4/02/2018

1926 Gibson Mastertone/Monteleone Conversion 5-String Resonator Banjo




This banjo is a particularly sweet-sounding, easy-playing beast. Its rim and resonator is a complete 1926 Gibson "ball bearing" archtop-tonering unit while the neck is made by none other than John Monteleone -- probably in the '70s. The rim and resonator were resprayed at the same time as the neck, so the look of the instrument is cohesive and tidy.

How's it sound? Well, it's a '26 Mastertone -- of course it sounds good! Even with the head cranked, these archtop rings have a more relaxed, saturated sound than a flathead and still have plenty of volume. The Monteleone neck is on the thin, super-champion-fast side of cuts and I have to admit that I like it a lot. Its fretboard has a more-or-less flat cut, though the edges are rolled-off at the sides. The fretting makes it play like a flat-fretboard instrument, however.

Normal Gibson-style specs apply and the conversion neck is mahogany with an ebony board. My only work on this was to set it up and compensate the bridge, though my wandering eye notes that the (original?) tailpiece has just about had it with this life. I managed to coax it into position with the tabs below its "deck" helping to bite-back on tension via the tension hoop, though I know that the "bent-over" area of the tail is just about to die.

While this banjo is a resonator instrument and thus always going to be on the heavier side, it's actually a lightweight compared to most resonator 5-strings of good quality -- something that (for me) makes it infinitely more fun to play.




The Monteleone neck remains straight, true, and truss-functional.












Here are some shots during work of the inside of the rim.


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