PO Box 882, Elkins, West Virginia 26241


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Banjos, Contact us...

Page updated 6-1-2024

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Just In;

2010 Enoch "Dobson Model". Details below. Photos
2006 Wildwood Troubador. With Tu-Ba-Phone Tonering. Details below. Photos
2005 Vega by Deering Senator. Details below, Photos
1970's(?) Werco Dixie Banjo-Uke, Details below, Photos
1920 Bacon Professional FF Internal Resonator Banjo Mandolin, as-is. Details below, Photos

2008 Gold Tone CEB-5, Cello Banjo. Details below, Photos



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.

2010 Enoch "Dobson Model". When you get to try this banjo, you will see why Kevin Enoch's Dobson model banjos are always in demand. Precision workmanship, good looks, and oh, that sound! The neck on this example is walnut with a 25-1/2" scale, dot inlaid ebony fretboard. The peghead has a delicately engraved mother of pearl star inlay. The 12" diameter maple rim has a recreation of the revered Dobson Silver Bell tonering. This tonering design was patented November 8, 1881 by esteemed banjo performer Henry Dobson. Though Mr. Dobson's design was intended for classic style playing, it turns out it also works well for clawhammer playing styles. All in all, this banjo is in very good condition. There are significant finish scratches on the back of the neck and the dowelstick, but nothing that would impede playability. With the original Enoch imprinted Levy's gigbag, this banjo is $1,900. Photos

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

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

2006 Wildwood Troubador. From 1973 to 2018 Mark Platin made more than 6,000 banjos, mostly working alone. That's a lot of heavy maple wood, sawdust and lacquer fumes! The curly maple neck has what I would consider a bluegrass shape with 26" scale ebony fretboard with abalone bird shape inlays. The 11" diameter block rim with has a Tubaphone tonering. The wood is dyed a medium brown color and finished with lacquer. Tone is Bright and precise. The SFI Shop refretted the neck and disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled the banjo. In excellent condition with the original TKL hard case. Considering the only current maker of a Tubaphone tonering charges $695 for one, the banjo is an exceptional value at $1,500. Photos

2008 Gold Tone CEB-5, Cello Banjo. Big boomy, bass tones come out of this 16-year-old banjo. The 5-string neck is made of maple with an ebony 24-3/4" scale fretboard decorated with Weyman inspired shell inlay. The 14" rim is fitted with a Remo Renaissance head and has 32 brackets. Though many tunes were played by the original owner, this banjo was never abused and is in nearly new condition. The original hard case is included with the $1,000 price. 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

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

2005 Vega by Deering Senator. A well-crafted instrument from one of the most prolific banjo makers in the US. The figured maple low profile neck has a 26-1/4" scale ebony fretboard. The 11" diameter cross ply maple rim is fitted with 24 brackets, a No-Knot tailpiece, and a Remo Fiberskyn head. String height is 1/8" at the 12th fret with a 5/8" bridge. Tone is bright and precise. The $1,200 price includes the original TKL hard case with Deering printed on the lid. 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. 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




1970's(?) Werco Dixie Banjo-Uke. Werco made many thousands of these inexpensive banjo ukuleles starting after World-War II to the mid 1980's. I remember seeing them for sale in the Grossman jobber catalog from 1975 to about 1983. The construction features an unusual die-cast metal neck that you would think would be uncomfortable, but really works OK. The wood 7" rim is wrapped with blue sparkle plastic and painted black inside. All in all, a good playing & sounding banjo uke. Price is $200 and a gigbag is included. 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.

1920 Bacon Professional FF Internal Resonator Banjo Mandolin, as-is. Most of these hybrid banjos from high quality manufacturers are eventually relieved of their original necks and converted to 5-string banjos. With this one having a decent neck angle, we decided to string it as a banjo mandolin and see how it sounds and plays. Both aspects get a thumbs up. The 3-piece mahogany neck has a 14" scale ebonized maple fretboard. With a 1-3/16" nut width and 11/16" depth, it feels small in my hands. The 10" rim has the Bacon FF tonering, the previously mentioned internal resonator construction, and is fitted with a Remo Fiberskyn head. All metal hardware is original, including the Bacon engraved tailpiece cover. The neck is set to favor the G-string side, making the G-strings closer to the edge of the fretboard than the E-string pair, but they don't fall off when played. There are a few frets that buzz and a good fret dressing will take care of that. String height is 1/32" on the E and 3/64" on the G with a 1/2" bridge. In good-very good condition, the as-is price is $550. 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

1919 Vega Style K Rim with Later Tubaphone Banjo Mandolin Neck. A hodge podge of decent parts combined to make an as-is banjo-mandolin project. The neck came from a Vega Tubaphone style S. Maple neck with an ebony fretboard. The 10-1/8" Style K rim has 22 non-original matching hooks & nuts and original shoes. The neck seems loose from the non-original dowelstick and one tuner post is missing. A fun project if you want a decent banjo-mandolin on the cheap. As is for $150.

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 .