1910s Oscar Schmidt Banjo Mandolin

A local country radio DJ and presenter bought this banjo-mandolin for a very good price -- and good thing, too! These Oscar Schmidt-made jo-mandos (often branded Sovereign or La Scala in this more dessed-up form) can be basket cases as they age and this one certainly is. Its rim is a bit warped and funky, the dowel was totally loose when it arrived, and the neck angle was wildly off-mark. The guts were good, though -- meaning at least I could get a head on it and the neck was straight with good frets.

My work on this included a fret level/dress, regluing the dowel, changing the neck-attachment brace to a simple bolt-style (because the on-dowel neck braces just don't provide enough leverage for the tension), a new head, a new (modified old) bridge, and a setup with extra-light 32w-9 strings. It plays like a champ, now, and with the proper damping in place on the head and string-ends, has that nice, clop-clop, sproingy banjo-mandolin sound that's not the usual "rocks in a tin can" vibe that these instruments can be infamous for.

Part of the reason it sounds nice, though, is that unlike a lot of the thinner-rimmed Oscar Schmidt products, this one has a multi-ply, thicker rim and a Little Wonder-style, hoop-in-sleeve tonering. While I'm describing this as a teens-era instrument, this style was built into the '20s, too.

Specs are: 13 3/4" scale, 1 3/16" nut width, 1" string spacing at the nut, 1 5/16" spacing at the bridge, 10" rim, and 2 1/2" depth.

I managed to steel-wool-off the Remo logo on this Renaissance head, so it actually looks a little less glaring with all of the old bungles in this instrument's past.

The headstock veneer is rosewood, though the fretboard itself is ebonized maple. The nut's bone, though.

The compensated bridge is one I modified from a thicker old '20s banjo bridge. It was just the right size and heft to use for this and I was glad I had it on hand.

The rim and neck appear to be maple. 

This originally had a "rim cap" on the bottom of the rim, but it was so broken-up and falling-off that I just remove the remnants, lightly sanded the surface, and applied a sealer coat instead. It would've been annoying to have the little bits that were left snagging one's shirt all the time.

Amazingly, all of the original hardware on the rim was extant except for one hook/nut which I replaced with a same-period one from my parts-bins. The tailpiece cover is, as usual, missing.