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Banjos, Contact us...

Page updated 3-17-2024

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Just In;

Bob Anderson Bee & Thistle Themed 5 string neck on 1910 Tubaphone rim. Details below. Photos
1987 Goose Acres Classic. Personal banjo of Tommy Thompson. Details below. Photos
1924 Bacon & Day Silver Bell #1, 17 Fret Tenor Banjo. Details below, On Hold. Photos

New; As-Is collection. Scroll to the bottom of this page for the list.



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. Send us an email or check back.

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

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; $1,475 fretted, $1,425 fretless. All our Enoch Tradesman Banjos are made with the optional fretboard scoop.

Enoch Tradesman banjos allways sell quickly. Currently we have one new Tradesman banjo in stock. Click here for details regarding the Enoch Tradesman banjos we have available and on order.

1987 Goose Acres Classic. In the mid to late 1980's, in Cleveland, Ohio, the perfect storm of openback banjo building occurred. At 2175 Cornell Road three craftsmen, Peter H. Smakula, Kevin Enoch, and Bob Smakula designed and built a line of banjos that were an homage the world-renowned Fairbanks Electric banjos of the 1890's through the 1910's. The rims were fully spun with German silver and have a scalloped truss below the tone hoop on a hard maple shell. Designed for steel strings, these banjos are loud, precise, and full sounding. At the time Goose Acres was introducing these banjos, renowned banjo player and founding member of the Red Clay Ramblers, Tommy Thompson, was a frequent customer. Tommy always liked vintage Fairbanks and Vega banjos, but their age made them a bit fragile for the demands of the road. His Tuesday hangouts at Goose Acres allowed him to try and then order two Goose Acres Electric style banjos. His first was a Goose Acres Elite, with fancy inlay and an exquisite carved heel (sorry that one is sold) the second is this one, the model eventually known as "Classic". It has a mahogany neck with a black veneer center lamination and a 26-1/4" scale ebony fretboard. The inlays are simple. engraved mother of pearl dots and a design with one dot and 4 cats eyes at the 5th fret. The rim is 11" diameter, has 24 brackets and the previously mention spun-over electric style rim. As Tommy loved his two banjos, you can imagine the amount of player time he put on his two instruments. To put this banjo back in its best playing shape we refretted the neck, replaced the original ABM tuners with a set of set of recent manufacture, and installed a new Remo Fiberskyn head. If you would like a souvenir of Tommy Thompson's intense playing, we will be happy to include the original worn out Fiberskyn head. This link to an exceptional performer, musician, and all-around friendly fellow has a cost of $2,800 and we include the original Superior bump hard case. Photos

1921 Fairbanks by Vega Whyte Laydie N.O. 2. In the openback banjo world, there is no doubt that the Whyte Laydie banjo is an icon. In my lifetime I have seen many attempts at copying this tonering design, but no one can do the job perfectly. At best, a quality caricature (usually without the dune buggy) and at worst, a pile of metal that really should be sent to the metal recycling facility. "What makes this so good?" you ask. Start with the maple neck and accept no substitutes. This example has a professionally refretted 27" scale bound ebony fretboard and an ebonized maple peghead overlay attached to the maple neck. Nut width is 1-3/16" and 7/8" deep at the 1st fret. The rim is likely 7 layers of hard maple (I would have to take off the tonering to count) with a 10-15/16" diameter scalloped tonering and matching bracket band. Most of the other hardware appears to be original. That includes the peghead tuners, the Cook's Sure-Grip tailpiece (AKA; Cammed No-Knot) all 28 two-point shoes and hooks with closed ball end nuts. The 5th tuner has been changed to a Schaller with original grained ivoroid knob installed. The head appears to be from Stern Tanning and the banjo is set up with steel strings and a 3-legged bridge. Tone is what you demand from a Whyte Laydie banjo. Full, precise, and all the volume you would ever need. Price is $2,300 and includes the original bump hard case. Photos

1908 Fairbanks Special N.O. 4. From the classic A.C. Fairbanks years, here is an all original Special N.O. 4 5-string. At 115 years old it still looks great with no abuse and no dubious improvements that so often happens to nice banjos like this. The neck appears to be cherry and finished to resemble mahogany. The ebonized maple peghead overlay does have superficial cracks that add to the character, but do not degrade the structure. The ebonized maple fretboard has a comfortable 25-7/8" scale and is in very good condition. Only one hairline crack from the nut to the 6th fret. The 10-11/16" diameter rim is fully spun over and has the same heft of a Regent from the same period. All 28 brackets are present, though a few hooks are steel rather than brass and one hook had to be bent slightly to reach around the flesh hoop to grab the tension hoop. The only non-original parts on this instrument are the two hooks and the normal "consumable" parts like head, bridge, and strings. We have it set up with 6B Nylgut strings and a 3 legged bridge. That gives it a warm plunk. The sturdy neck (1-1/4" wide by 1" deep at the 1st fret) would have no problem handling steel strings, though the original screw tension friction tuners would be a bit fussy. A small price to pay to have an exceptionally nice vintage banjo such as this one. Price is $1,800 and a modern TKL hard case is included. Photos

1893 A.C. Fairbanks Curtis Electric. There's nothing like a father's love for his son, especially when it's been filtered through the retail market. Curtis Fairbanks, son of A.C., is said to have been a child banjo prodigy, and that's all anyone seems to know about him. He was almost certainly a classic-style banjoist, but we think this banjo bearing his name is fit for almost any banjo-related task you can come up with. It has a mahogany neck with a 27" scale ebony fretboard with some nice inlay. The peghead tuners are the original screw tension type with original grained ivoroid knobs. The 5th tuner was upgraded to a geared Schaller. It has a 12" diameter spunover rim with the Curtis Electric tone ring. Said tone ring is comprised of a brass hoop which sits atop a series of 3/16" rods, which sit inside of a steel hoop. All original hooks and nuts are present. This banjo is set up with a nice calf skin head that has a cloth patch glued to the underside of the head in the bridge area (for mellower tone I assume) and a set of Nylgut 6B strings. This banjo has a warm round tone that is excellent for solo or small ensemble playing. Yours for $1,500, includes a hard case. Photos

1910 Vega-Fairbanks Tubaphone rim with "Bee and Thistle" neck by the late Bob Anderson. 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 Cook's Sure-Grip (AKA 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 gift for your favorite old-time banjo/apiary enthusiast, I humbly submit a suggestion. With TKL hard case, $5,500. Photos

2008(?) Doug Unger Prague Castle Commemorative Banjo. When you think of the Czech Republic, banjos are usually not the first things that pop in to your mind. This highly decorated banjo with an inlaid image the Prague castle sitting on the 12th fret has a good reason to have that design element. Builder Doug Unger was granted an artist's residency in Prague, Czech Republic in the summer of 1999. His daily walks had him studying the Prague castle for inspiration in both his paintings and the musical instruments he builds. The neck on this banjo is mahogany with a 25-7/8" scale bound ebony radiused fretboard. The engraved pale abalone and mother-of pearl inlay was inspired by Icilio Consalvi's work at the W.A. Cole company. I recognize the inlay designs being influenced by the models G and H (AKA 4000 and 5000). The back side of the neck features a carved heel and a back strapped peghead with a Fairbanks style dogwood blossom inlay. Most of the 10-1/2" Whyte Laydie rim came from Bill Rickard's shop, with the exception of the vintage long 2-pointed shoes, the square drive ball end nuts, and the vintage Common Sense tailpiece with a reproduction ivory rosette. Tone is warm and precise. Though the neck is bigish (At the nut 1-9/32" wide and 1-1/16" deep) it is definitely comfortable to play. The $6,000 price includes an Eastman bump hard case and all the afore mentioned engraved pearl work. Photos

Circa 2001 Doug Unger Cole style neck on Modified Cole's Eclipse Pot. To fans of modern interpretations of famous Boston banjos, the name Doug Unger carries a strong reputation for visual perfection. This particular instrument is strongly influenced by a Coles Eclipse 4500 model. The iridescent mother of pearl inlay fills nearly every fret space. With the delicate engraving lines reminiscent of Icilio Consalvi's landmark work this banjo takes you back 125 years to Boston's Tremont Street. The one-piece mahogany neck also has inlay on the back-strap and a carved heel. Look carefully and see if you can see the Greenman peering out at the world. The 10-7/8" rim is an original Cole's Eclipse that was modified here at SFI for a recent owner with the addition of a Fairbanks electric scalloped tonering. Though the wood and the tension hoop are original 125-year-old parts, the shoes as well as the hooks and nuts are modern, quality reproductions. Recent work done here at SFI to get this banjo in to top playing condition includes; new dowelstick and neck reset, new calf skin head, refret, and new planetary ABM tuners with a complementary Schaller 5th, outfitted with tortoise color buttons. The 27" scale offers a tension and precision to the warmth of the modified vintage rim. Yes, it plays and sounds as good as it looks. Price is $6,000 and includes a Harptone hard case. Photos

1909 Bacon Professional Model No. 2. According to early 1900's banjo phenom, Fred Bacon, the Bacon Professional was "built on scientific principles" and he guaranteed it to be "The best banjo in the world". Who am I to argue? This fantastically nice example was made by the Vega company before Mr. Bacon had his own factory. The flowerpot peghead and fretboard inlay are exactly what you would find on a 1909 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone NO 3. The neck on this one is mahogany with a 27" scale fretboard of ebonized hardwood. The 11" diameter "Internal Resonator" rim is made of maple and includes the Bacon Professional tonering. Appears all original with the exception of the Remo Renaissance head, Labella model 17 nylon strings, wire armrest, and 2 leg bridge made of beech. According to Bacon's catalog, "all instruments personally tested by Mr. Bacon." Though Fred Bacon likely played this instrument at least once, we do not guarantee that you will be able to perform Nola with the same skill and drive as he did. Though if you purchase this banjo you'll have a better chance at accomplishing that goal than anyone on your street. With a modern Superior hard case, this banjo is $3,000 Photos

2000 (?) Boucher copy fretless by Bob Flesher. So just what does the late burlesque performer Blaze Starr have to do with this banjo? Well, besides Blaze having been a banjo player herself (pictured with a Gibson RB-250), it is a little-known fact that one of the several Boucher music business locations happened to be the same address of Ms. Starr's famed Two O'clock Club in Baltimore's theater district. Being a modern reproduction, the closest this banjo ever got to 212 East Baltimore Street was about a block away during a recent banjo history conference. The slightly tangential history is all well and good, but what about the banjo? The neck is quilted maple with a burnt orange lacquer finish. The checking on the lacquer makes the instrument look older than it is. The 5 tuners are ebony violin style pegs. The oak rim is 11-15/16" in diameter and has 6 wing nut brackets. The gut strings and high-quality calf skin head complete this reproduction of a banjo made 170 years ago. Being a player of fretless gut strung banjos myself, I love this instrument! Somehow the tuning landed in a C# and suits it very well. Oh well, no G-string on this banjo. Price is $2,000 and includes a hard case. Sorry, Sold.\. Photos

2012 22" Scale Fretless Banjo by Christian Stanfield & Tom George. A combination of Summerfield and Memphis Tennessee craftsmanship, this instrument is fun to play and admire the craftsmanship. The neck is curly maple with a wenge (wood) fingerboard and heel cap. The fingerboard has position dots on the side to assist those that are new to fretless playing. Tuners are Gotoh with white knobs. The 11" diameter maple rim has 24 brackets a brass tone hoop, Remo Renaissance head, and a wenge rim cap. Tone warm and clear. Overall, the neck is small, a 1-14" nut with and 21/32" neck thickness at the first fret position. Total length is 32" making this banjo suitable for a small person, or someone with limitations that prevents them from playing a banjo with standard specifications. Currently set up with steel strings, but not a problem for us to convert it to Nylgut. A great deal at $850 with a Superior II gigbag included. Photos

1976 Gibson RB-100. 1976. 48 years ago. The year of not only the bicentennial of the United States, but also my high school graduation. The significant memory I have of that era of my life is the class of '76 was required to choose class colors. One would think with such a historic landmark us '76ers would choose the hues of the American flag; red, white, and blue. Nope. Somehow the stoners got the vote with (Panama) red and (Acapulco) gold. While those of us in Northeast Ohio were snickering behind the backs of the school administration, in Kalamazoo, Michigan a darn decent 5-string banjo was being created in the Parsons Street factory. This RB-100 follows the catalog description of the day. The neck is 3-piece mahogany (unless you include the peghead "ears", then it is 5 pieces) with a 26-3/8" scale rosewood fretboard. The fiddle shape peghead has no overlay and the (Acapulco?) gold Gibson decal aa well as the original Gibson branded Schaller tuners. The 11" diameter thin multiply rim has a one-piece flange (slightly pulled), 24 hooks and nuts, and a Waverly style tailpiece. All the metal rim parts are chrome plated. Due to the hole for lower coordinator rod's tailpiece hole being misdrilled, we made a tailpiece bracket that attaches to the flange to center the tailpiece correctly. The resonator is maple with a walnut stain matching the color of the neck. Repairs and maintenance include; Refret, new top frosted Remo head, cleaning, slight shim on neck heel, minor neck reset, sliding 5th string capo removed and holes filled, 5th string railroad spike capos installed at 7, 9, and 10th frets, previously mentioned tailpiece bracket, and cleaning. Now it's a good looking and great playing banjo from the days of my youth. At 8-3/4 pounds it is not the back breaker that an RB-250 from the same time is. Tone? Being a clawhammer player I cannot do it justice for bluegrass, but it is loud, warm and has a slight hollow sound that works very well for old-time music. We'll put it in the hands of a bluegrass player in the next few weeks and report back then. Price is $1,500 and the original, solid condition Ess & Ess hard case is included. Sorry, Sold.

1925 Gibson PB-4 converted to 5-string. I have always been fond of these Gibson ball-bearing tonering model banjos with the "shot gun hole" skirts. They seem to suit bluegrass and old time styles very well. Originally manufactured as a 4-string plectrum banjo, this instrument has a modern professionally made "Hearts & Flowers" 5 string neck. For authenticity the maker chose a Brazilian rosewood fretboard with a 26-3/16" scale. But for some reason made the main neck wood curly maple rather than mahogany to match the resonator. The rim and its parts, to my eye, is mostly original. The resonator attachment bolts, the coordinator rods, the tailpiece and tuners are parts significantly newer than the rest of the metal on the banjo. Set up with a 5/8" bridge, a new Remo frosted Weatherking head, and a set of D'Addario EJ61 string this banjo has the bright tone of Ralph Stanley's Gibson style 5 ball bearing banjo. Price is $4,500 and includes a modern Asian hard case and the original PB plectrum neck. 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

J. French Banjos, Contact us...


Banjo Rims

1890's Buckbee Rim. Could be a Buckbee, or could be from someone else. 10" spun over rim with 20 brackets. Original ball shoes and new hooks and nuts. Inside veneer looks like rosewood. New Fiberskyn head. $250 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



1924 Bacon & Day Silver Bell 4-string, 17 fret Tenor Banjo. There is no doubt that Fred Bacon and David Day's Silver Bell series of banjos is one of the best tenor banjo designs in the world. Full tone, precise noting, and attractive to boot! This 17-fret example has the B&D Silver Bell peghead inlay and modest mother of pearl decoration on the 22-1/8" scale ebony fretboard. The neck is birdseye maple with black-white-black laminations down the center, The 11" rim has the famed Silver Bell tonering sitting on a maple rim. The original Oettenger tailpiece has 4 replacement tensioning thumb screws and works great. The finish has wear, indicating that this banjo had a lot of fun back in the days of Calvin Coolidge's presidency. Repairs and modifications that I see include; Remo frosted top plastic head, new frets (played enough to have a little wear), new fretboard binding, a set of ABM narrow shaft planet tuners (original grained ivoroid knobs installed). We have the banjo set up for traditional Irish playing with G D A E tuning. No problem to change to traditional Jazz tuning if so desired. Price is $1,350 and includes a worn, but serviceable hard case. On Hold. Photos

1925 Ludwig Belvue Tenor Banjo. With tenor banjos being the musical rage in the early and mid 1920's, it certainly makes sense that drum manufacturer Ludwig got into the party. They already had designs they could use for rims, and all they needed was necks. The neck on this Belvue is walnut with a 22-7/8" scale ebony fretboard. The fretboard and peghead overlay are decorated with intricate mother of pearl inlay. The 10-3/4" diameter rim is the earlier design with the scalloped tone chamber. All the metal parts are skillfully engraved with a mix of gold plating and gunmetal gray. Additional hardware items are the original gold plated Ludwig planetary tuners and a Kershner tailpiece. Work done here at SFI includes a cleaning with a new inside frosted Remo head installed and a neck reset to cure the loose dowelstick. Price, with the original Ludwig badged hard case, is $1.200 Photos

1921 Vega Style L Whyte Laydie Mandolin Banjo. Like the Tubaphone listed above, this banjo needs a neck reset to be a playable banjo mandolin. But with original Whyte Laydie banjo rims being in demand for converting to 5-string instruments, this one is an ideal candidate. The 10-1/8" diameter rim has a calf skin head and most of it's original metal parts. The tailpiece is a replacement and its maker is unrecognizable. The as-is $800 price includes the original hard case that appears to have been coated with an epoxy of some sort. 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. .



Here are some instruments that we are selling as-is. For details on our as-is pollicy, click here.

1900 S.S. Stewart Thoroughbred by Stewart & Bauer. Played hard for the last 50 years, this banjo needs you to give it some attention to get another 50 or more years of music out of it. The neck is cherry wood. The peghead overlay is the familiar vine pattern, wire and pale abalone in ebonized maple, seen on many Stewart & Bauer era Thoroughbred banjos. The 27" scale fretboard, also ebonized maple, is decorated with the delightfully spare small on-end squares. The spunover rim is 11" diameter and all 28 hooks, nuts and shoes match decently. The original Stewart Common Sense tailpiece is also present. Other random observations; Lots of capo marks on the back of the neck. Missing one piece of pale abalone above the 3rd string tuner. Though old, the tuners may not be original, but they work as well as friction tuners function with steel strings. Fretboard has significant divots. And it could really use a good cleaning. The banjo has been used with steel strings for the last 50 years and the neck has minimal forward relief. All said and done, it's up to you to either fix it up, or play it as is. With a Harptone hard case, this as-is banjo is $650. On Hold. Photos

1891 W.A. Cole Style A. A simple banjo from Tremont Street's most famous banjo company. The neck is mahogany with a 26-5/8" scale ebonized hardwood fretboard with about .020" of relief. The rim is 11-5/16" in diameter. The construction is spun-over on the bottom with the head resting directly on the wood. Fitted with decently working celluloid friction tuners, a modern No-Knot Tailpiece, a not original Vega style neck tensioner, and Labella 17 strings. The instrument is a decent player, but to bring it to perfection that would require some work. We are selling it As Is to let you decide how much work to do to it. With a cardboard case, this as-is banjo is $700 Photos

1910's Gretsch. Maple neck with an ebonized hardwood fretboard (in good condition) with a 25-3/4" scale. 10-7/8" spunover rim with a decent calf skin head. Set up with ebony violin pegs and Nylgut strings. The distributor, Oliver Ditson, installed their celluloid badge on the dowelstick. Quite playable, but sold as-is. $350. 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 $9 per order for Priority Mail shipping in the continental US no matter what the order size. Micro orders weighing less than 12 ounces and valued less than $50 are usually shipped via first class mail for $6. 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.

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 .