1917 Orpheum (Lange) No 3 Special 5-String Banjo

Lange-made upscale banjos are among my favorites from the period this was made because they're both decadent and glorious to play. There was a time when Orpheum 5-strings of this age were holy grail-like finds, especially among those influenced by the great John Hartford and his penchant for Orpheums.

This one has the classic archtop-style tonering which gives the instrument some good volume and ring despite still having a (presumably-original) skin head. The hardware used throughout the build is also very rugged and worthy, as you'd expect from a high-end banjo made at the time.

It has a two-piece maple neck with an intricately-carved heel, lots of multi-ply bindings and edgings and a very-sandwiched headstock veneer and backstrap. There's profuse pearl throughout the fretboard, rear of the headstock, and the headstock itself as well. It's intense in a nice way.

As a player, it has a few minor drawbacks. It has period friction pegs (1:1, so a little harder to tune) at the headstock and 5th peg but the headstock tuners do feature pearl knobs. Also, due to the long scale length, the instrument does have a little relief in the neck tuned to pitch. The neck itself was a little warped when it came in and we did our best via some crafty level/dress work on the frets to ameliorate much of it, but it still means the action is slightly higher than I normally set these up for (1/16" at the 12th fret -- right now it's just under 3/32" there -- a height most old-time guys request during setup but bluegrass guys will find a little higher than their preference). Still, as you can see in the clip, I'm plenty comfortable playing it.

If I had my druthers, I would probably have fit a Remo Renaissance head to coax a bit more snap and presence out of the rim and then also fit geared pegs for ease of use, but I do also understand originality is important to many folks which is why I've left the original skin and tuners as-is.

Repairs included: minor fretboard reglue, fret level/dress, cleaning, setup adjustments, etc.

Weight: 8 lbs 0 oz

Scale length: 27 1/8"

Nut width: 1 1/4"

Neck shape: medium-fuller C

Board radius: flat

Head diameter: 11 1/8"

Resonator diameter: 12 3/4"

Depth overall at rim: 3" no resonator, 3 1/2" with resonator

Rim wood: multi-ply maple

Tonering: archtop

Bridge: maple/ebony

Fretboard: ebonized maple

Neck wood: maple

Action height at 12th fret: hair-under 3/32"
String gauges: 9s

Neck relief: mild relief tuned to pitch

Fret style: lower/smaller

Condition notes: it's mostly original, though the resonator is a 1920s or 1930s one that was added to it (it was an openback when new and can be converted to one very quickly). The 5th peg is possibly a replacement as it has a different button style than the headstock ones. The tailpiece and bridge are not original, too, though I've compensated the bridge.

It comes with: an old hard case.

Consignor tag: AS