1920s Puntolillo (Lange) "The Bell" Big-Rim Tenor Banjo

The early '20s was a time when tenor banjos were entirely popular and builders were mucking-around with trying to advance the instrument. Some makers would go to resonator instruments and longer scale lengths while others tried ever-larger rims. This guy, with its giant 12 3/8" head and massive (but not too heavy) donut-style archtop tonering, is one of the latter plans.

It's marked "The Bell" and these were marketed by Puntolillo's "Majestic" banjo line and feature his tonering patent. While I've seen some that were clearly not made by Lange (maker of Orpheum and Paramount, among many other smaller brands), this particular banjo seems to have entirely built by Lange for the brand. It has a Lange-style neck (including the ebonized pearwood fretboard with typical Lange-style inlay, heel shape, etc.) and a pot full of Lange-style hardware and design elements.

Unlike a Lange, it doesn't have a dowel and neck angle adjuster gizmo and instead has a single coordinator rod setup. It works nicely and, after tweaking the angle with shims, setup was a breeze.

The tonering is interesting because it forms a "two chamber" rim -- one air pocket is in the usual place (behind the main part of the head) and then the other air chamber is on the outer edge of the archtop ring (nearer the rim's edge) and there are holes cut in the tonering's "skirt" allowing sound to empty out the sides of the rim in-between the hooks. It does spread the sound around a bit more than usual and it looks killer, to boot.

Post-work this guy plays great, has a sweet and loud voice, and due to the archtop tonering design, the head stays reasonably stable despite its being a big old skin head (they're susceptible to weather changes and slacken in damp).

I have it setup for standard CGDA tuning but it would probably sound excellent in GDAE Celtic tuning, too, and could set it up for that if desired, no problem.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress, new bridge, cleaning, adjustments, setup.

Rim wood: multi-ply maple

Tonering: big "donut" style

Bridge: maple/ebony

Fretboard: ebonized maple or pearwood

Neck wood: maple

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

Neck shape: slim-medium C/very soft V

Board radius: flat

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: narrower-low

Scale length: 21"

Nut width: 1 1/16"

Head diameter: 12 3/8" (slightly out-of-round)

Depth overall at rim: 3"

Weight: 6 lbs 13 oz

Condition notes: it's clean and mostly original. The finish looks great but does show mild wear and tear from use and age. The bridge, head, and tuners are replacements but the rest appears original. The tuners are nice, quality 4:1 geared units rather than the friction pegs that would have been on this originally. When this was made it was clearly a higher-end banjo and it still looks and sounds it.

It comes with: an original hard case with a ton of gaffer's tape all over it. It works fine, though.