1890s Cole 4-String Banjo-Mandolin Conversion

This little Cole banjo-mandolin came to the shop minus a head, bridge, and tailpiece cover. Considering the jaunty angle its neck was at in relation to the rim (read: bad), I talked to the owner about modifying it to a 4-string instrument to keep the tension down (and also make it easier to use and play). It would need a new skin head anyway (as 9" heads are not commonly available in Remo synthetic products) and skin heads and 8 strings are devilishly-hard to keep in tune. She agreed, so conversion to "banjolin" or "melody-banjo" use (those are the 4-string versions of a banjo mandolin) was now the plan.

Work included: a fret level/dress, repair/modification to a damaged portion of the fretboard extension, side dots install, new compensated bridge, new skin head (I used an antique skin on it) install, hidden bolt-reinforcement install at the neck joint, new tuners and tuner-hole-fill job at the headstock, cleaning, and a setup. It has 34w-10 strings on it, the neck is straight, and it plays with bang-on 1/16" action at the 12th fret. It's fun and has a mellow, sweet voice to it.

Scale length: 13"
Nut width: 1 1/8"
String spacing at nut: 7/8"
String spacing at bridge: 1 3/8"
Head diameter: 9"
Side depth: 2 5/8"
Rim wood: unknown - maple?
Neck wood: mahogany
Fretboard: ebonized maple
Neck shape: slim-med C/V, flat board
Bridge: maple/ebony
Nut material: bone
Tonering: rolled-over top-edge nickel/silver cladding

Condition notes: replaced tuners, modified headstock, replacement head, replacement bridge,  missing tailpiece cover, otherwise original.

I love the slick inlay!

I had some 18:1 Grovers hanging-about that are a steep upgrade compared to the original machines.