1920s Harmony-made 8" Resonator Banjo Uke

This is a customer's petite treat and I'm pretty certain it was made by Harmony (though it's unbranded) in the mid-to-late 1920s. It has a rarer set of features that a vaudevillian, vintage-cheese uke fanatic might crave -- a larger 8" rim, full-size resonator, and longer 14" soprano scale. It came minus a head, tonering, bridge, and nut. It also came with an old, not-matched-up repair to the heel.

Work included installing a new Remo Renaissance synthetic head (something you can only really do on 8" rims as uke-size synthetic heads are not standard-issue), recutting the heel cutout shape to fit it, a fret level/dress, new bone nut, new ebony/maple bridge, tonering replacement, general cleaning, tuning peg swap-out, and a good setup with fluorocarbon strings. It plays perfectly with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and has a loud, poppy, direct voice that will easily soar over an average acoustic jam.

This is the first time I've had the pleasure of using a Renaissance head on a jo-uke and I'm very pleased with it.

While the neck is mahogany, the fretboard is "ebonized" maple and is bound with black celluloid at its edges. This is typical of nicer-grade Harmony ukes from the '20s. I added the side dots, though the pearl face dots were there to begin-with.

The celluloid "mother of toilet seat" veneer is pretty hip.

Due to the translucent nature of the head, you can see the "tonering" I've installed to replace a missing original. What you can't quite see is that it's actually a parts-bin electric bass low E string that I've trimmed to fit!

Because of the flexible nature, it was a lot faster to fit nicely to the rim than bending brass hoops and -- guess what? -- it sounds great. I was totally surprised that it'd work. I used it on a lark and left it on after hearing it.

The new bridge is a 5/8" one that I've sanded-down to about 9/16" via shaving the feet -- which gives it a more-vintage look, too.

While the neck and rim veneer look like mahogany, the back of the resonator sure looks a bit like walnut veneer. I love the extra "pinstriping" inlay.

The original bakelite pegs that came with the uke were identical to these, but this set from my parts-bin is in much-better shape. I stowed my customer's original set in the case for the uke to use as spare parts if any of these should wear-out.

In this picture you can see the old repair to the cracked heel. I wasn't satisfied with leaving it as-is so I countersunk a screw in the heel to give it a bit more insurance. You can't see that, however, as it's under the resonator.

All the hardware is heavy-duty and rugged and it's also all-original.

One thing that I like about these simple tailpieces is that you can stuff some muting-foam under the cover to silence the string-afterlength behind the bridge -- as I've done on this fella.


Andy said…
The banjo uke came from a friend of mine who lives in Seattle. It was his uncle's. It laid around my house for a number of years until Rik and Marianne did my wife a huge favor by rebinding her gramma's old prayer book. The kind of job you did on this banjer, they did on the prayer book. I am totally happy about all of it.