4/23/2018

1920s Epiphone-made Bruno Commander De Luxe Resonator Tenor banjo




This gold-plated honey just walked right into the shop. I bought it on the spot because -- where else are you going to find another one? Epiphone instruments from the '20s and '30s are pretty rare compared to other makes and despite the off-brand mark at the headstock (this was sold by the retailer Bruno), this is a fantastic old tenor. It's all original save the head and bridge, has an archtop tonering, standard 11" rim diameter, long scale, fancy pearl inlay, original geared tuners, and gold plating on all the hardware that's aged just so to give it that "old brass instrument" look.

Work included reheading it, a fret level/dress, mild cleaning, side dots install, and a good setup. The neck is straight and it plays like a champ. It also sounds the business, too. It's brutally loud and forward and shares the same clean, focused, Lange-like tone that fits so well for ensemble work while not being harsh.

Specs are: 23" scale, 1 1/8" nut width, 13/16" string spacing at the nut, 1 11/32" spacing at the bridge, 11" rim, 13 1/2" resonator, and 3" depth overall. Action is spot-on 1/16" at the 12th fret and strings are 30w, 20w, 13, 9 for CGDA tuning.


The new Remo Renaissance Elite head has one little scratch on it near the tailpiece but is otherwise brand-new.


How about that celluloid headstock veneer? I adore it! It's also insanely-multi-ply with 4 layers of contrasting colors before it hits the wood of the headstock itself. The edges of the veneer are raised off of the wood of the headstock just a hair on the "points" of the headstock sides, but it's going nowhere.


The neck is two-piece mahogany with a rosewood fretboard. It has a flat board and a medium-depth, soft-V profile. The original, small frets are in good order and have plenty of life to give.




The gold plating that was over the tailpiece's nickel is almost all worn-off.

The bridge is a good, 5/8" tall, Grover 2-foot type.





While this bit is a decal, the checker bit is actual inlay. Still pretty hip, huh?




The two-piece mahogany neck has a center strip of green/red/green striping and also a green/red/green veneer below the fretboard binding.





Fancy stuff! The archtop ring has both an "inner" tonering and an outer "band" tonering.





I love that period Epiphones use Gibson-style coordinator rod designs. It's so, so, so practical and makes setup a breeze.

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