1920s Modified Oscar Schmidt-made Stella Banjo Uke

It's February of 2018, now, and I've fully updated this blog post.

I originally worked on this little banjo uke in 2014 and it's lived a happy life with a different owner for the last four years. It came back to me recently and it was in just as good spec as when it left, though I did need to nudge the setup a little and add side dots. I also cut an old '20s pie tin to serve as a resonator and that's just icing on the cake for this particular instrument. It sounded great before, but the resonator addition makes it just a little more "Formby" in tone and projection.

So, in 2014 the work I did included a fret level/dress, installation of an archtop-style tonering and brackets to support it in the rim, a re-head with translucent, thicker skin, and general setup, cleaning, and whatnot. The original friction tuners got some extra washers so they work nicely and it's strung with a set of fluorocarbon strings that sit on a good-quality, Grover 2-foot bridge. The neck is straight and it plays with spot-on 1/16" action at the 12th fret.

The nut is 1 1/4" in width and the neck has a C-shaped profile to its rear. One of the things I like best about Oscar Schmidt banjo-ukes in general is that the necks feel like an old uke rather than a banjo or mandolin, so the chord spacing is more familiar. Most banjo-ukes from the time have narrower nut widths. The rim is ~7" diameter which is pretty normal for the time.

Like most Oscar Schmidt banjo ukes, the instrument is a little funky and that's part of the joy. They're lightweight and fun to play. The tonering addition really makes a difference with this instrument as these usually sound pretty warm and mellow with middling volume. While not as loud as a bigger-rimmed, heavy-tonering resonator instrument, this definitely now has some cut and punch to wade into a jam with.

Here's the back of the rim with the resonator removed so you can see the alterations. The "tonering" is actually a tension hoop from a savaged old "inline-rim" California-style banjo uke that I parted-out. Brackets that jut-up from the shoes support it. The hooks and nuts on the rim are all original, though.

The unsightly green duct tape is just padding for the little screws I added to the bottom of the rim to keep the resonator off the rim at the right distance.

I forgot to mention that the bone nut is a replacement from my 2014 work.

While there are no face dots, I did add side dots.

Here's that tin! It attaches with just one screw into the dowel. It's easy to put on and easy to take off.

When I mounted the skin, it stretched a bit more than I expected as it dried and so the tension hoop is snugged a little farther down than normal just at the neck. It makes absolutely no difference to playability, but I like to mention any details I can think of.


Anonymous said…
This is one cool instrument! I can't stop playing it.