1920s Beare & Sons Perfection Banjo-Mandolin

UK-made banjos (like this one) of all sorts often feature the Euro-centric rim construction seen on this banjo-mando. The Brits had been using it since the 1880s on "zither banjo" 5-strings. The head is basically "clamped" via bolts between two pieces of steel to set tension and then this flat rim is set on a round, thick-walled resonator that forms the body. It's a smart design that's efficient and lighter-weight overall than using a separate tonering and then a ton of hook/nut/shoe hardware, but it means that the head's diameter (and thus bass response) is limited by having to be a little smaller than whatever rim/resonator supports it. It also just sounds different.

This one's marked Beare & Sons and it's nicer-quality than the average UK-sourced instrument for the time. The neck is somewhat-figured walnut and the veneer on the back of the resonator/rim is awfully pretty. It has nicely-buttoned tuners and crisply-cut corners and headstock details.

Soundwise, these are direct and forward-sounding with a bit of a "clop-clop" horsey-stepping sound to them. It's hard to explain, but that sound is awesome for crosspicking or modal tunings. These have a mild "reverb" effect from the rim design, but damping of the string afterlength keeps the notes fundamental.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress, additional screw attachment for the neck joint to keep it stable, side dots install, cleaning, modification (added compensation) of the original bridge, and a setup.

Setup notes: action is spot-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret and it's strung with 32w-9 gauges (GHS A240 set). The neck is straight and the frets still have good life left in them post-leveling.

Scale length: 13 1/8"
Nut width: 1 1/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/16"
String spacing at bridge: 1 1/2"
Head diameter: 8"
Rim diameter: 10 1/2"
Rim depth: 2 1/4"
Rim material: unknown, maple?
Neck wood: walnut, lightly figured
Fretboard: ebonized maple
Bridge: original rosewood or mahogany with fret saddle, now compensated
Neck feel: deep/bigger V-shape, flat board

Condition notes: it's clean overall but does show usewear in some faded black to the finish on the top of the rim and on the back of the neck and on the fretboard. It's entirely original, too.

It comes with: its original chip case.

How about those bone-buttoned tuners?

The contrasting rosewood/mahogany-veneer back is really nice.


Nick R said…
Beare & Son was a London dealer and had a branch in Canada- Toronto, as well. The firm still exists and is 150 years old- its motif being a Cat & Fiddle.This instrument has German tuners- which were common on European made instruments and were also used in the USA- Martin used Seidel tuners. That wooden back looks incredibly central European to my eyes- you see that style on mandolins, so I reckon this is an import from Saxony or just across the border in Czechoslovakia. If it was UK made it would be from a number of firms- George Houghton- also knwon as Reliance or John Grey, or Arthur Windsor but I think it is an import brought in by Beare & Son.
Jake Wildwood said…
It's stamped "English Make" on the tail and rim, however.
Nick R said…
Jake, I saw that but still feel it is continental and my guess would be that it was assembled in England from parts- some may be made in the UK but others from central Europe. My guitar man told me that one of Britain's top archtop makers in the 30s had the backs and tops carved in Germany. The fact is that central Europe had the skills, the wood and the prices were really low so buying from there made all the sense in the world. In the 1930s you had to state the country of origin or just "foreign" and this instrument may well be "made in England" but the tuners were not- and I contend that most of it was also made in Europe as well.
Jake Wildwood said…
Gotcha, thanks for that, Nick!
Jake Wildwood said…
My only doubts are because it's so close to some GH&S instruments I've worked-on in this mold -- right down to the walnut neck and ebonized maple fretboard with its odd, rectangular, oversize (for the time) frets.
Nick R said…

I emailed Glen of the Banjo Museum- he has sold me a Windsor (German made) mandolin and the Windsor Whirle motif- which I needed for my 1927 Windsor tenor guitar- that looks like an Epiphone Recording series instrument but my guy tells me, was made in Czechoslovakia or Saxony. Windsor sold another model that was made by Ermelinda Silvestri in Catania, Sicily. Anyway, he thinks it is part UK made, which is what you suggest- George Houghton. This is what Glen tells me:

I have done a couple of this type, they are confusing, they are English assembled, the z brackets are English pot and bezel, I favour George Houghton he had his finger in so many pies, he also did the Bell line which are quite similar- once set up they play really well, the pots reassemble the Windsor 42 banjo pots. George and Arthur Windsor were not far from each other and both were keen business men, Windsor imported mandolins from Italy, Austria but they were plainly different.
Birmingham at that time was the tool box of the world and a few friends and I think most of the hooks nuts casting were made in Birmingham, which would have been called on by different manufacturers,
Windsor preferred the BA threads on his gear, others Whitworth and so on.
Americans AF No 8

Jake Wildwood said…
You're the best, Nick, thanks for this!
Frans said…
I have a GH&S banjo mandolin that looks identical to this one.