6/03/2018

1920s Oscar Schmidt-made Sovereign Banjo Uke/Melody Banjo Conversion




A melody banjo and an Oscar Schmidt-made one at that! These are quite rare and are also known as the "real" banjolins as banjolin officially refers to the 4-string variety of the banjo-mandolin. In this case, however, it's no longer steel-strung in fifths and I've converted it per my customer's request to a 4-string banjo ukulele. In this mode it's quite a bit mellower, more folksy and old-timey, and (to be honest) more fun. I like a good 8-string banjo mandolin when it's been gone-over and setup correctly (it has that "horse clop" tone that nothing else gets), but every time I've tried a 4-string variety in standard tuning, I think to myself -- maybe I should get a tenor banjo and capo up!

While we thought about maybe installing a synthetic head, this guy has its original Joseph Rogers skin head and a small 9 7/8" rim diameter which means that synthetic heads are off the table unless we want to wait an eon to get a custom one made by Remo. Work thus included a fret level/dress, stabilization of the neck/rim joint and shimming-up the too-big opening for the dowel, side dots install, new 5/8" bridge fitting, and general setup TLC. She's playing on-the-dot and has a good, open, funky, old-timey sound.

Specs are: 13 3/4" scale, 1 1/4" nut width, 15/16" string spacing at the nut, 1 3/8" spacing at the bridge, 9 7/8" diameter rim, and 2 3/8" side depth. Action is spot-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret and the neck has a medium, C/V hybrid shape.

The rim is poplar or maple and very thin with an approximation of a Vega "Little Wonder" tonering. All the heavy-duty hardware is original, too, except for the new bridge. It had a period bridge but that was mucked-up a bit and had a shrill, pingy tone to it. This instrument will be getting some Gotoh UPTs installed at the headstock before shipping back to its owner, too, though I figured shots with the original Champion pegs would be nice.



Cute headstock! The neck is 3-piece maple with a rosewood(?) headstock veneer, bone nut, and ebonized-maple bound fretboard.


I like that pearl inlay. Stars are hard to resist.









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