1920s/2021 Frankenstein Fretless Banjo-Ukulele

Hey! ...another "partser special." The neck and rim of this instrument have been laying-about the shop for a while and giving me dirty looks from their perches. "Oh, you don't want to use me, huh? Am I not good enough for you?"

Suffice to say, it needed to be done. The neck is a 1920s Lyon & Healy concert banjo-uke neck of the type usually seen under the American Conservatory brand while the rim is a 1920s type that one often sees with the Concertone or Slingerland brands. There was no fretboard on the neck so I fit a piece of oak veneer to it to serve as a fretless board.

After that it was easy-peasy -- a new Remo Renaissance head, a couple replacement hook/nut/shoe sets, new geared uke pegs at the headstock, a vintage Grover bridge, and a good setup. I put side dots on the neck, too, indicating each "fret" position.

I currently have it strung with a normal gCEA set but I've tuned it to open C at gCEG. This is the same fingering as 5-string banjo's "fretted" notes, but the "lowest" string actually becomes the re-entrant drone. If you've tried clawhammer-style uke playing, you'll be very familiar with this tuning and style. Anyhow, an advantage of this instrument's fretless abilities is that one can simply capo it to get into different keys (as seen in the video).

Tone is poppy, direct, and sweet with a bit of extra high-end sustain and ring. It's loud, too. I had to turn the mic input down a bunch and push it away from the instrument more than normal.

Repairs included: cobbling-together, cleaning, setup, etc.

Made by: Lyon & Healy, Regal (possibly)

Made in: Chicago, IL, USA (parts)

Rim wood: multi-ply maple

Tonering: none

Bridge: maple/ebony

Fretboard: oak fretless

Neck wood: mahogany

Tone: clean, poppy, direct, sweet

Action height at 12th fret: 1/16" overall (fast/low)
String gauges: D'Addario EJ99T fluorocarbon

Neck shape: medium C

Board radius: flat

Neck relief: straight

Scale length: 15" concert

Nut width: 1 1/4"

Head diameter: 11” (Remo Renaissance head)

Depth overall at rim: 2 3/4"

Weight: 3 lb 4 oz

Condition notes: clearly -- nothing is "original" to this instrument but it's more-or-less old. The bridge looks 1940s to and the rim and neck are 1920s. The head is new, the tuners are new, and all of the hooks are repro stock from the last 15-20 years. The hex "shoes" are original except for two. The bone nut and oak fingerboard are new. I've also mounted the neck to the rim with three bolts and mounted it to the side of the rim where the tailpiece would normally be. This leaves a "window" that used to hold the "dowel" at the neck joint in the "tailpiece" area, though I've used four holes in lieu of an actual tailpiece.