Smakula

Fretted

Instruments

PO Box 882, Elkins, West Virginia 26241

304-636-6710

Phone Hours; 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Eastern Time, Monday through Friday and occasionally on Saturday;

 

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Page updated 5-10-2021

Please Visit our Home Page for links to our guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and more.


Smakula Fretted instruments is on its way back to regular business. As you know, we have been shipping instruments and parts throughout the pandemic. Starting We are again accepting banjo, guitar, mandolin and minor fiddle repairs. For the safety of our staff, we can not invite people into the shop, but we now have a heated camper trailer in front of the shop to use for repair drop off and pickup, as well as a place to test instruments we have for sale.

Thank you for your understanding and patience as we all work through the details of the new normal.

Please stay safe.

Bob Smakula

 

Just In;


1908 Fairbanks Cello Banjo. More details below. On Hold. Photos
1890 AC Fairbanks Custom Electric 5-String Banjo. More details below. Photos

1891 A.C. Fairbanks Electric No. 2. More details below. Photos
1923 Vega Tubaphone Conversion.More details below. Photos
1923 Bacon Blue Ribbon. 11-1/2" rim, 27" scale. $3,000 More details below. On Hold. Photos
2014 Enoch Tradesman. 12" rim, walnut neck. $1,000 Photos
1922 Gibson Guitar Banjo. More details below. On Hold. Photos

1917 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone NO 3 More information below. Photos


FIVE STRING BANJOS

New; As-Is Banjo Projects.
We can't fix them all. Scroll to bottom of the page.

 

 

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 do have resonator Bluegrass banjos for sale from time to time and currently have a nice Gibson bowtie RB-250 in stock. Please scroll down the page for more information.

Fifth String Railroad Spike Capos; Installed free on request when you buy one of our banjos.

1986 First Batch Goose Acres Electric. 1986 would prove to be a prophetic year for the American entertainment industry. It saw the births of Lady Gaga, Robert Pattinson, The Olsen Twins, Lindsay Lohan, Shia LaBeouf, and Drake, to name a few. And what cheesy, egomaniacal, overproduced hellfire hath been wrought in those brief 32 years. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Ohio, the Goose Acres banjo company was catering to an entirely different sector of the "entertainment" "industry." Calling back to an earlier America when the five string banjo actually *was* a leading symbol of popular entertainment, these rare Goose Acres Electric banjos day represent a benchmark in modern banjo construction. Personnel on file at this time include Kevin Enoch, Bob Smakula, and Peter H. Smakula, to give you an idea of the quality of this instrument. It has an 11" spun over rim with scalloped tone ring, mahogany neck, 26 1/4" ebony fretboard, and engraved mother of pearl inlays. With the exception of new, SFI-installed frets, and a fresh bridge and Fiberskyn head, this instrument is all original. Tone is clear and snappy and projects like an opera singer, or, perhaps, Lady Gaga? We'll let you be the judge. Sent straight to your domicile in a hard case, plus shipping. (P.S. - Goose Acres banjos never hang around for too awful long, so if you want it, move quickly!) 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; $1,335 fretted, $1,265 fretless. All our Enoch Tradesman Banjos are made with the optional fretboard scoop. Left Handed models in stock too!

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. $1,310 Sorry, Sold. A replacement is on order.

Click here for a list of new and used Enoch Tradesman banjos in stock and ready to ship today.

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. The original Consalvi engraved mother of pearl gryphon was re-inlaid in the new peghead overlay with the other familiar corresponding Consalvi engraved mother-of-pearl inlay. Antique small shaft planets have been added for tuning ease. The original dyed maple 26" scale has been replaced here at SFI with an ebony board. 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. 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. The price with an original case is $4,000. Photos

1901 A.C. Fairbanks Special Electric. No doubt this banjo deserves it's Special Electric moniker more than any other we've had. Starting with the neck material; It's rosewood. Not sure exactly which species, but it is dark red and very heavy. Some of that weight comes from the extra large size. Neck width is 1-5/16" at the nut and a 1-1/16" depth. The new ebony fretboard (replacing the decomposing ebonized hardwood) has a 27" scale. All the original Consalvi engraved mother of pearl inlays have been re-inlaid in the new fretboard and peghead overlay. The ABM planets with the Schaller 5th have vintage grained Ivoroid knobs installed. A slightly large 11-1/8" diameter electric rim has a Fiberskyn head installed and all the original hooks, nuts, and shoes. The new reproduction No-Knot tailpiece and armrest are not out of place. Do notice in the pictures the one small black mark on the neck. That is an original repair from the Fairbanks factory. It appears there was a small nick in the wood and that was their idea of an appropriate repair. Also notice the hole in the dowelstick. At some point a Farland mute was added. Disappointing the hole had to go directly through the Electric stamp. If you want us to instal your Farland mute, we're ready to go! This is a great bright toned banjo that plays with precision, and it your hands are bigger than average, all the better. Price is $2,700 with a modern Superior case included. Photos

1891 A.C. Fairbanks Electric No. 2. Here at SFI, we like our tone rings the way we like our potatoes - scalloped. And we like our Fairbanks banjos the way we like our coffee - 130 years old and full of metal. Now that we have the formalities out of the way, let us play fretted instrument matchmaker and tell you why you're going to fall in love with this banjo. The mahogany neck has a carved heel, and the 25" scale ebony fretboard boasts fancy inlays all over. It's outfitted with a grained ivoroid tailpiece, and ivory friction tuners. The head is high grade calf skin, and it sits atop a fully spun over, 10-1/2" rim. Elegant, but not overstated. It's set up with nylon strings for classic style playing, but will cooperate with thumb lead and clawhammer style as well. Banjos of all stripes seem to be flying out the door these days, so strike while the iron is hot, or more accurately, when the website is updated. Yours for $3,000, comes in a hard case. Photos

1890 AC Fairbanks Custom Electric 5-String Banjo. If you read this website with any frequency you've probably noticed that our relationship with the instruments we repair and sell is dynamic - a melange, if you will, of antagonism, resentment, and wide-eyed enthusiasm. There's no mystery here. Banjos are beautiful and fascinating but they are also cheap and dumb, and like everything else the cheap and dumb ones are easier to make so more of them get made. The dilemma is ancient and eternal. Then there are banjos like this 1890 Custom Electric, from that class of instruments so exquisite it makes one's head hurt. The neck, made of oak, has a carved heel, with 28" scale ebony fretboard, covered in fancy inlays. It is our opinion upon inspection that these inlays are not original, but extremely well-made replacements. It's outfitted with beaded ivory tuners, and a long ivory tailpiece, and the 11-7/8" diameter rim is fully spunover, with Electric tone ring. Exterior metal on the rim, and all but one of the Cobra hooks, is engraved. Serial No. 727. Includes a hard case and at $5,000, think of it as an investment in a piece of art. Art you can play! What's better than that? Photos

1908 A.C. Fairbanks Cello Banjo. Rare and ready to scare: there's no need for banjos this big, and that's why we love them. With a rim 16" wide and 4" deep, this banjo might also be called "slimming." Sure, it's more of a collector's item than a player's instrument, but if you have room in your heart and on your lap, we think you'll be very pleased by the sound it makes. This behemoth is sans serial number, so info about it is scant. We can tell you that the neck is walnut with a 30-3/8" scale ebony fretboard, and the ebony tailpiece and dowel stick were replaced right here at SFI. It's set up with gut strings and friction tuners, and the rim is covered in a lovely, rugged patina all the way around. Tone is rich and booming, and it plays reasonably well for something that was built to be unwieldy on purpose. Unfortunately, it does not come with a case, as no case exists that we know of to fit it. But when we ship, it will come in a bubble wrap & cardboard suit of armor tough enough to withstand anything short of getting run through with a forklift. $4,000. On Hold. Photos

1917 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone NO 3. When the movie "Psycho" was released in 1960, people thought it was pretty dang scary. The film remains a classic, but in 2021, it probably doesn't register very high on the average viewer's Scare-O-Meter. This banjo is like that. At some point, it was far scarier than it is now. If you don't believe us, just ask the hole in the dowel stick which used to hold the resonator attachment. If there's anything out there more egregious than a Tubaphone with a resonator, it should probably run for president of the United States of America. This powerhouse banjo came to us with the walnut neck trimmed from the heel carving to the 5th string tuner, for the purposes of converting it to a plectrum. Our master banjo technician, Andy Fitzgibbon, built a new bass side for the neck, running from the carving to the tip of the peghead. Other repairs include a new 25-7/8" scale ebony fretboard, new peghead overlay (preserving the original mother of pearl inlays), and a new Fiberskyn head. It has a 10-3/4" rim, outfitted with aforementioned Tubaphone tone ring, and the metal hardware is in excellent condition. Set-up for precision playing, this banjo is amazingly crisp, articulate, and powerful. Break this out during your next stay at a sketchy backwater motel, and the knife wielding maniacs will be the ones running from you. All the banjo you can possibly handle and then some for $3,000, including a brown Superior hardshell case. Photos

1923 Vega Tubaphone NO 3. As I sit here, writing this blurb, a heavy winter rain is falling on the shop. Soon, it will be Christmas, then New Year's, and then a long, muddy, misty, West Virginia winter to follow. It's the season for introspection, sipping hot tea, and who are we kidding - this isn't "Silent Night." At SFI, it's Tubaphone season all year round, an instrument that's about as introspective as the Super Bowl half-time show. Not to say this charming 1923 No. 3 doesn't have depth - quite the opposite. This original 5 string banjo has a mahogany neck with carved heel, 27" scale ebony fretboard, Vega vine peghead inlay, and a 10-15/16" diameter rim with Tubaphone tonering. In-house repairs include: neck reset, new fretboard binding, refret, new ABM planet tuners, and a Schaller 5th, still outfitted with the original grained ivoroid knobs. The playing is smooth and precise, and the calf skin head helps balance the brightness of the tone ring - snappy and articulate, with just the right amount of warmth. Comes in the original hard case with neat-o cloth Vega badge on the inside. $3,000. 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

1881 Fairbanks and Cole. Why do we even bother with descriptions anymore? Allow us to show our hand, for a moment - as of late, banjos have been flying out the door. Parts, too. Maybe it's because people can't hardly go anywhere these days, save for the occasional nerve-racking run to the grocery store, or maybe it's because during this uncertain time, folks now more than ever need the salve of music. We think it's likely a little from column A, a little from column B. How's this for a description - banjo is beautiful and old, has strings. Get out your wallet. Really though, this 1881 Fairbanks & Cole is a pleasing artifact that speaks for itself. The neck is walnut with a 26-1/4" scale ebony fretboard, and elegant boat heel. It's outfitted with the original, well-fitting, ivory friction tuners, and the 11-1/4" maple rim has a Brazilian rosewood veneer and rope marquetry decoration. Said rim is held together by some unusual hardware, including the long 2-point shoes with truncated top, early square nuts with ball ends, and washers marked with a patent notification. Unusual positions for the inlaid fret markers at well, located at frets 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, and 17. Set up for classic playing with nylon strings, it has a 1/2" bridge, and 3/16" string height at the 12th fret. A fine companion for the summer of staying-at-home. $1,400 and comes with new Boulder Alpine gigbag. 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

1971 Vega PS-1, Pete Seeger Longneck. Pete Seeger - singer, banjo player, activist, and face of the American folk revival, thanks in no small part to his classic show, Rainbow Connection, which featured the likes of Elizabeth Cotten, Roscoe Holcomb, and . . . wait... Quest! The show was Rainbow Quest. Sorry. But I have to admit - a Seeger/Kermit co-hosted talk show would be nothing short of heavenly balm for the troubled world we live in today. But alas. Let us turn our attention to this dashing 1971 Vega Longneck. Built shortly after Martin Guitar acquired Vega, the parts of this banjo were made in Needham, MA and assembled in Nazareth, PA. It has a 32" scale, 10-15/16" diameter, Tubaphone tone ring with late period "dogbone" holes, maple neck, ebony fretboard, and Grover Rotomatic tuners. With the exception of an SFI fret job and new Remo frosted head, all parts are original. It also comes with the original Lifton "Built Like a Fortress" hard case. This instrument is in excellent condition and sounds fantastic, balanced perfectly from the rich low end to the clear, shimmery high end. Sent straight to your door for $2,500 plus shipping. Photos

1923 Bacon Blue Ribbon Style A-1. Bacon Blue Ribbon sounds like something the Pabst company is likely to unleash on the general population any day now, but for now, the namesake belongs solely to an extremely nice vintage banjo. This 1923 style A-1 has a natural finish holly neck with 27" scale bound ebony fretboard, and a carved heel. Peghead, fretboard, and heel cap are adorned with fancy inlays, and it's got a back strap, too, just so everyone's needs for banjo opulence are met. It's outfitted with mid 1920s Grover planetary tuners and the original friction 5th tuner, all with grained ivoroid knobs. The rim is 11-1/2" in diameter and is made from natural maple, atop which sits a Blue Ribbon tone ring (similar to early Silver Bell tone rings), and Remo Renaissance head. Most of the metal parts are silver plated, not including the nickel plated 4-string Presto modified for 5-string. Many Bacon Blue Ribbons have a snap-in plate resonator, but this one doesn't, and we don't know if it had one when it left the factory. Neck straightened and reset in-house. Loud, sparkly, and articulate. Yours for $3,000, comes with the original hard case. On Hold. Photos

1900 SC Thompson by WA Cole. Plonk, plonk, plonk. Do you enjoy this type of sound? Then you're in the right place. We have been in this business for as long as we have because banjos are generally fun and interesting, across the divides of age, condition, and price. We don't turn our noses up at the frayed or the funky, on the contrary. If I still have your attention, consider for a moment this 1900 SC Thompson. Manufactured by Cole, it has a walnut neck with very worn 25-7/8" scale ebonized hardwood fretboard. Inlaid into the fretboard are non-original 3/8" abalone position markers. It's set up with modern rosewood violin style friction pegs in the peghead, and an ebony friction peg for the 5th. Frets are in good condition. The rim is 11-1/2" diameter maple with German silver spin over, and a vintage calf skin head that rests directly on the wood rim. It's also outfitted with the original Elite tailpiece. Fittingly set up with Aquila 11B red nylgut strings. Overall sound / feel is primitive and mellow, and it plays nicely. Sold in as-is condition for $650. Photos

1968 Gibson RB-250 Bow Tie Mastertone. Every instrument tells a story, and in the case of this 1960s Mastertone, that story is a confusing one. The original, yellow interior lined, Lifton case comes with three stickers: two are from an outdoor theater in Beckley, WV, from their productions of the Hatfields & McCoys and Honey in the Rock. The other is a San Quentin prison inventory sticker. Between these, the massive Kluson Firebird tuners, and sliding 5th string capo, there is an element of intrigue surrounding this banjo. If you'd rather be spared the detective work, not to worry - because one pluck of one single string is all it takes for this instrument to instantly give up any mystery or subtlety it might've possessed. We know that sounds unkind, but we don't mean it like that. All we're saying is, this banjo does exactly what it was designed to do: saw your brain in half, in a good way. It has an 11" black multi-ply rim, chrome plated, one piece flange, and the original 3-1/4 lb, 20 hole Mastertone tone ring by Jim Faulkner. The neck is mahogany, with a bound ebony fretboard, 26-1/4" scale, bound peghead with inlaid Gibson logo, and crown inlays up and down the fretboard. The plating does have some checking, and there's also a dent in the binding at the 5th tuner, as well as the treble side of the 5th fret. The maple resonator sports an attractive sunburst finish, as well as marquetry around the sides, similar to a resonator from an RB-800. Not that there's much question as to what this thing sounds like, but let us say it again: for exceptionally articulate, precise, and hard-driving banjo playing, there is simply no substitute for a Mastertone. Mystery solved. Take it home today for $2,200. Sorry, Sold. 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 $3,500. Photos

1917 Lyon & Healy's Own Make, Style A. The Wunderkammer (German for "cabinet of curiosities") was, in essence, a roomful of weird stuff - relics, antiquities, works of art, and even preserved pieces of human & animal anatomy. And just like Lyon & Healy banjos, you don't hear about them too much in popular culture these days. Questions of cultural relevance aside, this L&H "Own Make" Style A is a Wunderkammer unto itself, and well worth a second look. Interesting specs of this instrument go on and on. The unusual tonering design (patented in 1908) is essentially a Little Wonder tonering on stilts, and the rim is held together by a generous 30 brackets. Furthermore, the underside of the rim is studded with five small pieces of bone - presumably to protect the rim when laid on a flat surface? It's difficult to say. Then there's the vaguely tulip shaped peghead, with decorative spaces in the overlay that allow the maple to show through (quite attractive, actually). Speaking of, the all maple neck has a 27" scale ebony fretboard and fancy abalone inlays. The 10-13/16" diameter maple rim has been outfitted with a new Renaissance head, and it also comes with the original Kershner tailpiece. In-house repairs also include a neck reset, refret, new French polish on the neck, and installation of ABM planet tuners and a Schaller 5th. Tone is crisp and twangy. A most curious instrument indeed, and it can be yours today for just $1,400, including a hard case. Photos

2019 Pisgah Possum. What's not to love about the possum? Other than being adorable, they are also nature's Roomba, munching prodigiously on ticks and other disease vectors. Hence, this banjo has a fitting name, since it too is easy on the eyes and has a long list of appealing features. This 2019 model has a walnut neck with persimmon peghead overlay and a 25-1/2" scale persimmon fretboard. The 12" rim is also walnut, with a persimmon tonering, and Renaissance head. All of the hardware is a lovely aged raw brass. It's in great condition and plays nicely with a well-balanced tone, plunky but precise. Buying it won't make you resistant to Lyme disease or rabies, but you will end up with a dang nice banjo at your door in 3-5 business days for a dang nice price. Yours for $1,100, includes heavy duty Pisgah branded Access gig bag. Sorry, Sold. Photos

2014 C.W. Dean Banjos homage to Jenes Cottrel. Chris Dean is a young banjo builder and musician from West Virginia, now living in Washington state. His work as a builder has been primarily focused on reproducing the banjos of the late West Virginia banjo elder, Jenes Cottrel. Cottrel's instruments were made almost entirely by hand in a shop with no electricity. Their most distinctive features are the many-pointed peghead, with circular inlays made from slices of knitting needles, and the Buick torque converters which served as their rims. It has been Dean's mission as a craftsman to keep Cottrel's unique legacy alive. The neck on this particular model, marked "Kanawha" (see Kanawha River / Valley /County, WV) on the dowel stick plate, is walnut, with a rosewood center lamination, and 25-1/2" scale rosewood fingerboard. The rim is an 11-5/8" diameter 1957 Buick Dynaflo aluminum torque converter, fitted with a Fiberskyn head and modified for flathead configuration, and it's outfitted with Gotoh tuners. The whole package is a nice blend of folk-art and functionality, and the crisp but not overbearing tone makes this unusual instrument as versatile as pretty much any other steel-strung 5 string banjo. Yours for $950, comes in an ultralight case. Sorry, Sold. Photos

New Recording King RKOH-05. Do you hear that? It's the weary and worrisome staff of SFI, breathing a collective sigh of relief for beginning banjo players everywhere. Why, you ask? Five words: Recording ­ King ­ Open ­ Back ­ Banjos. In recent memory, we've been consistently impressed by the quality of Recording King's budget priced guitars, and now we are happy to offer a similarly priced banjo of the same caliber. The RKOH-05 has a mahogany neck with 26-1/4" scale rosewood fretboard, and an 11" cross ply mahogany rim. Both neck and rim are attractively finished in dark red mahogany. It's outfitted with geared guitar-style tuners, and a Remo Fiberskyn head. 5th string railroad spike and SFI wire armrest installed at no additional charge. Tone is balanced and full bodied, and it plays great. A fine choice for anyone on the hunt for their first banjo, or anyone in need of a solid playable instrument that can handle overhead storage bins, festival mudslides, etc. Yours for $300 Comes with Superior gig bag. Photos

Banjo Research

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...

 

Banjo Rims

1926 Bacon Style C Rim. 11" diameter, curly mahogany veneers inside and out. No tonering model. $350. Photos

1920 Vega Style K Rim. 10-1/8" diameter maple rim with steel hoop tonering. Burnt orange finish with some flaking. New hooks and nuts. $250. Photos

1925 Vega Little Wonder Banjo Rim. 10-15/16" maple rim with a pro natural refinish. No dowelstick. $450. Photos

 

GUITAR BANJOS

1922 Gibson Guitar Banjo. You don't need a guitar banjo to try your hand at Papa Charlie Jackson's "Ash Tray Blues," but it helps. We can't say whether or not it's a good idea for you to strike up a little hokum blues revival in your immediate environs, but as always, guitar banjo or no guitar banjo, read the room. This oddly exquisite item comes to us from a dear collector friend who needed to clear a little space. His gain is your gain. This 1922 build has a maple neck with ebonized hardwood center strip, ebony fretboard (recently refretted by SFI) with 24-7/8" scale, and bound moccasin peghead with fleur-de-lis inlay. Rim is 14" with calf skin head, and it's outfitted with the original Waverly tuners, tailpiece, hooks, nuts, and so forth. Gibson warranty decal is intact on the inside of the rim. While this instrument has plenty of honk and snap, it is, in our opinion, slightly mellower sounding than other guitar banjos we've seen of the same species. Serial No. 11577-G. Yours for $2,500, comes with original worn hardshell case. On Hold. Photos

 

FOUR STRING & MANDOLIN BANJOS

1930's Gibson TB-00. A popular candidate for 5-string conversions, this 1930s TB-00 is a surefire powerhouse regardless of how many strings are on it. We here at SFI are quite pleased with it in its current state of 4, and were we a little more sadistic, we might take it to the Thursday night local old-time jam and see who we can frighten. The maple neck has a 22-7/8" scale Brazilian rosewood fretboard, and an 11" diameter maple rim that is 5/8" thick at the top and 7/16" at the bottom. It is outfitted with a Waverly tailpiece, Grover two-tab tuners, and an otherwise good condition resonator minus some warping. Furthermore, one piece, pot metal flanges such as the one found on this instrument tend to curl up over time from the constant pressure exerted on them by the hooks and nuts. This particular flange has curled very little in its nearly 100 hundred years on planet Earth, so, party time, bonus. Bright and powerful sound. Yours for $1,600, comes in the original hard case with purple velvet lining. Photos

1922 Gibson TB. Though this blurber can't play more than a few paltry licks and chords on a tenor banjo, he is enamored all the same of this 1922 Gibson. With a 19" scale ebony fretboard, it's on the short side for a tenor banjo. The 10-1/2" rim is outfitted with a Renaissance head, but missing is the original trap door resonator. The maple neck has a snakehead style headstock (too cool!), outfitted with guitar style tuners. Missing trap doors? Snakeheads? What is this, a Vincent Price movie? And yes, the signature tenor brightness and volume is there, but it's tempered with just a bit of welcome roundness and warmth. All in all, it's a slightly out-of-the-ordinary instrument that's not flashy in the slightest but has a ton of personality where it counts. Yours for $700, comes in the original hard case. Photos

Alvarez Model 4291 tenor banjo. Like a Miyazaki film or a Murakami novel, this banjo was made in Japan and has a certain transportive quality to it. Indeed, when you play it, the rest of the world seems to fall away, probably because it's so unbelievably loud. Truthfully though, it's a lot of power for very little money, and any discerning tenor player would be wise to give it a second look. This high quality Mastertone style tenor has a mahogany neck with 23" scale rosewood fretboard, adorned with bow tie inlays. The 11" multi-ply rim is made up of a (likely) die-cast flat head Mastertone tone ring, one piece flange, single coordinator rod, Remo frosted head, and a rosewood resonator. It's also outfitted with modern 5-Star tuners. A great sounding banjo for a great price, take it home today for $550, in a gigbag. Photos

1960 Harmony Resotone Tenor banjo. If I write too many words on this banjo, I think SFI might actually lose money on it, so I'll keep it short. Harmony manufactured just under 90 billion plastic-rimmed banjos back in the mid-twentieth century, and while not all of them are good, many of them are. This tenor, for example, with poplar neck, new Grover tuners, and 22-5/8" scale ebonized hardwood fretboard, sounds so good we all had to go and splash cold water on our faces. The standard 10-7/8" bakelite resotone rim has 16 brackets and is set up with a new cloudy Remo head. Tuned to G D A E, this ultra-affordable instrument would be perfect for the beginning Irish trad player, or anyone seeking something fun, funky, and cheap. $175. Sorry, Sold. 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. Photos

1925 Weymann Style 35 Mandolin-Banjo. This is a clean and interesting piece of Weyman's ingenuity. A 9" maple rim, with Remo clear 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 $750 includes flat top hard case. 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. The low G string just plain growels. 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

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

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

 

 

BANJO UKES

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 American Conservatory Banjo Uke. The Chicago Petite. The Louis XV. The Prince William Gold. The Silhouette. The American Conservatory. Some of the finest harps money can buy, built by one of the greatest harp manufacturers in the world. Except for that last one. That one's a banjo. A tiny 4-string banjo, which would probably look as out of place on Lyon & Healy's current showroom floor as an SFI employee would at the White House Correspondents' dinner. It's true that the long running Chicago company now specializes in manufacturing the world's most opulent stringed instrument, but boy did they make a lot of banjos way back when. Today, those banjos range from items best suited as wall-art to fun, understated, highly playable instruments. This 1920s banjo uke is an example of the latter. It has a hardwood neck, likely maple, with dark brown finish, 15-3/4" scale, and a 7-15/16" maple rim. It's still outfitted with the original screw tension friction tuners, but has seen some updates in the form of a modern wire armrest and newish Enoch brown hard case. Tone is punchy and full and it plays great. This is what a banjo uke should sound like. Yours for $500 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

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. Price is only $115 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. Affordably priced at $115. .

 

 

As Is Banjo Projects

1940 Bacon Recording King Original 5-string by Gretsch. If Nintendo, bread baking, yoga, Zoom calls, reading, gardening, online shopping, and bathing still aren't enough to kill all the time you have to kill, might we suggest this as-is project Bacon Recording King. Think of it like rescuing a banjo from the pound. It may be a little rough around the edges, but it's got a big heart and will love you unconditionally, sort of. Yes it may need more than a little bit of TLC, but nevertheless it's a striking vintage artifact with a ton of potential. It's also playable as is, which we think definitely sweetens the deal. The mahogany neck has a 26" scale ebony fretboard, with fancy mother of pearl inlays. The width of the neck is rather narrow; 1-1/6" at the nut. Peghead overlay and heel cap are engraved pearloid celluloid. The maple rim is 11" in diameter and is outfitted with what we think is a very large Little Wonder style tonering. It's outfitted with a Rogers 3-Star calfskin head, Paramount style flip tailpiece, and it has a mahogany resonator with clover flange. For those equipped to perform them, we recommend the following repairs: new frets, replace missing fretboard binding, install new head, reglue heel cap, a full and thorough cleaning, re-solder the armrest, and possibly a neck reset. And since we here at SFI know all too well about the realities of mission creep, other work may still be necessary. Whew. Anyway, if this sounds like your style of rabbit hole, do give us a shout. $700, comes with a solid condition hard case. As is, no returns. 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.

 

Shipping
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 $8 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.

Sales Tax
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.

To Order
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.

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 .