2010s Adam Buchwald 5-String Electric Banjo/Guitar

Mr. Buchwald is famous as head honcho for Circle Strings, Iris Guitars, and Allied Lutherie. He's a busy fellow and I'm glad to see someone up in Burlington putting so much energy into making guitar-jobs for folks in our state.

He built this gorgeous instrument for Mr. Pappy who's obviously loved it to death out on tour. It had the "usual stuff" going-on that needed going-over -- the panel-style endpin jack had shorted-out, the wiring harness was essentially good to go but basically detached from the control plate and needed sprucing-up, the nut had cracked and been held in place with gaffer's tape, and it was badly in need of a setup. I could easily imagine all of the knocks and jabs that happened to it on the road for it to get to this state. When things are tools, they get hammered...

With all of that resolved, I was then able to appreciate it. It's a 5-string electric guitar, essentially, but I'm assuming that when it was built the intent was that it could swap to a 5-string electric banjo sound with different stringing for the "lowest" note. Pappy tunes it like a "Keith Richards" Tele -- open G tuning with no low D note (ie, GDGBD low to high). This is the same as 5-string banjo but with the "drone" a "bass" note instead. If that string is swapped for something like an 8 or a 7 it could be tuned to the same pitch as a 5-string banjo's "drone" G string.

Interesting construction notes are: burled top wood, ivoroid binding (and pickup surrounds), semihollow construction, Ricken-Fender vibes, Firebird (probably Lollar?) pickups, and a banjo-style 26 3/8" scale length. It's also very lightweight and the fret access is lovely. Even with the heavier strings on it, the neck's truss keeps it straight and it adjusts smoothly, too.

Interesting quirks: to get the string path straight beyond the nut, the tuners need to turn backwards from normal like an old Fender bass. The knobs are replacements (the only solid-shaft ones I had around that would fit over the big CTS shafts) but should probably be Tele-style knobs and the switch tip is a replacement as well -- an old '50s bakelite one I had in my bins.










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