10/04/2018

1930s Concertone Banjo Ukulele




I've lost track of how many of these I've worked-on as they're widely distributed. This one wears the Concertone brand but it's the same instrument that I've seen more-often with the MayBell or Slingerland brands. I used to think these were made by Regal for Slingerland, but I'm not so sure anymore.

In any case, they're durable, well-built, and practical banjo-ukes. You don't have to baby them at all and if you're of the inclination, their necks are sturdy-enough to take steel strings (hint: mandolin players might like these as pint-size 4-string banjo-mandos).

My work included a fret level/dress, hidden bolt-reinforcement of the neck joint, a new bone nut, cleaning, side dots install, and a good setup with Martin fluorocarbon strings. I like to add a bit of dampening behind the head on the long-scale versions of these (this one is almost 14" vs earlier 13" versions) as the bridge location tends to make them pingy without it -- so I've done that, too. It plays spot-on with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and a healthy, ~1/2" bridge.

Specs are: 13 7/8" scale, 1 1/4" nut width, 1" string spacing at the nut, 1 5/16" spacing at the bridge, 6 7/8" head diameter, and 2 1/4" side depth. The neck has a medium, V-shaped rear and a flat fretboard. There's no tonering.

Woods are: maple neck, ply-maple rim with maple veneer. The instrument is 100% original except for the bridge -- which is a period one from my parts-bins -- and the new bone nut which replaced an ailing original wood one. The face dots are pearl.



I added 4 extra washers to the rear side of the bakelite-buttoned friction pegs to help them turn a little more smoothly. While they work fine, I personally always use Gotoh 4:1 geared pegs on my ukes -- though that's a ~$70 upgrade.









The rosewood shim that's wedged into the dowel is the original neck brace which keeps the neck snug to the rim. If you look closely, you can see a small circle peeking out from behind it in the rim. That's where I've reinforced this joint with a countersunk screw running into the heel as well. It makes the instrument more stable season-to-season and means a neglectful-of-maintenance owner won't come back to the uke and find the action randomly-high one day after a wild humidity swing.



As you can see, it's not the cleanest instrument: it's a little grungy overall but that's part of the charm.




It's nice to have the original tailpiece still extant. These often go missing.

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