2000s Mike Ramsey 5-String Fretless Banjo

Mike Ramsey is a well-respected, old-time banjo maker in Virginia and this is one of his fretless offerings from perhaps a decade ago. It's got a Vega-like neck carve and design style but the rim is light and thin and reminds me more of the lightweight rims found on old minstrel-era instruments. It's a handsome banjo and has simple design elements and an elegant look.

It came-in with the neck warped-up a bit and general wear, tear, and "gross" knocking it down a few notches. My guy Andy did most of the work (with a few pointers) -- we got the truss adjusted (they're buried in the heel on these so you have to yank the neck off -- annoying but true -- and then he cleaned it up and set it all up as well.

It had no "scale" specified (no side dots) so we "set" the scale to a fairly-standard 26 3/8" Gibson-style scale length through the addition of side dots and bridge placement. This set the bridge in a sweet spot, anyhow, and makes it a lot easier to get accurate notes when sliding up and down the neck. The "dots" are in the same position the frets would be if it were fretted.

Due to the thin rim and wider-than-normal diameter of the rim, this has a pretty deep, mellow, and woody sound. I think it could get a lot more poppy and clucky if desired with a few small changes, however, but for those who like the darker, sweeter sounds -- here ya go!

Repairs included: truss adjustments, cleaning, and setup work.

Weight: 5 lbs 13 oz

Scale length: 26 3/8" (we set the side dots to correspond to this common scale)

Nut width: 1 5/16"

Neck shape: medium V

Board radius: flat

Head diameter: 12"

Depth overall at rim: 2 3/4"

Rim wood: ply maple

Tonering: hoop

Bridge: maple/ebony 

Fretboard: unsure

Neck wood: flamed 2-piece maple

Action height at 12th fret: hair-over 1/16" (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: 10s

Truss rod: adjustable (but buried in the heel and nearly maxed-out)

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: none

Condition notes: it's been played and the head shows a lot of wear (in a good way). The fingerboard has wear throughout but it does not affect the sound. There's a little raised grain in first position under the B string path that could be filled/dressed if desired. We left it as is for the moment. I think a good Remo Renaissance (new) head would pull a lot more volume and pop out of this instrument and I also think it might sound incredibly good with a set of Aquila Nylgut strings rather than the steel that's on it, but these are player-preference things.

It comes with: an old gigbag.

Consignor tag: LOC