1900s Supertone-Style 5-String Openback Banjo

This is a really nice example of this type of banjo and it came to me via a local repair customer. Usually these bear a Sears Supertone label or some random distributor name on them, though I still think they're probably lower-end Lange products, though I can't prove that. This one's a little prettier overall (check out the nice inlay in the fretboard) and has a slimmer, faster neck made from cherry rather than poplar or maple.

The metal-clad rim (with both top and bottom edges rolled-over to make an integral tonering on the top edge) is undersized a little at 10 3/4" but it does have a normal, long scale length. This instrument probably dates from the 1890s but I'll be conservative and call it a 1900s banjo. It would've been made for gut when new (and, really, the neck's cut so fast that I wouldn't use steel on it just on principle) and so I've strung it with Aquila Nylgut strings.

Tonewise, it's full and surprisingly loud. I really like the tone on this. It's not as crisp as a period SS Stewart or Weymann, but it's got a lot of soul and directness about it.

Work included: a fret level/dress, new Remo Renaissance head install, side dots install, new Gotoh 4:1 tuners, a new 5/8" bridge, an extra neck-bolt install, and a thorough setup. Because of the extra bracing for the neck and heel, it's a rock-steady and stable instrument. Action is bang-on 3/32" at the 12th fret and the neck is straight. The frets have some decent life left in them, too.

Scale length: 26 1/4
Nut width: 1 3/16"
String spacing at nut: 15/16"
String spacing at bridge: 1 11/16"
Head diameter: 10 3/4" with new Remo Renaissance head
Side depth: 2 1/2"
Rim wood: cherry or maple?
Neck wood: cherry
Fretboard: ebonized maple
Neck shape: flat board with slim C/V soft rear shape
Bridge: maple/ebony 5/8" new
Nut: original ebony
Tonering: rolled-over nickel-plated-brass cladding

While this had original celluloid friction pegs, these Gotoh tuners are a far better choice for daily use... they're smooth and excellent quality and won't slip as the weather changes.

The metal-rod neck brace is an interesting feature I only see once in a while on non-Stewart instruments.

All of the rim hardware is original save one hook/nut set from my bins.

I like that original Elite tailpiece! The foam I've added both mutes the string-afterlength overtones and slightly damps the head for a mellower tone.


Katrina said…
I know this is an old post, but any chance you’re still in contact with the person who owns it? I’m looking for this exact type, as my great aunt had one.