1924 Gibson UB Trap-Door Banjo Ukulele

This darling banjo-uke was just in for a setup. I love earlier Gibson banjos as they're odd and understated. The closer Gibson banjos get to the '30s, the louder and more intense their styling gets. The factory order number places this at 1924 when it was simply the "UB" model. It has a trap-door resonator and its hardware and rim setup is closer to a Gibson TB-Jr or the like than the TB-# series with its integral bracket band and tonering.

After a proper setup and adjustments, this thing plays bang-on and has an interesting, almost "warbly" tone. It's loud but has an almost electric guitar vibrato/tremolo sound to it. I like it a lot, to be honest. Sometimes banjo-ukes with larger heads (like this) can get that vibe but have an unpleasant amount of overtones and weird ringiness. This one has a more-focused set of overtones that mix into that "warble" really well. It sounds great fingerpicked.

Also: it's finished in natural. How about that? It's very un-Gibson for the time. The instrument appears to be entirely original.

I added a small leather pad to cut-down on extra overtones from the behind-the-bridge string-length.

The trap-door resonator can be flipped "open" to yield a louder, more punchy sound.

The Grover tuners have spring-loaded shafts that grip nicely and turn smoothly. These are the best-designed friction pegs I've come across and I wish more ukes from the time used them.


syncro said…
Nice write up and photos! I have this model with a Grover "Non Tip" maple bridge. Since the head skin is also likely original it has stretched to the point where the tension ring bottoms-out on the neck and the tail piece rests on the head over the rim edge. Do you think I should re-wrap the head so the rim stays proud of the head surface like the one here?