1911 Vega Fairbanks Style K Banjo-Mandolin 4-String Mod

The back of the dowel stick bears the transitional "Fairbanks by Vega" stamp and no model-type stamp. Its serial number places it at 1911 and that figures. While the instrument is for all intents and purposes fairly-identical to early Style K banjo-mandolins, it's not exactly like one.

It originally had a Fairbanks-style neck brace when it was made and the rim itself is a lot thinner (fewer ply maple layers) than later Style K instruments. That thinness is partially why I decided to remove half the strings -- full-on banjo-mandos tend to need a heavy-duty rim to remain stable in service as all that tension tugs a lot at the neck joint and wants to deform the rim a little bit as it ages. That was the way it was sent-in -- high action and a bad neck angle.

Anyhow, now that it's modified into a 4-stringer and the usual work has been done, it's perfectly stable and has lust for life again. It's got a sweet, clean, mellow voice (that pretty, thin-skin replacement head helps with that) with good volume. In a 4-string format (this was called a "banjolin" or "melody banjo" at the time), the fingering/feel is fast and quick and gives a "mini-tenor-banjo" vibe to your playing. It's really easy to do chord-melody/chop-chord work on this.

I've been modding a lot of jo-mandos into 4-stringers lately and I have to say I'm happier in the end every time... and the customers who try them out in the shop are surprised at how fun they are.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress, side dots install, mod of the tuners and headstock, new compensated rosewood bridge, cleaning, and setup.

Setup notes: action is bang-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret, the neck is straight, and it's strung with 32w-9 gauges. I think 34w-10 might be nice on it, too, but I didn't have them on hand at the moment. The frets are bar stock and low/small per their original shape, but they've got some life left in them for sure.

Scale length: 13 7/8"
Nut width: 1 1/8"
String spacing at nut: 7/8"
String spacing at bridge: 1 1/2"
Head diameter: 10"
Rim depth: 2 1/2"
Rim material: maple multi-ply
Neck wood: mahogany
Fretboard wood: ebony
Bridge: compensated rosewood
Neck feel: slim-medium C-shape, flat board

Condition notes: it's relatively clean throughout and mostly-original, though the head is a newer replacement, the bridge is new, the wire armrest is a modern replacement, the neck brace is a modern replacement, and I've modified both the tuners and the nut. The tailpiece cover is also missing. There are 4 new pearl dots hiding the old tuner holes in the headstock, too. Why not some extra bling, right?

It comes with: a gigbag.


Unknown said…
Is this or others like it available?
Jake Wildwood said…
Not at the moment, sorry! I get stuff like this a few times a year, though.