1890s W.A. Cole 5-String Openback banjo

This old Cole (Boston-made) 5-string sounds gorgeous -- clean, refined, and to the point. It's a typical "spunover" rim design with integral Little Wonder-effect tonering on the top edge, but there's a bit of extra magic in this guy.

I worked on this for a customer and, while it arrived in good-looking shape, it needed a bit of fuss to get it going. The fuss was worth it, though, as it's a joy to play and easy on the eyes, too. It's got a sound conducive to modern "old time" styles as it has the pop and ring necessary to pull them off and the neck is tough-enough to run a set of 9s in steel rather than the gut (modern: nylon or Nylgut) strings it was intended for when built.

I really like the look of the heel on this one, too. It's very slick.

Repairs included: a refret (a slightly frustrating one, albeit) with medium stock, new geared tuners (with old buttons), new Remo head (amazingly, I randomly had the correct 11 1/4" here to begin-with), new compensated bridge, replacement tailpiece, cleaning, and setup. The neck angle is shimmed-back for better angle between the heel and the tension hoop.

Setup notes: action is spot-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret overall. The neck is straight and it's strung with steel 9s.

Scale length: 25 7/8"

Nut width: 1 5/16"

String spacing at nut: 1 1/16"

Head diameter: 11 1/4"

Depth overall at rim: 2 1/2"

Rim wood: stained maple?

Fretboard: ebony

Bridge: maple/ebony compensated

Neck feel: medium C-shape, flat board

Neck wood: mahogany

Weight: 4 lb 11 oz

Condition notes: all of the rim hardware save the tailpiece is original. The frets, tuners, head, and bridge are all new. It's in good shape overall but there are a few chip-outs on the fretboard (they were there before) and minor scratches here and there throughout in the finish. The hardware, of course, has aged to a duller nickel color.