View Full Version : Inherited a banjo uke!

11-05-2010, 04:26 AM
I was at my parents a few weeks ago and they started telling me about a banjo that my grandpa owned. My mom said she brought it home with her after her dad died and it has set in her closet for the last 18 years. I asked if I could see it and she brought out a small box full of towels. As I started removing the towels I asked if the neck had snapped off since a banjo would not be able to fit in a box that size. "No", was her reply, "it is just a little banjo." I still had no clue that I was about to find a treasure.
As I removed all of the towels and removed the instrument I was in complete shock. My parents and my wife just starred at me for a few moments and then asked if everything was alright. That brought me out of my shell shock. I started jumping around shouting all kinds of happy nonsense and then broke into a dance that I am sure I would never want anyone seeing ever again. Sitting at the bottom of the box was a vintage Banjo uke!
I asked my mom if I could take it home with me and she said sure it has just been sitting here for almost two decades.
It is now in my possession and it is in really good shape. I will need to replace some parts on it, like the friction tuners and the drum head. I have contacted a shop in Montana that does repairs and restoration on vintage instruments and the owner loves banjo ukes and is excited to have me bring it in. I am checking around to find the right parts, but once I have everything I need I am going to drive it up to MT and have the shop start working on it.

Sorry so long, but I thought it was too nice of a story not to share.
I will add some pics once I take a few.

11-05-2010, 04:29 AM
Cool story - thanks for sharing. Look forward to some pics.

mm stan
11-05-2010, 05:57 AM
You lucky guy!!!!I have no such luck like that......Nice story and thanks for sharing....keep us informed of it's progress....MM Stan..

11-05-2010, 07:04 AM
Thats cool. Cant wait to see pictures. They are easy and fun to restore if you want to be more cost effective, unless of course it is a particulatly valuable uke like a vintage Gibson or something... Bet ya cant wait to play on it...


11-05-2010, 07:38 AM
Make sure you get some good before and after photos! Congrats on the found treasure!

11-05-2010, 08:31 AM
How great that you have it now! You have to post some before and after pics!

I would have liked to have seen that happy ukulele dance you did! I did a happy ukulele dance a couple weeks ago in my office (door closed) when I found out my uke which had been in for repairs was ready to be picked up!

11-05-2010, 09:21 AM
Congratulations, ukes out of the blue are a great feeling. A while back my neighbor gave me an old Harmony from the fifties. I also have several old banjo ukes in various states of restoration, and they are great fun.

11-05-2010, 10:13 AM
Sweet!!! I picked one up at a folk music festival a number of years ago. It is really fun. Enjoy! And I look forward to pics!

11-05-2010, 10:34 AM
I did a happy ukulele dance a couple weeks ago in my office (door closed)

Haha! I always try to keep my quirky outbursts to myself, but sometimes you just have no control over it.

11-05-2010, 10:56 AM
Makes you wonder how many instruments are hidden away in closets like that. Makes me want to start hitting the garage sales. :)


11-05-2010, 03:07 PM
Who's the maker?

11-07-2010, 03:10 AM
Who's the maker?
I am not sure. The headstock was painted black at some point, and I have not been able to see anything else on the instrument to give me any clues. I am hoping the black paint was applied over the lacquer finish and that it can be restored to the original finish.

11-10-2010, 06:14 AM
I got my Concertone Banjolele at a yard sale for $5.00. The guy thought it was a toy. I didn't argue the point; just gave him his 5 bucks and left quickly.

11-10-2010, 06:27 AM
Great story with a happy ending! Yes, please post some pix when ya can....

11-10-2010, 06:37 AM
the guys down my music shop has a uku banjo an old one from the 20's i think he said for 150, i'm waiting till after christmas if he still has it, then he has a nearly guaranteed sale.

11-10-2010, 06:58 AM
Hey - Congrats! Welcome to the ranks of the really LOUD uke players. ;)

To get the parts you need - here are my two favorite sources:

Elderly Instruments: http://elderly.com/welcome.htm

Ukulele World's parts section: http://www.ukuleleworld.com/parts/

Also - Ukulele World has a good step by step on how to replace a vellum. Its VERY easy - I've only replaced my own vellums, starting with the first banjo uke I bought. http://www.ukuleleworld.com/pages.php?pageid=237

I've restored four of these, and I love to do it myself. Unlike a wooden uke, a banjo uke has a lot of hardware parts that can be cleaned up and made good as new. They can also be replaced, thanks to interchangeable parts.

Happy to offer any advice you might need.

12-01-2010, 05:09 AM
Here are a few pictures of the Banjo Ukulele. Sorry it took so long to post. These are before restoration. Once I am able to get to Montana to have it restored I will add some "after" pics. Thanks for the suggestions on places to check for replacement parts. I will definitely check them out.

12-01-2010, 05:18 AM
Wow....that's pretty!

12-01-2010, 05:52 AM

Well, for me, this is one of those holy grail models. I collect this type - but have never been able to find this particular model. This is a Stromberg-Voisinet banjo ukulele. They did not have nameplates or labels, but are easily identifiable by that unique three-lobed art deco headstock. This is known as the "Rose" model, but no one is sure of the actual model number, as S-V did not appear to issue a catalog; only a price list. Under that paint on the headstock, there should be a small mop diamond. That's all the decoration S-V's carried, usually - they are pretty understated. Here's your model, but with the option of pearloid on the headstock and fretboard, which was a common upgrade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbrXRqFWPUo

This is their top of the line banjo uke - their next model down has a flat resonator with no decal, and then comes a non-flanged resonator model, of which I have two of maple in a gloss black finish. Then, they offered some smaller 7" pot models. If you want, I have a file of all the SV's I've been able to get photos of in the last year or so that I can email you so you can see what they offered.

The company made some of the instruments offered as Wizards, Concertones, and other "store-brands". S-V changed their name in 1930 to "Kay", which was the nickname of their new owner, Henry Kuhrmeyer, and they quickly transitioned from these mid-range quality models to cheapies, which actually made them a ton of money.

I LOVE this company, I LOVE their ukes, and you are one of the luckiest people I've ever heard of - oh, wait - Ukester Brown is even luckier: he found a Martin 3M in a DUMPSTER.

:) Very happy for you.

12-01-2010, 05:57 AM
By the way - it doesn't look like much needs to be done here. A new head is likely in order, and of course, you want uke strings, not metal. It looks like all the hooks and tensioners are there. What's wrong with the tuning pegs? Won't they hold after you tighten the screws?

12-01-2010, 05:58 AM
Congrats on the find and gift.
I just replaced the vellum on my Gibson UB-2.
It was much easier than I anticipated.
Roy Cone (Ukulele World) had some nice goat skin heads.

12-01-2010, 06:53 AM
Jnobianchi, are you messing with me?!? If you aren't I am completely shocked. I would love to see any information you have.
The friction tuners were not holding and I have tried to tighten the screws but the screws are stripped so maybe I just need to replace those.

12-01-2010, 07:05 AM
I don't know you well enough to mess with you. ;)

Seriously, I'll send you the file - I'll pm you.

If you can find screws that fit, great, you'll save a few dollars. A set of bog-standard Grovers is only about 12-15 bucks, then the luthier's going to have to drill a little out the peghead and add beveled edges to accommodate the Grover 1 tuners. The more expensive Grover 2, 3, and 4 ($20-$30) and Gotohs ($40+) require a little more drilling. If the old tuners can't be made to work, new Grover and Gotoh friction tuners will last you forever. Don't go with geared tuners, as it totally changes the look and value for the worse, imo.

12-06-2010, 11:25 AM
This thread makes me happy. I don't have anything to add. Just a rad story.