The first thing you should know about this banjo uke (if you have not looked at the photos yet) is the adorable Harry Potter-esque scar on the peghead. And instead of subjecting you to a tiresome barrage of similes about how an upright bass is like Hagrid and a Gibson J-45 is like Dumbledore and SFI is Hogwarts (god help us all), I'll just give you the straight scoop. This cute lil' fella has a 7" maple rim with new calfskin head, maple neck, and 13 -7/8" string length. The original tuners and finish of the neck and peghead are complemented nicely by new amber colored knobs. Loud, too. Yours for $200, with gigbag. Photos
1925 Epiphone Banjo Uke. For the practical strummer with an ear and eye for the antique and the archaic (we guess)! One of two fairly similar Epiphone banjo ukes in stock right now, this 4+ lb mini-beast has an 8-3/8" diameter rim, high grade calf skin head, and a maple neck with a knot on the heel. Low precision action plus a new 13-7/8" inch scale ebony fretboard installed right here at SFI means it plays great. The natural maple finish, unique bracket band instead of shoes for hooks & nuts, and the original vintage Epiphone decal on the back of the peghead, means it looks cool, to boot. Snappy and articulate and plenty loud, it's yours for $550 with a gigbag. Photos
1928 Epiphone Banjo Uke. Tally-ho! It's time to wake up everyone in the house with the sweet (loud) sound of (banjo ukulele) music! Truth - you will not be the most popular member of the morning coffee club with this instrument in tow, but our inclination is this bad boy may be more readily associated with "evening" beverages anyhow. The slightly more expensive of two similar banjo ukes in stock right now, we think the extra $150 is well worth it for inclusion of the original hardshell case with dreamy deep ochre lining (and maybe, just maybe, a slightly richer tone?). It has an 8-1/2" rim diameter, natural maple finish, likely original high grade calf skin head, and unusual bracket band instead of shoes for hooks & nuts. It also still has the original 14" scale ebonized hard wood fretboard, and the Epiphone stamp on the back of the peghead is wonderful. Low precision action makes for smooth playing, and at 4+ lbs, it will do in a pinch for gaining the upper hand in a bar fight, but we didn't tell you that. Sent straight to your door for $700 + shipping. 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.
Call us at 304-636-6710. For payment we accept checks, wire transfers and MasterCard & Visa. If you prefer Paypal, please send us an email requesting a Paypal invoice.
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 .