1890s Dobson (Buckbee-made) Victor Professional 5-String Openback Banjo

There are a couple of famous Dobson-brand banjo lines, but this is one of the "George Dobson" variety. It was built for the brand by Buckbee in New York and features spiffy and folksy pearl inlay in the fretboard, a nice headstock shape, spunover rim with a ton of hooks and an integral hoop tonering, and a pretty, ivory-detailed tailpiece. The tension hoop is also engraved and the back of the headstock has "backstrapping" which gives it a fancy touch.

It arrived here for consignment in a bit of a rough state, but now that the work is done it can be appreciated fully. I was really surprised at the fullness and balance of its voice, especially due to its being strung-up with Nylgut (synthetic gut/nylon) strings rather than steel. Usually the low-end with Nylgut can be a little dry (though always pretty loud) with these spunover-rim banjos, but this one sounds excellent on that low D string and clean and balanced through its range.

In the past, a previous owner had warped the neck by abusing it with steel (this one's just not sturdy enough for it), so this is why I restrung it this time around with Nylgut after repairs -- not only does it sound lovely but it'll keep the neck happy as well.

New upgrades include Gotoh aged-finish geared tuners, a new Elite (Remo Renaissance) head, and new frets.

Repairs included: a refret with jumbo stock which I then leveled/dressed heavily to deal with warp in the neck (the board is fragile on these old Buckbee builds so a board plane would not work), new head, tuners, and bridge, general cleaning, and setup.

Setup notes: while the neck actually still has some warp/twist, that has been effectively removed for playability's sake via leveling the oversize frets to a straight surface down the length of the neck. This means the frets vary in height a bit but the action's spot-on at 3/32" (perfect for Nylgut) at the 12th fret overall and it plays quick and easy. Strings are Aquila Nylgut mediums, all-plain -- my favorite set for period banjos.

Scale length: 25 1/4"

Nut width: 1 3/16"

String spacing at nut: 1"

String spacing at bridge: 1 11/16"

Head diameter: 11”

Depth overall at rim: 2 1/2"

Rim wood: cherry?

Fretboard: ebonized maple

Bridge: ebony/maple

Neck feel: medium C/V-shape, flat board

Neck wood: mahogany

Weight: 4 lb 15 oz

Condition notes: there was chipout in the fretboard to begin-with around the fret slots and there's still some now, but it's stable. The tuners, bridge, and head are all modern replacements and there are two (vintage) replacement hook/nut/shoe sets near the tailpiece. There's minor use/playwear throughout with a few light scratches here and there on the neck, but overall it looks nice.