1890s Waldo Presentation-Grade 5-String Banjo

Yeah, this one is amazing. Not only is the Waldo brand a rare sight (I mostly see them on bowlback mandolins with f-holes from the 1900s), this guy is engraved, inlaid, and gold-n-nickel-plated like it's meant to grace a Duke's palace. She's a beaut! And those materials? It has a Brazilian rosewood neck with an ebony fretboard and a double-spun rim.

It's also miraculously original with the only new fittings being an older replacement skin head, the bridge, the frets, and 4:1 geared tuners which were fitted with the buttons from the banjo's original friction pegs.

Tone-wise, with its skin head it has a pretty typical sweet, warm, tubby old-time tone. I'll bet it would brighten-up a lot and gain some good volume with a slightly thinner skin or a synthetic head, though. This came in with something like steel 11s but I've lightened it up to gut-strung tension via a set of steel with gauges 8, 18w, 13, 10, 8. I was going to use Nylgut on it but the Waverly-style 5th peg is a decisive string-cutter.

Work included a fret level/dress to tidy-up an old refret job that wasn't the best, general cleaning, teardown/put-back-together to insure that the neck was nice and firm to the pot and at a good angle, and a good setup.

Specs are: 27" scale, 1 7/32" nut width, 1" string spacing at the nut, 1 5/8" spacing at the bridge, 11" rim, 2 1/4" side depth, and a medium C profile to the back of the neck. The board is flat and this has 1/16" action at the 12th fret dialed-in. The neck has only just the tiniest relief and I've compensated the straight bridge to stay in-tune up the neck a bit better.

Look at that silver edging! I'm in love.

The neck is simply gorgeous.

Under the gold-plated fitting at the heel is a neck brace gizmo of two wedges -- one of which is on a bolt and moves up and down as you turn the bolt. In this manner, it tightens-up against the other wedge and secures the neck. It's smart as heck and I wish I'd had the forethought to take a picture while I was working on this.

Not only is the outside of the rim engraved, but the inside is as well.

The diamond-shaped shoes are almost too much!

This also has the rare, early version of the No-Knot tailpiece.


Tony Klassen said…
Amazing craftsmanship!
Tony Klassen said…
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