1910s Unmarked 5-String Openback Banjo

This instrument is unmarked, but its design is very similar to some Oscar Schmidt-made instruments I've worked-on from the same time. I can't be sure, though, as lots of operations made basic 5-strings like this in the early 1900s.

This is definitely a "player's" instrument as it's not pretty and it shows tons of wear throughout. Tonally, it's got a sweet, warm, old-time vibe and it's very relaxed. It'd be a great choice for someone wanting to play in the yard, "down by the river," or just hanging-out. It's not loud enough for a bigger jam if you want to stand-out, but duo or trio playing would be fine.

It's come to me via trade and originally had twice as many hooks/nuts/shoes on it. I removed half of them as it made the rim heavy, it needed many replacement hooks, and the extra hooks didn't add any extra benefit tension-wise for the head. I plugged the extra shoe-holes on the outside of the rim with some small dowel-stock.

It has a pretty-typical 26 3/8" longer/Gibson-ish scale length and a slim/quick neck shape.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress, side dots install, new 4:1 geared banjo pegs with vintage buttons, a new compensated rosewood bridge, new Remo frosted-top head, neck-bolt attachment for the rim/neck joint rather than shim-wedge reinforcement, a replacement tailpiece ("kitbashed" from an old Vegaphone tailpiece cover no less), cleaning, and setup.

Setup notes: action is bang-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret, strung with 9s. The neck is straight and it plays great. It's been stable in service, too.

Scale length: 26 3/8"
Nut width: 1 1/4"
String spacing at nut: 15/16"
String spacing at bridge: 1 1/2"
Head diameter: 10 7/8"
Rim depth: 2 3/8"
Rim material: ply maple w/veneer
Neck wood: maple or poplar, not sure
Fretboard: integral to the neck
Bridge: new, Jake-made, rosewood w/compensation
Neck feel: slim C/soft-V shape, flat board

Condition notes: filled extra holes on the outside of the rim, replacement head, replacement bridge, replacement tailpiece, new tuners. There's plenty of usewear in evidence throughout with a lot of fingerwear to the fretboard and general banging-around of the rim and neck from storage over many decades.

The tailpiece is, hilariously, made from a salvaged Vegaphone tenor banjo tailpiece cover. I drilled holes in its bottom to allow ball-end mounting, though someone who wants loop-ends may want to opt for something like a No-Knot tail.

The "line" on the side of the neck is just a scratch, not a crack.

I removed the not-working-well knocked-in-shim neck brace and simply attached the neck firmly with a screw and finish washer. The foam under the dowel is to damp overtones.

As you can see, the string path was not in line with the banjo's original dowel stick, so I moved the tailpiece over to suit the neck's angle. It's hard-mounted into the rim.