1930s Harmony-made Kleartone 5-String Resonator Banjo

This is a customer's instrument and when it came in I was on the fence about whether it was a Harmony or a Kay build. The headstock and resonator flange reminded me of Harmony products but the long 27" scale length was speaking "Kay" to me. Well... after double-checking the features, yep, it's a Harmony. The flange is a dead giveaway.

It's a plain-Jane sort of instrument but it's well-built for all that. The neck is maple cut on the quarter and the rim is multi-ply maple and still nicely "in round." Tone is bright and poppy with the sort of excess sustain that one would expect of a simple hoop-tonering build (I dampened it with a bit of foam under the head right away to get rid of overtone ring). It now plays beautifully and fast with a set of 9s on it (I'd never use anything higher with a skinny neck like this).

Work included regluing some of the fretboard, a fret level/dress, new bridge, new tailpiece, two railroad spikes (not seen in the pics but there now), and a good full teardown/setup.

I'd initially thought the neck was warped a bunch and would need a plane and refret but after getting the strings off I found that much of the problem was due to the first 4 frets-length of the fretboard being unglued. I popped that back down and found that I could get away with a good fret level/dress job instead.

The newer bone nut was installed by the customer a while back.

The fretboard is dyed pearwood with pearl dots inlaid.

The Remo-style head is, of course, non-original. This is a standard 11" rim size.

The bridge is one of those nice old German-made all-maple affairs. I've been using them a lot on banjo ukes and tenor banjos but the string spacing is so narrow on this banjo that it was perfect for this guy.

The decal and birdseye veneer on the back of the resonator add a bit of bling...

...though I can't say I have much patience anymore for friction-style tuners and steel strings.

This came with an adjustable, old, Waverly-style tailpiece that was period but unoriginal. Because it was set for 4 strings it wasn't the ideal candidate for the banjo -- hence the new No-Knot tail.


Anonymous said…
Triforce flange!
Jake Wildwood said…
Totally, hee hee...