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 8-1-2022

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Just In;


2000 (?) Flesher Boucher copy fretless. Details soon. $2,000 Photos
1917 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone NO 3, Gryphon peghead inlay. Details soon; $3,000 Photos
1921 Vega Style S Tubaphone Mandolin Banjo. Needs neck reset to play well. As Is; Photos $700
1921 Vega Style L Whyte Laydie Mandolin Banjo. Needs neck reset to play well. As Is; Photos $800
1898 S.S. Stewart "Lady Stewart" Sweet small 5-string. Details below. Photos Sorry, Sold $1,350
1925 Gibson PB-4 Ball Bearing Mastertone with Conversion 5-string Neck. Details Below. Photos $4,500
1999 Ome Renassance Bluegrass Banjo. Gold Plated & Engraved. Amazing instrument! Details soon. Photos $7,500



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 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.

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; $1,475 fretted, $1,375 fretless. All our Enoch Tradesman Banjos are made with the optional fretboard scoop.

Enoch Tradesman banjos are in short supply. Currently we have none in stock. Click here for details regarding the Enoch Tradesman banjos we have on order.

1903 A.C. Fairbanks Regent, Consalvi Engraved. I do not think I have ever had a 119-year-old banjo in the original clean condition that this instrument is. The only indication that this banjo was played is the slight fret indentations where the original owner of the banjo practiced the C chord for 2 months before putting the instrument in the closet or under the bed. The neck is maple with a 26-1/4" scale ebonized hardwood fretboard with appropriate inlays engraved by the master hand of Icilio Consalvi. The peghead overlay is also ebonized hardwood and features the often caricatured, but never equaled Consalvi Gryphon. The 10-3/4" maple rim has the appropriate outer spinover of nickel silver and all the original metal hardware. The only replacement parts that we can tell are the Labella 17 strings, new bridge, and new calfskin head. Do note that the ebonized hardwood does have shrinkage cracks, but we feel the originality of this instrument outweighs any repair that could be done. The banjo is a joy to play for classic, old time, or even surf! Price is $3,500 and includes a modern, protective hard case. Photos

1917 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone NO 3. It's Gryphon migration time again at Smakula Fretted Instruments. This great sounding example of Vega's fine work is one of several banjos with the iconic Gryphon peghead inlay that we will be offering in this coming month. This particular instrument conforms to the standard Tubaphone NO 3 catalog description. A mahogany neck with a 27" scale length bound fretboard. The peghead is ebonized hardwood and has some glued cracks. There are some filled holes in the back of the peghead, from previously installed geared tuners I suspect. The peghead finish has also been overcoated. The heel is carved with the NO 3 acanthus leaf design popularly known as the "T-carving". The 10-15/16" rim has the requisite 28 brackets, a Tubaphone tonering, and a Cook's Sure-Grip tailpiece. There are some filled holes on the dowelstick and 2 areas of refinish on the inside of the rim. I suspect those touch-ups had something to do with a resonator, but we'll never know. The string height is comfortable at 3/32" with a 9/16" bridge. The original friction tuners are a little fussy with the steel strings we have installed, but leave the choice of upgrading to ABM tuners to the owner of the migratory sanctuary where this gryphon lands. Price is $3,000 and includes a TKL hard case. Photos

1976 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 1027, this banjo was made in the middle of the Martin-Vega production. The bound rosewood fretboard has a 26-1/2" scale and a 1-1/8" nut width. The 24-bracket rim has an 10-15/16" Tubaphone tonering and is fitted with a frosted top Remo head. The parts appear all original with the exception of the previously mentioned head and a No-Knot tailpiece. There are 3 small filled holes on the side of the neck where there was once a 5th string capo. Tone is full and precise. A great sounding and playing banjo from the midpoint of the 10 year Pennsylvania Vega era. $1,200 with original 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 and assembled in Needham, MA then sent to Nazareth, Pennsylvania for distribution. 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, strings, and new Remo frosted head, all parts are original and in excelent condition. 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 highs. When I play this instrument I always gravitate to Frank Proffitt's "Pretty Crowing Chicken". Sent straight to your door for $2,500 plus shipping. Photos

1974 Alvarez Silver Princess with Tubaphone Tonering. The early and mid 1970's were a time of enlightenment as far as stringed musical instruments were concerned. Most of the new products ranged from "not quite right" to total junk. With most roots musicians gravitating towards older vintage instruments, some manufacturers noticed and started their own lines of vintage copies. Saint Louis Music, the parent company of Alvarez, came up with having a Japanese manufacturer produce a copy of the famed Vega Tubaphone. Though this banjo has a lot of the features, like a Tubaphone copy tonering, two point shoes, ball end hex nuts, there was enough about the instrument that just didn't catch on as well as marketing predicted. SLM even had resonators made to be retro fitted to the Silver Princess banjos that were languishing in the warehouse, making it sort of a budget Vega Earl Scruggs model instrument. The neck is mahogany with a 27" scale rosewood fretboard with large slotted diamond mother-of-pearl position markers. The 11" maple rim has chrome plated hardware with the Tubaphone tonering and shoes attached to a bracket band . I believe all t parts are original, with the exception of the No-Knot tailpiece. The spa treatment this instrument received here at SFI was a refret on the slightly radiused fretboard, cleaning, and fitting the neck correctly to the rim. It plays great and has a remarkable clear, precise Tubaphone sound that you can use for old time, or bluegrass. Price is $850 and includes what looks like an original case. 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

1923 Bacon Internal Resonator rim with Bob Anderson Chubby Dragon conversion neck. Though Bob Anderson has been a friend of Smakula Fretted Instruments for 20+ years, I found it fun to do a little research on his back story. Reading the latest American Lutherie magazine reminded me of his history attending Kent State University and having noted visual artist and banjo builder Doug Unger as a professor. Delving a little deeper in the web I found that Bob Anderson had a Las Vegas career impersonating celebrities. And then my bubble was burst. Hard to believe that there is more than one Bob Anderson out there. I am confident that the professional singer does not know a chubby dragon from a brown derby. This conversion banjo started out in 1921 as a Bacon FF Professional internal resonator tenor banjo. The busines end has an 11" diameter blond finished maple rim with 24 brackets, a vintage calf skin head, and a modern No-Knot tailpiece. The Anderson crafted neck is birdseye maple with a 24" scale ebony fretboard filled with the appropriate Consalvi style engraved inlay, capped with the legendary chubby dragon on the peghead. The tuners are modern bone fiddle peg style, very well fit so tuning the Nylgut strings is not fussy. The nut width is a generous 1-5/16" and the neck has a V shape. The price is $3,800 and a Harptone hard case is included. Photos

1898 S.S. Stewart Lady Stewart. Sometimes banjos that are more than 120 years old have been beat ip, stores improperly and loaded with creative repairs and improvements. Then there are banjos like this particular S.S. Stewart that were cared for properly and still have many more years in their life span. We might have Abbie Gilbert to thank for the caretaking of this sweet instrument, as her name is engraved on a silver plaque attached to the back of the peghead. Like most S.S. Stewart banjos, the neck is cherry with ebony peghead and fretboard. Being a scaled down banjo, the string length is 22-1/2". The fretboard has an unusual feature for a Stewart banjo; an inlaid position marker on the 12th fret. The spun-over rim has a diameter of 9-1/8", has all the original brackets and a calf skin head. The original Common Sense style tailpiece is present. The banjo is set up with Labella 17 nylon strings which work well with the original Grover Champion tuners. For a small instrument the banjo has a warm voice with a quality bassy sounding C string. The cost for Abbie Gilbert's treasured banjo is $1,350 and includes a Superior C-267-T gig bag. Sorry, Sold. Photos

1900 Stratton & Handley by W.A. Cole Banjeaurine. A handsome instrument made by the famed W.A. Cole banjo company for noted banjo teacher William Stratton to sell to his students. The neck and peghead overlay feature attractive engraved mother-of-pearl inlay, with the neck being made of mahogany and a 21-5/8" scale ebony fretboard. The peghead overlay is the ebonized hardwood that was popular at the time. The 11-1/8" maple rim is painted black on the inside and is spun over with nickel silver. All the metal hardware appears original, including the patent pending Cook Sure-Grip cammed tailpiece (formerly known for the last 50 years as a cammed No-Knot). Like nearly every banjo that is 120 + years old, this one has a new head, bridge and strings (LaBella 17). This banjo is easy to play and has good projection that will not get lost is a session whether you are playing it clawhammer style, or classic. Price is $1,600 and includes a vintage hard tenor banjo case that it fits in nicely.

1896 S.S. Stewart Thoroughbred. Though now a coffee shop, the address of 221 and 223 Church Street was once the hub of Philadelphia's banjo making activity. Instead of asking for, and receiving in minutes, a soy mocha latté, In 1896 you could have ordered a Universal Favorite, A solo Banjeaurine, or Alfred A. Farland's endorsement model, The Special Thoroughbred, in a month or so. Like most Stewart banjos, this particular Thoroughbred has a cherry wood neck. Farland's particular taste for the decoration has the peghead overlay decorated with 32 pieces of pale abalone, a nicely carved heel, and a 26-3/8" ebony fretboard with just enough on-end squares to let you know where you are when playing up the neck. The 10-1/2" diameter rim has a full German silver spin-over on the exterior. The inside of the rim is natural birdseye maple and has the original Thoroughbred paper label as well as the grained ivoroid badge engraved with Special Thoroughbred . The Joseph Rogers head and the Gattcomb style tailpiece are likely not original, but welcome alterations. The 6B Nylgut strings work well with the original screw tension tuners. Recent repairs done here at SFI include a neck reset to cure the loose dowelstick, and a refret. It is now a great banjo to play classic, old time, or any other 5-string banjo style you can come up with while sipping your pour-over. Price is $1,700 and the price includes a sturdy gigbag. Sorry, Sold. Photos

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 or 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

1974 Gibson RB-250 Mastertone 5-String Banjo. Left-Handed. Here is a 47 year old Gibson banjo that (mostly) conforms to the catalog description of the day, Well, that is if the catalog had a page for left handed instruments. The mahogany neck has a 26-1/4" ebony fretboard. The 11" cross-ply rim is outfitted with a flat head Mastertone tonering and a 2 piece flange. The original spring-loaded clam shell tailpiece has the Gibson stamp. Of course, like any vintage instrument that comes through the shop, this banjo did need the spa treatment. We started with replacing the frets. After the frets were removed, we realized the original inlay was exceptionally thin and several fretboard inlays were cracked, so we replaced all but the Mastertone block with perfect reproductions, albeit a little thicker. Though the original fifth tuner was a Grover Permatension friction tuner, we decided to make your life easier with the addition of a Waverly planetary geared 5th. And last, we reset the neck so the center line of the neck aligned with the centerline of the tailpiece. When all was said and done, we put it in the hands of our favorite left-handed banjo player for a test drive and got the thumbs up. $2,100 is the price for this great playing and sounding lefty banjo. That price includes the original hard case, the original Gibson "care of the instrument" booklet, an "in case of shipping damage" instruction page, 4 sheets of instruction material from the Frederick Music Center of Frederick, Maryland, and a vintage banjo strap. Photos

Bacon B&D Silverbell plectrum, #17409, converted to 5-string. Most people that are fond of the Bacon and Day branded banjos are 4-string tenor and plectrum banjo players. They don't realize that the founder of the Bacon Banjo Company was a world class artist on the 5-string banjo. Find his version of the Felix Arndt classic Nola and you will understand his fame and expertise. This particular B&D Silverbell Number One started its life as a 4-string plectrum banjo. The conversion neck, by noted banjo artisan Renee Karnes, has all the correct historical features along with modern practicality and workmanship. The curly maple neck has a 26-1/4" scale ebony fretboard with appropriate reproduction inlays. The tuners in the peghead are 5-Star brand and the 5th is a Schaller. The 11" maple rim has the all-important Silver Bell tonering and the knee mute. The resonator has the popular F-hole flange. Though not an original Oettenger 5-string tailpiece, the German made ABM Tensionator tailpiece does the same job very well. With steel strings (Fred would have used gut) the banjo has a full even precise sound similar to a flat head Gibson Mastertone, but with less weight. This versatile instrument can accommodate Bluegrass, Classic, and many old-time styles. Give it a shot and see if you can play as many notes in one tune as Mr. Fred Bacon. $2,600 and includes a TKL hard case and the original plectrum neck. Pictures coming soon.

1920's Harmony Resonator Banjo with Bob Rock conversion 5-string neck. Tenor banjos, from 1912 to about 1930, had a huge wave of popularity. And then the guitar craze hit and has not stopped. With the hundreds of thousands 4-string banjos manufactured in that time period most are ignored, but some are converted to 5-string instruments with the addition of a new neck. Bob Rock, of Bedford County, PA made many original instruments, as well as plenty of conversions. This conversion neck is made of mahogany with an ebony fretboard that has a 26-1/4" scale. The inlays are all abalone shell of mostly abstract shapes, but there is an anvil on the 7th fret paying homage to Mr. Rock's blacksmith skills. The neck is outfitted with 5-Star planet tuners on the peghead and a geared 5th. The rim is maple with metal hoop resting on the inside of the rim making the tone chamber an archtop, giving the banjo a bright snappy Ralph Stanley type tone. It's a lot of banjo for only $650 and a hard case is included! 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

1923 Vega Whyte Laydie NO 2 rim. 10-15/16" diameter. This one came to us with an original, non-restorable 4-string plectrum neck. A new reproduction pot of similar construction will cost about $650. Why not spend a little more and get the real thing? $800. Photos

1900 Luscomb Rim. An odd looking 10-1/2" diameter spun over pot with metal tonering. Upgraded in the 1920's with a home made incandescent light system to dry the original calf skin head in humid weather. All original headware with the exception of the new flat hooks with Bacon style nuts. $175. Photos

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

 

FOUR STRING & MANDOLIN BANJOS

1928 Paramount Style B 19 Fret Tenor Banjo. "Piano Volume and Harp Tone Quality" says the advertising copy of every vintage Paramount catalog I have put my hands on. I would not say that Paramount banjos have the tone of a harp, but no doubt they have piano volume. This style B, 19 fret tenor banjo conforms to the catalog description that includes American black walnut neck and resonator, a rosewood 22-7/8" scale fretboard with attractive mother-of -pearl inlay, a 11-1/8" diameter rim with the Paramount archtop tonering, and the unique cam tensioning "Flip" tailpiece. While here at the banjo spa we performed a refret, glued a few loose spots on the resonator, performed a thorough cleaning, and installed an inside frosted Remo head. We have set up the banjo for traditional Irish tuning (GDAE) but can easily accommodate jazz tuning (CGDA) on request. Definitely the best sounding tenor banjo in the shop. The banjo is in very good condition with, other than the mentioned maintenance, all original parts. Price is $1,100 and includes the solid 94 year old original case. Photos

1921 Vega Little Wonder 17 Fret Tenor Banjo. When this banjo was manufactured, 4-string tenor banjos had been around for about 10 years and by 1921 when this banjo left the Vega factory on Columbus Ave in Boston, Massachusetts it was being embraced in several popular music styles including Jazz dance bands and Irish traditional music. The maple neck has a 21" scale ebony fretboard with only minimalist mother-of- pearl dots as position markers. The 11-13/16" rim is a little bigger than the norm, but adds a fullness and growl to the tone. Repairs and modifications we did here in our shop include; new Gotoh planetary geared tuners, new fretboard binding, new frets, a new Remo Renaissance head, and new hooks and nuts to replace the mismatched and rusty parts that came through the door. We set up this instrument with the G tuning that grabbed the attention of traditional Irish musicians starting in the 1960's (though the 1920's recordings of Irish tenor banjo music you can hear the musicians used the Jazz C tuning). It is comfortable to play and has a big voice that will carry in any Irish pub session. Price is $800 and includes a period hard case. Photos

1923 Vega Regent Plectrum. 1923, by one estimate, was Vega's most prolific year. If the respected historian is correct, about 11,000 banjos were produced at the Columbus Avenue factory in Boston that year. Most were tenor banjos, some mandolin banjos, fewer were 5-string "regular banjos", and the smallest production was the 4-string instrument known as a plectrum. With the same length neck as a 5-string, the plectrum banjo is played with a pick to provide rhythm and chord melodies for popular dance bands of the day. This Vega Regent plectrum has a maple neck with a 27-1/8" scale fretboard. Simple mother of pearl dot inlays with a star at the 5th fret give you a good road map of where you are as you play up the neck. The 10-15/16", 6-ply maple rim is fitted with a spun-over tone hoop known to most as the "Little Wonder" tonering. 28 brackets with closed ball end nuts and somewhat rusty hooks tighten the inside frosted Remo head. String height is a very comfortable 1/16" at the 12th fret with a 5/8" tall bridge. We did upgrade this banjo by replacing the original tuners with Gotoh planetary geared tuners. Price is $850 and includes a vintage, period appropriate hard case. Photos

1925 Bacon Style C Tenor Banjo. Irish Tuning. Fred Bacon was a master classic style 5-string banjoist. I recently listened to an original 78 rpm recording of his rendition of Nola and was blown away by his artistry. 1905 was the first year that banjos built by the Vega company were offered with the Bacon trademark. By the time this banjo was built Fred Bacon was well settled in his Groton Connecticut factory producing a full line of banjos from the rare Ne Plus Ultra Silver Bell banjos down to the introductory Style C. The mahogany neck has the original 22" scale ebonized maple fretboard. The inlays on the neck include mother oof pearl position dots and a celluloid script Bacon on the peghead. The 11" maple rim has mahogany veneers on the inside and outside to match the neck. There is no tonering on this model, so the head rests directly on the wood. No major modifications were done to this banjo, but a few minor parts changes like new Gotoh planet tuners, a Remo Renaissance head, and a modern No-Knot tailpiece have updated this banjo to modern standards. Price is $600 and a Superior II gigbag is included. 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 original 2 on a plate 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, with a nice hard case. Photos

1920's Weyman 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 its freshness through the decades just as he has. The 10-1/2" rim and neck are both natural finished, blond 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". With the light gauge strings it plays like a dream and with the Hennig compensated bridge, it plays in tune. Though you didn't ask, yes, it's loud, but it is a banjo mandolin so you knew that. $500 with original hardshell case. Photos

1920s Washburn Banjo-Mandolin. Yes, it's loud. But there is a surprising warmth and nuance to this banjo mandolin that is rare in any eight stringed, banjo head equipped instrument. The 10 3/4" maple rim has a donut style tonering, which would be responsible for any trace of tonal subtlety this instrument has. The well-worn neck has a 13 1/16" scale fingerboard and a 1 3/16" nut width. This would probably make a really nice five-string conversion with some help from your favorite neck craftsman, but if you want your neighbors to "enjoy" your version of "Daybreak in Dixie" too, its perfect as it is. $600 with original hardshell case. Sorry, Sold. Photos

1921 Vega Style S Tubaphone Mandolin Banjo. A very good condition instrument that to play as intended, the neck needs to be reset. As these instruments are popular for conversion to 5-string, we will leave the neck reset decision to the final buyer. The neck is birdseye maple with a 13-7/8" scale ebony fretboard. The rim is a fully intact 10-1/8" Tubaphone with a calf skin head. The rim's binding is loose in two places, An easy fix for those that are handy with glue. Price is $700 and includes the original hard case in solid, yet worn, condition. 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 $800 price includes the original hard case that appears to have been coated with an epoxy of some sort. 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

 

 

BANJO UKES

1919 Fairbanks by Vega 4-string Banjo Uke. Another great sounding and playing banjo uke from the early part of the 20th century. This Style K has a mahogany neck with a 13" scale ebony fretboard. The peghead area at the 3rd string has had been reglued after a break, but is defiantly solid. The 7-1/2" maple rim has a steel tone hoop. And the banjo sounds fantastic. This banjo uke includes a recent Enoch hard case for the price of $650. 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 Unmarked banjo uke. Vintage vibe is all over this banjo ukulele. The instrument has a very work walnut brown finish. The frets are directly installed in the neck wood (no glued on fretboard) and are in a 14" scale length. The 8" rim is made of maple, has a glued on resonator, and _" port holes between the brackets for sound to come out. The metal parts include a solid brass tension hoop tensioned with 12 brackets. All the original metal hardware has worn nickel plating. New parts include Gotoh friction tuners, a Remo Renaissance head, and a new No-Knot tailpiece. Price is $200 and includes a new Enoch Instruments banjo uke gig bag. Sorry, Sold. 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. .

 

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 $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.

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 .