1930s U-King Type Banjo Ukulele





These unknown-maker (maybe Richter?), "U-king-tailpiece" banjo-ukes always give me deja vu because I've worked on so many of them, now. This one's in decent shape, overall, but a bit grungy. It's a customer's instrument and received a fret level/dress, a new "neck bolt," a replacement bridge, much cleaning, and a good setup. It's playing just as it should and, remarkably, once these are setup correctly, they have pretty warm tone and lots of volume -- albeit with a lot of extra overtones that tend to need some damping to get them calmed-down.


A lot of these ukes have a 14" scale, but this one has a more-regular 13" soprano scale and that places the bridge in a "friendlier" place for warmer/fuller tone.



Luckily, the frets were fairly level so they only needed a light level/dress to get them in order.


The Grover Non-Tip bridge is period but not original to it. It's a 5/8" bridge which is interesting -- most banjo-ukes that don't have shimmed-up neck joints tend to favor 1/2" or lower bridges.



The rim and "flange" are all one piece and plated in nickel-silver.


A replacement set-screw was all that was needed to get the original friction pegs working smoothly.



Everything except the bridge and strings is original to the instrument.



The tailpiece on these runs over the "hump" of the riveted section of the tension hoop, so often the two middle strings need to be knotted-up and string up through the top holes as they won't fit into the space under the tailpiece because of the hump/bump.


Here's my new "neck bolt" -- these ukes never had a neck brace and as a result the joint was often "spongy" and moved around a lot (see how much extra space is around the dowel hole?) -- so I do this to every one of them. It's hidden under the lip of the rim, anyway.

Comments

Debbie Quick said…
Mr. Wildwood...
I've finally found an instrument that verifies what I have in my possession! I have a U-King Banjo Ukulele that is just like the one you repaired, but the wood on mine is not so scratched up...I'm thinking it was in storage or not used very much...everything is pretty much identical except mine has different tuning knobs and the bridge has been replaced by a specialist friend of ours...can you possibly tell me if you have a good way to appraise these instruments? Our friend told us ours could be worth as much as $800.00...
Thanks in advance for any answers,
Debbie Quick
Florence, Az 85132
Jake Wildwood said…
Hi Debbie,

I would sell one of this in clean shape, totally fixed and playing perfectly, for no more than $200 as of Mar 19 2019.

ATB,

Jake
Debbie Quick said…
Thanks, Mr. Wildwood! I appreciate your reply!!
Debbie Quick
Unknown said…
Which strings were used, originally?
Jake Wildwood said…
Gut was used on '20s instruments, nylon was not widely available until the '50s.
B Mac said…
Hi, Jake. My wife has a U-King "Banjo-Uke" that belonged to her grandmother, so it probably dates from somewhere in the mid 1920's. It looks very similar to the one in your pictures except that there is a solid metal pan with about a 1" lip attached to the back of the body. I am certainly not knowledgeable about this kind of instrument, but other than needing new strings and a new bridge it looks to be in pretty good shape for its age. Can you point me to somewhere we can get more information about the history of these instruments and where we might get it repaired? Thanks much. Bruce MacIntyre 2bmacintyre@centurytel.net