View Full Version : New (Old) Banjo Uke Day!

02-15-2011, 04:34 PM
I mentioned this in another thread, but I picked up an un-branded "1930s Banju Ukelele" off Ebay. I had it set up by a local luthier, and while I had expected a wall-hanger and/or conversation piece, I'm finding myself really liking the sound of it.



I've since tentatively ID'd this as a Maxitone that is indeed from the 1930s, but the headplate is missing. I think the tailpiece is non-original, but doesn't exactly look new. :) When I got it it was strung up with steel strings. The luthier adjusted the neck, found a bridge and nut for it, and strung it up with GHS strings.

So, questions...

Should I replace those GHS strings with anything in particular?
Anyplace I should hunt for a replacement headplate or tailpiece?
Should I try to clean the head? If so, with what?
Ditto for the metal pot.

02-16-2011, 02:23 AM
You can clean the head, even if it is real hyde. I used a green teflon scrub pad some water with a little detergent in it (not much), and used very light scrubbing. don't soak it too much though. Rinse if off with a damp sponge, and let it set over night to dry and re-shrink (the water will slack the hyde a bit, but it will shrink back up). Leave the patina alone, but just lightly clean it of gunk. Don't try and clean the head skin too much either, because it's original stains, and patina are cool too. And yes, that is a Maxitone. I love those, with what I call the "Gumby" headstock. It reminds me of "Gumby" from the 1960s Gumby and Pokey claymation show.

02-16-2011, 05:15 AM
Great, Chap! That's a beauty, and the metal is in great shape - with this model, you often see tarnish and rust damage. This is quite good. Tudorp's cleaning method will work fine - alternately, you can rub out head discoloration with 0000 steel wool with nothing else. Whichever approach you use, you can polish up the head afterwards with a sheet of wax paper to give the vellum a little resistance to moisture. Just curious; what's the discoloration on the fretboard? From dampness or something else?

Black GHS strings are fine. You might try Aquila soprano Nylguts at some point to see if you like them; I find they give a little stronger attack than the GHS. You might also try tuning up to D - the difference is very noticeable and really brings the tone to life. I keep one tuned up to Eb as well; I'm using Aquila genuine guts on that one, and I love the sound - very vintage.

Finally, yes, this type was sold by Bruno as 'Maxitone,' but if you don't see the place where the 'Maxitone' nameplate attached with two pins on the front of the headstock, it's not likely this was offered as a Maxitone. Bruno was and is known for good banjo ukes, but it didn't actually manufacture any of them. Their really pretty mid-range and top-line models were supplied by Lange (also a NY company) and their Maxitone line was made by Richter (Chicago). Richter built this type for sale by several companies, including Tonk Brothers and Bruno NY. Without a plate, it's not possible to know who sold it, but that shouldn't matter. It's a Richter.

Just a clarification - Bruno also offered a mid-range line called the Vernon - these were contracted out to Slingerland and Lange.

02-16-2011, 05:22 AM
Thanks! The headstock does have a couple small screwholes that seem to line up with where the Maxitone plate would be, from looking at internet pics.

The fretboard discoloration is just wear, the finish on the wood is worn through.

As for the D tuning, I'd love to try, but I think I better hold off until I have a better grip on G, as I've only been at this a few months.

02-16-2011, 05:30 AM
Congrats on such a cool banjo! :D

02-16-2011, 05:38 AM
Yep - those two holes confirm it as a Maxitone. Very cool! Post a video soon - I'd love to hear it!!