1920s Slingerland MayBell 4-String Banjo-Mandolin Conversion

I think this poor instrument has been hanging-around the workshop (like many others) for a year and a half or so. It transitioned from "fix to keep" to "fix to sell" in that time and I've had the new head for it hanging-around for almost the same length of time.

It's marked Slingerland MayBell on the dowel and I have the nagging feeling that Harmony may have supplied it for the brand. It's more-upscale than the average player's banjo-mandolin from the time with a bit more bling in the fretboard, binding at the board, and mahogany used for the neck. The multi-ply maple rim has mahogany veneer on its outside and it came with nicer-than-average Waverly tuners, too.

I don't have a lot of patience for standard 8-string banjo-mandolins these days, so I've been converting most of the ones that come in to a 4-string format (officially "melody banjos" or "banjolins") if I have the option. They're easier to keep in tune, they have an interesting "mini tenor banjo" sound to them, and I think they're simply more useful for more people this way.

This guy's ready to go after sprucing-up and has great pop and snap. It'll cut right through! It also has an aftermarket Elton (period) resonator on the rear which helps to push sound outwards from the instrument.

Repairs included: fret level dress, new Remo Renaissance head, conversion to 4-string (new tuners, adjusted original nut, 4-string bridge), side dots install, hidden neck-bolt reinforcement (behind the neck brace plate), cleaning, setup...


Made by: possibly Harmony

Made in: Chicago, IL, USA


Rim wood: multi-ply maple

Tonering: medium-sized hoop

Bridge: ebony/maple 3-foot

Fretboard: ebonized maple

Neck wood: mahogany

Tone: clean, bright, poppy, punchy


Action height at 12th fret: 1/16" overall (fast)
String gauges: 32w, 20w, 13, 9 low to high

Neck shape: medium C/soft V

Board radius: flat

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: small


Scale length: 13 7/8"

Nut width: 1 1/8"

Head diameter: 10 3/4"

Depth overall at rim: 3?

Weight: 5 lb 9 oz


Condition notes: it's fairly clean throughout but it does have a couple of hairline cracks in the fretboard (not a structural issue) and the filled tuner holes in the headstock are not perfectly done. The (nice "aged" Gotoh) tuners, head, and bridge are replacements but all other hardware and parts are original. There's average small usewear throughout but it does look good.


It comes with: its original "gigbag."















Comments