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Tudorp
10-28-2011, 10:53 AM
I ended up with a piece of musical engineering marvel on my doorstep. Looks cool, but man, this thing sounds horrible. I put new strings on it, and it sounds better, but just a better level of horrible. I kinda think this thing would be cool if I can get it sounding better and holding tune. It is all some sort of cast metal. I thought aluminum, but now thinking maybe just some cheap cast "pot metal" and chrome plated. This is a vintage "Dixie", and pretty much just a cast neck bolted to a cast drum head. The drum head I think is cool, but the neck, man, I can't even say anything about it. The "fretboard", frets, and even the nut are all cast in with the entire neck. Intonation? Fagedabouddit!!! It doesn't even have good intonation at fret #1.. lol..

Anyway.. I am thinking about building a neck from a block from maple or mahogany, and making a rosewood or ebony fretboard with a workable scale (TBD), and of course a better nut from bone or graphite or something, then some at least decent tuners. Even the $15 set of Pings would be a huge upgrade.

Would a wooden neck, w/ real fretboard, frets, and nut make this thing more playable and sound better in ya'lls educated guess?

http://i1238.photobucket.com/albums/ff490/Tudorp/P1050825.jpg

http://i1238.photobucket.com/albums/ff490/Tudorp/P1050826.jpg

new wave ukulele
10-28-2011, 11:25 AM
When you want genuine music -- music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whisky, go right through you like Brandreth's pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose, -- when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo! -- Samuel Clemens

Nuprin
10-28-2011, 11:45 AM
Intonation? Fagedabouddit!!! It doesn't even have good intonation at fret #1.. lol..

Can't you adjust the intonation? It has a moveable bridge...seems like it should be pretty easy.

Tudorp
10-28-2011, 12:10 PM
Like any floating bridge, sure, you can move it, but, this thing is so far off with holding anything, you would be hard pressed to find a spot that would work with all four strings.. lol

ProfChris
10-28-2011, 12:12 PM
Can't you adjust the intonation? It has a moveable bridge...seems like it should be pretty easy.

My thought too - that bridge looks at least an inch too far towards the tail (though the angle could be deceiving).

Measure nut to 12th, put bridge same distance from 12th, then tweak.(Though I guess you know that from making some wooden ukes, so maybe it's the angle_.

I've heard that Dixie's are not exactly subtle-sounding, but never that the fretting is off. Is the head rather slack? That can give intonation problems. Is the neck joint tight?

Tudorp
10-28-2011, 12:17 PM
1st thing I did was set the bridge the correct distance. Neck joint is tight, and the drum head it tight. One thing also, is the bridge that is on it is pretty low. I need replace it and get some distance between the string and the skin. I think that will help allot. It's difficult to pick because the bridge has been cut real low. I assume to bring it to a low action. But, as much as I love a nice low action, on banjos, it's not always the right thing to do.

RyanMFT
10-28-2011, 12:26 PM
I know almost nothing about banjo uke's but I'm wondering two things about this one. First, is that floating bridge flat on the bottom so that it is basically a bar across the skin? It seems like the ones I've seen all make contact in only a couple of places. I wonder if that would mess with the sound a bit.

Second, do you think the string holder is original? Doesn't seem to go with the rest of the uke. Don't know if that could have an impact on intonation (I'm guessing not since it is the floating bridge which makes the difference) but I still wonder if it was added at a later date?

Forgive my ignorance, just two things I noticed. Still very cool looking!

Tudorp
10-28-2011, 12:35 PM
Good questions.. The bridge, it is not quite flat, it has 3 feet. The contact of that would make a difference in sound, but there is not one right answer as far as that I don't think. But, it's not the sound of it that is the problem. It actually sounds pretty cool with a very sharp tin can resonance, which would be expected for something like this. Not the sound for all music, but bluegrass, jazz and "banjole" music, it is pretty cool. The sustain isn't very good, but that is also expected. The notes are sharp, right there, then gone.. Kinda like an archtop kind of tone but with more "tin" in it. The problem is the intonation is all over the place. The tailpeice does look like a retrofit, but I also think that is how these were. Not allot of thought. Almost looks home made, but most all the ones I noticed the tailpiece was the same. So, I think that is original. It can easily be changed to a better one I'm sure, and I probably will at some point.

JT_Ukes
10-28-2011, 01:07 PM
grind down the frets and put on a propper fretboard?

Tudorp
10-28-2011, 01:17 PM
I actually thought about that. That would also create some distance between the strings and the skin, but maintain a lower action. But, besides the challenge of afixing wood to chrome without the use of bolting it on, might be challanging. Besides that, if you look at the back of the neck, it isn't the most comfortable neck to grasp as you might expect. That is what got me thinking of just completely building a new bolt on neck from wood, with a proper fretboard.


grind down the frets and put on a propper fretboard?

aaronckeim
10-28-2011, 01:21 PM
Here is my 2 cents. I have restored at least 100 vintage banjo ukes and there is nothing you can do to make the tone of the dixie pot sound more pleasing. The cast metal rim (no matter what kind of neck, head, strings or bridge) makes the difference in the tone. Stop tinkering with it and get a wooden pot banjo uke. A common cause of bad intonation on vintage banjo ukes is the action height at the nut. The almost all came from the factory too high, which causes it to bend sharp when fretted. good luck!

Tudorp
10-28-2011, 01:30 PM
Actually, the "tone" isn't the problem. Your right, it has a sort of "cartoony" tone to it. But for specific songs, I think that would sound cool. I like the "tin can" tone of the pot kinda (again, not for all music, but very specific music). The problem is keeping it tuned, intonation etc. Things I think a real fretboard, frets, and nut might remedy. I want to keep the tin can tone to it, and just make it playable where it will stay in tune, and fix the intonation. I have restored a half dozen banjos, one being a wood banjo uke, and have had "decent" luck with it. My wood banjo uke actually came out pretty nice. But, this all cast metal, you are very limited what you can do with it as far as tone like you mentioned..

BlackBearUkes
10-28-2011, 02:44 PM
The first thing I would do is to remove the neck and get more of an angle to the rim so the bridge height is around 7/16" to 1/2". As it is now, the bridge is way too low for any kind of sound. Then I would make sure the head is tight. If that doesn't work, well I guess I would just get rid of it. I have had a couple of these and was never happy with any of them.

Rick Turner
10-28-2011, 02:50 PM
Insert into an accordion, place in car about to be cubed at the salvage yard...

Tudorp
10-28-2011, 02:54 PM
LOL... Rick, I would expect no less of advice from a master Luthier.. hehheh.. Your Jaguar, I'm Pinto, so it is what it is my friend.. lol..

Insert into an accordion, place in car about to be cubed at the salvage yard...

J-UK
10-28-2011, 03:39 PM
Okay, before the comments a warning - I really have no experience or relevant knowledge to draw upon... so treat my thoughts accordingly.

If it isn't staying tuned I would think either the strings are to blame or something is moving. As you've given it new strings they may well be stretching in still, so I wouldn't be expecting it to hold tune well at first. To judge by the number of aphids you've built, and banjos you've restored though, I'd assume you've already accounted for that.

Guess #2 would be that if the floating bridge is a bit low it may not have enough down force to stop it moving about. I did a quick google and found this site http://dixiebanjolele.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-does-one-set-up-bridge-how-does-one.html which talks about adjusting intonation on the beast - it seems to be common to have the bridge angled to get it right. It may also provide a hint as to roughly what the 'normal' bridge height for a Dixie should look like.

Elsewhere on the blog there's also I guide to how the neck angle adjustment should work which may also be worth a look (there's also a section on fitting flashing lights to your Dixie - which I'd probably recommend skimming past!)

ukulele-melee
10-28-2011, 05:30 PM
A Dixie comes to almost all our uke meetings. The guy with it adjusted the neck slightly, new strings, etc and it sounds fine for a fun little banjo uke.
They are collectible to some degree so I hope you don't re-neck it, they aren't making them any more and you should have no trouble moving it along to an owner who will appreciate it as-is.

ksiegel
10-29-2011, 07:57 AM
Tony, the couple of Dixies I've played are fine. I'd go for the new bridge, and maybe a different head, but there isn't a whole lot to change on them.

Of course, if you don't want it.... (g)

-Kurt

Kekani
10-29-2011, 09:22 AM
Anyway.. I am thinking about building a neck from a block from maple or mahogany, and making a rosewood or ebony fretboard with a workable scale (TBD), and of course a better nut from bone or graphite or something, then some at least decent tuners. Even the $15 set of Pings would be a huge upgrade.

Would a wooden neck, w/ real fretboard, frets, and nut make this thing more playable and sound better in ya'lls educated guess?



I think that would be a great start. But just a start. I'd continue a little more and replace the sides with wood, replace the top with wood and add in a glued on bridge to get rid of the current setup (don't forget the saddle). The last thing is to add on a back, which would probably require internal bracing of sorts (same for the top). But if you add on a back, you'll need to add a soundhole of sorts strategically placed somewhere on the top, the sides, or both.

I think a half-assed attack at those modifications will serve to do wonders in improvement to this instrument. Heck, you don't even have to make the sides round, you could add in some curves in the "middle" section, and maybe make the bottom section by the bridge a little wider than the top section by the neck. Of course, I'm not sure what you'd call it because it probably won't look like a banjo type instrument by then, BUT, should be infinitely better than what you have there. . .

Tudorp
10-29-2011, 10:25 AM
Today, all I did was put a bridge on I made awhile back for another banjo. I has 3 feet like a traditional banjo bridge, but that is set on a solid full length footing. It raised the action still to a nice level for a banjo, but gave me the distance between the strings and the skin it really needed. It improved with just that 100 fold. Still planning on building a real neck for it that can be switched out with the original and back by the exsisting stew screws. Just because.. lol..

Doing what you mention with the body, I think it would be easier to just build one like you mention from scratch. lol

KamakOzzie
11-02-2011, 06:58 AM
Tony, I was searching for something entirely different and found this link. It was posted by MM Stan 7 months ago. I thought of your Dixie and wanted to pass this sound bite along.
http://ukuleleguide.com/gallery.html
Below the third picture, (of a Dixie) there is a link to the author playing 12th Street Rag one.

Bill