1910s Lange-made Orpheum No 1 Banjo-Mandolin (4-String Convert)

With their fancy materials, nice trim, heavy-duty hardware, and archtop-style tonering, Lange-made Orpheum instruments always sound great and they hold-up very well over the years.

A repair customer sent-in this cute little Orpheum banjo-mandolin. He wanted to go down to 4-strings and nylon to save his fingers, but still maintain the mandolin tuning, so that's what this got.

Work included: a fret level/dress, modification to 4 tuners at the headstock, re-bending of the fretboard extension to remove "ski-jump," a replacement vintage tailpiece, replacement vintage bridge, mild cleaning, and a good setup. It plays with spot-on 1/16" action at the 12th fret and a straight neck. The strings are the Aquila Nylgut Fifths-Tuning soprano set which tunes-up to mandolin-pitch GDAE low to high.

Scale length: 13 7/8"
Nut width: 1 1/8"
String spacing at nut: 7/8"
String spacing at bridge: 1 3/8"
Head diameter: 10 1/4" skin
Side depth: 2 3/4"
Rim wood: multi-ply maple with figured veneer
Neck wood: two-piece maple
Fretboard: ebonized maple(?)
Neck shape: flat board w/medium C rear
Bridge: maple 5/8"
Nut: replacement bone

Condition notes: wear and tear throughout, replacement tuners, replacement tailpiece, newer replacement (thick skin) head, newer replacement nut.

I simply filled the extra tuner holes and removed the original Waverly tuners from the headstock. They're safely stowed in the case. My new tuners are actually 1950s Harmony-style individual baseplates that I've added 1920s buttons, shafts, and gears to. They look pretty dang authentic as a result.

Who doesn't like flashy pearl inlay?

The fretboard extension was "ski-jumping" past the neck joint which meant it fretted-out around the 10th fret and above. I wet the rear of the extension, shot it with my heat gun for a minute or two, and pressed it down to bend it back into line with the rest of the neck. It dips just slightly on the last two frets but I'll call that a nice little victory. This "ski-jump" problem is a huge issue with old banjo-mandolins and quite common.

A parts-bin replacement 1920s Waverly "cloud" tailpiece completes the look.

I have damping foam both behind the head and also at the tailpiece cover to cut-down on overtone bombardment. This cleans-up the sound of the instrument and, ironically, increases projection.